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Critical Review of “Mysteries of Mankind” by Donald J. Crump

Mysteries of Mankind is a documentary that explores the origin of humanity and the advancement of technology that introduced new methods to estimate the age of fossils, footprints, and bones. The documentary has been developed with keywords that include science, humankind, and technology. It is one hour long, produced in color, with a stereo sound while the aspect ratio is 4:3. It was produced by National Geographic and distributed by Cascara Video in the Netherlands, a Public Broadcasting Service in the USA, and Video Arte in Brazil. The documentary does not provide the specific details of humankind’s evolution (Slavich, 2015). Instead, it narrates the general steps that occurred to the evolution of man. The lack of details on how human beings evolved from the apes makes the documentary unfavorable for regular TV watchers. Most of the material used in the documentary can slightly be compared to the mysteries of the pyramid. The creativity in the documentary was not well utilized as one of the conclusions is that the yawn has its origin from the apes.

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The review of humankind’s origin can broadly be correlated with other documentaries produced by National Geographic and other TV shows. It is one of the disappointing documentaries, especially coming from notable Producer-writer Barbara Jampel, who created excellent documentaries such as “Gorilla” and “In the Shadow of Vesuvius.” The documentary majored on works by various scientists instead of narrowing down to evolution details. For example, it displayed works of renowned scientists such as Leakey and Dr. Donald Johansen. They discovered Lucy that had ape-like and human-like characteristics (Slavich, 2015). The other disappointing aspect of the documentary is the repetition of chimpanzees resembling human beings than the other apes. Lastly, there was a constant review on how Jane Goodall went to Tanzania and studied chimpanzees from 1960.

The presentation in the film is general and barely interesting for one to watch it entirely. The whole theme can hardly inspire the current generation, who prefer more enthusiastic and robust pieces. Richard Kiley was less captivating in his narration of the movie. Such aspects contributed to the disappointing nature of the movie. Many expected high levels of professionalism citing the producer’s level of experience. The movie did not meet the expectations, hence multiplying the disappointments. One aspect that contributed to low professionalism levels is the failure to properly distinguish earlier documentaries from Mysteries of Mankind. The lack of a clear difference between Mysteries of Mankind film and earlier documentaries derails the uniqueness expected with the film. As a result, a drop in expectation affected the general desire to watch. Despite the weaknesses, the film presents an opportunity for new and inexperienced viewers to look at how humankind has evolved. The documentary is well articulated in every step on how human beings evolved from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens. The individual characteristics have been identified and how each stage relates to the other.

An additional positive aspect of the film is when Jampel dresses old stones with new clothing. Scenes of actors in costumes made the animation beautiful as well as excellent. Mysteries of Mankind is well structured to keep people up to date on the evolution of humanity. The tools used in ancient times gradually evolved and have contributed significantly to the technological gadgets that human beings use today. The passion exhibited by Louis Leakey and his wife Mary was extraordinary in Olduvai Gorge (Slavich, 2015). Their interest in stone tools led to the discovery of the earliest human being.

One can learn several lessons from the documentary considering both the positive and negative aspects of the film. Among the lessons, one of them is that passion and dedication are crucial to achieving different goals in life. Louis Leakey and his wife Mary had an interest in primitive stone tools which led to the discovery of the earliest human fossil. Apart from that, one learns that the use of lasers in the dating technique has improved the accuracy of samples. There is also a lesson on the relationship between human beings and chimpanzees. The film creates an understanding that human beings are closely related to chimpanzees than other apes. Some of the common differences between human beings and chimpanzees include human beings walking uprightly and having large brains, a case that is not common with chimpanzees. Proper highlighting of the differences has pushed many to appreciate life. One of the things that people can appreciate is the existence of ancient tools that served the research purposes. The gradual development of ancient tools accounts for the gadgets people use in the present world.

Mystery of Mankind movie has both positive and negative sides of view together with lessons one may learn. Failure of the movie to provide accurate details on human evolution is one of its negative aspects. A significant part of the movie covers the scientists and the similarities between chimpanzees and human beings, hence failing to be precise on evolution. The film does also have a positive aspect such that it excites its audience, especially regarding the excellent art in the use of costumes. A major lesson one attains from the positive and negative aspects of the movie is the need to appreciate the ancient tools. The gadgets people use globally gradually evolved from the tools.


Slavich, B. (2015). Mysteries of mankind [Video]. Pittsburgh; National Geographic Society. Web.

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