The Life of Mammals (TV Mini-Series 2002–2003) Poster


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The definitive documentary on earth's most successful species
Boris-577 July 2003
AS on Feb.5,'03 I sat through the last episode of The Life of Mammals on BBC1, switching off the TV, I was convinced that this had to be the most impressive documentary series on nature and life, more particularly on mammals, for the moment the most successful species on the planet. It is next to unbelievable that, after the myriads of documentaries on practically every animal, Attenborough still manages to come up with a documentary that never ceases to amaze. And this is not only because many images were first-timers. I guess it is because it focuses on animals that are closest to us, and are therefore often regarded as less 'exotic', and because this series proves us dead wrong in that respect, that this is such an amazing piece of film. But there's more:

Despite the fact that the images range from great to downright unbelievable, this is perhaps not the single feature that makes this series unique. It is the way the story is told. There's of course the never-topped David Attenborough. But, because the story loosely unfolds around the evolutionary stages in the life of mammals (beginning with the platypus), AND at the same time manages to pull it off to show you the whole of the variety of mammals around the world without losing track of the scope of each episode, you get a real glimpse of what biodiversity means. Furthermore, the series really makes the case of evolutionary theory in a crystal clear way. The in and of itself very simple principle of evolution often gets misinterpreted, e.g. when one starts to think of evolution as having a 'goal'. Since the main issue here is the power to adapt of mammals, the focus is, more than ever, on the importance of the environment as the steering force towards either many specialized species or less generalists, continuously flowing from one mode to the other.

What's more, the series really makes it clear how evolution gradually has shifted from selection on the basis of innate predispositions, to selection on the basis of the ability to learn during the lifetime, which makes a species much more able to adapt itself to environmental pressures and, in the end, enables them to overcome them. And then, at the end of the series, which focuses on the great apes and, ultimately, us humans, the whole story draws together superbly. I wondered how they would pull it of: would they preach about impending doom due to humanity's estrangement of its own nature, or would they just sing the hosanna of this marvelous little zoo we live in? Instead, Attenborough avoids these pitfalls. On the one hand he makes it clear that our behaviour and the way we treat our planet is nothing but the very natural consequence of evolutionary pressures that, for the moment, have put us on top of the pyramid, and this in a relatively short span of time. On the other hand, he does suggest that, if it were only BECAUSE we top the pyramid, we do have to take care that this environment which is responsible for who and what we are doesn't crumble under the pressure of its own success-story. Maybe it's about time that we think about constraining our own numbers?

In short, this series is a must for anyone with even a passing interest in the very nature of life in all its diversity or anyone needing arguments to convince people of the why of caring for nature. I'll buy it as soon as it 's out. And I knew that from the third episode. A classic.
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Most Moving Nature Documentary I Have Ever Seen
konky200012 June 2003
This giant documentary series is quite simply astounding. The 10 part series should stand as one of the most exhaustive filmed studies of mammals ever made. And, yes, the film covers the most wide spread mammal of all -- humans.

What sets this film apart from all others are the messages the film is trying to convey. It is not content with simply showing us animals in action, but at every turn tries to make us realize the place the animals shown play in relation to our own mammal species -- homo sapiens.

In the first few episodes, this message is not so clear, because the focus is on small mammals like anteaters and beavers. Gradually, though, the film focuses on primates and ends with two hour long episodes about monkeys and apes that are at the same time moving and deeply disturbing.

Some of the footage of chimpanzees is so violent and disturbing it makes you look at humans in a whole new light.

Throughout is footage that is completely unique. Some of the footage captures images never seen before by anybody. Some of it shows us things not normally shown before. Every show was filled with facts and information that I had never heard before and by the end I felt enriched beyond belief.

Finally, I would like to point out that this film stands as one of the greatest proofs of evolution I have ever seen. Although the film never comes right out and specifically talks about evolution, it is a subtext throughout the 10 part series. Not that I didn't believe in evolution before I watched this, but after watching this the mechanics of evolution are so clear that I would be amazed anybody watches this series and is still skeptical enough to consider evolution a 'theory.'

It is a great piece of documentary film-making. I hope that all homo sapiens get a chance to see this film.
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Wildlife best documentaries,
buzonpedro20 December 2006
I remember when I was a child seeing David Attenborugh BBc documentaries , fascinated sitting in my sofa.

This is another excellent new Attenborough documentary, I am surprised not to find more comments about Attenborough BBC films. It's a different style, it's other kind of TV, it's closer to art, or novels. It's simple. artistic and deep It's artistic and abstract, changes themes and the plot of the screenplay looking for a different wildlife overviews.

It is a musical and complex docu film and very simple too, uses the scientist concepts and artistic wonderful language which every can understand and gets quickly people attention. I am worried about not to find 10000 votes, I expected to find perhaps not less than 1000 IMDb votes. On other hand I have a question for anybody who read this comment ¿ are Yang Tse dolphins who appear in one of this episodes? I am very sad to listen that could be almost extinct.
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The Best David Attenborough Work Ever!
Dylan-Potter25 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The reason this is the best is because it covers the mammal world. Our world, and therefore it is fascinating. It starts with monotremes and marsupials, in an episode all about Australian animals and some others from the Americas. This is a great idea as it establishes mammals and gets the ones different to normal mammals covered and out of the way. Then is the insect eater episode. This episode isn't perfect, it's charm lies within the fact that they are covered in a way never before covered. It probably was the first hedgehog sex scene ever filmed, the first to show anteaters and armadillos eat food up close, possibly the best bit is the bat scene. Then are plant eaters, which never interested me, but they find it hard to bore me in this. The African elephant scene, the scene with the plant eater's method of escape and fighting, which excited me. After is the story of rodents. Here they aren't presented as annoying little rats, but complex, amazing creatures. But then comes the best 4 Attenborough episodes. The thrilling meat eater adventure. The story of the contradiction-filled omnivores, the aquatic action of Return to the Water (possibly that's biased by my love of being underwater) and the Attenborough peak-Life in the Trees, the story of mammals who enjoy the high-life. The penultimate episode focuses on monkeys, cute, fascinating and funny. But the finale is truly mind- blowing. This series is like Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan. Starts with powerful stuff, an enjoyable middle, the exciting peak near the finale, the modest penultimate song. And then Food For Thought, the Desolation Row of documentaries. Reveals suffering humans cause on others. Starts with no problem against humanity, and then suddenly reveals the powerful humanity that causes so much suffering. The haunting message is truly done in a powerful method. David Attenborough is at his peak in this mind-blowing series, very exciting, and done like no other documentary.
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machngunjoe22 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
For me, who watches quite a bit of these kind of shows, Sir David Attenbourgh does no wrong. Always are his documentaries knowledgeable, entertaining, and certainly insightful. This particular Attenbourgh documentary on mammals was the most profound.

Keeping in mind that we humans are apart of the mammalian family there are certainly interesting moments in this series.

I don't won't to give anything away as every segment is fully entertaining.

Those of you whom have seen other "Life of" series; then you know what to expect. However as the series moves toward Human Beings near the end in David Attenbourgh's food for thought, for which the last chapter is called, he poses a most profound question that can only sink in ones mind, perhaps only for a little while for some. But the so seemingly simplistic way in which explains why some species are the way they are, coupled with the things are the way they are today, which is posed in his final thought; makes the Life of Mammals one of the best documentary films I've ever seen.

For those of you whom have never seen any nature shows at all, or are reduced to some lesser ones that play on TV today...well give this one a try.
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The evolution and life of mammals
TheLittleSongbird25 October 2017
David Attenborough is nothing short of a national treasure. He may apparently dislike the term, but it is hard to not say that about such a great presenter who has contributed significantly to some of the best programmes (of the documentary genre and overall) the BBC has ever aired/produced.

It is really hard picking favourites, let alone a definite favourite, among what Attenborough has done because he has done so many gems, it is the equivalent of trying to choose your favourite ice cream flavour or your favourite operatic role (for examples) and finding you can't pick. To me though, 'The Life of Mammals' is up there with his crowning achievements and one of the best documentaries ever viewed, and as has been said already there are a lot of great ones. It has everything that makes so much of his work so wonderful, hence some of the reiteration of my recent reviews for some of his work (being on a nature documentary binge in my spare time), and deserves everything great that has been said about it.

First and foremost, 'The Life of Mammals' looks amazing. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely fluid and natural, sometimes intimate (a great way of connecting even more with the animals), way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic with some of the shots being unique for a documentary series, making one forget that it is a series. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery is pure magic, similarly really admired the wide-ranging diversity of the different landscapes rather than restricting it to just one habitat. The music score fits very well, never overly grandiose while never being inappropriate.

Again, like so many Attenborough nature/wildlife documentaries, 'The Life of Mammals' fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, some facts being familiar to us while going into detail about the different animals, how they evolved, their behaviours and how they adapt.

Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows his stuff and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more. The "behind the scenes/making of" scenes too gave some humanity to the series and allowed us to get to know those behind the camera as well as in front.

The animals are big in personality and very diverse. The conflict has genuine tension and suspense, there is some fun and a lot of emotionally powerful moments done with a lot of tear-jerking pathos. Found myself really caring for what we're told. Like much of Attenborough/BBC's other work, each episode doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries each feels like their own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts and animal characters developed in a way a human character would in a film but does it better than several.

In conclusion, truly wonderful and a crowning achievement. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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I'm loving this series which will teach you something new.
Jaromir Adamek6 August 2008
Good series. I'm loving this series which will teach you something new. Especially this nice way with close shots and many details.

The Life of Mammals look for me little older, than filmed in 2002, it look as something +- 1990 or similar quality. Because it, my vote for this beauty series isn't higher. The quality isn't so high, how it may be...

In summary this is good education film about mammals, each its part is well separated.

Comments are well and not too scientific, so this film may be good for all age groups especially the youngest ones.

For me personally may be the film little more scientific. I'm see his main purpose to teach kids in elementary school. But its good for older too...
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worth watching, but ,for many may not hold the same replay value as other "Life of" series
magdyalt6 January 2006
As with all BBC "Life" series of documentaries the life of mammals contains, and in spades, amazing never seen before footage, an appropriately matching musical score, high production values and the calming, fascinating narrative,and infectious enthusiasm of sir David Attenborough .

All these elements mean some of the best TV has to offer and a benchmark for documentary. Some of the highlights of the series are the never seen before footage of the platypus nest. The Kangaroos giving birth and the elephants salt mining. Yet life of mammals scores, in my book, less than all other Life series.

so what went wrong here? i am afraid old Davy dropped the ball with this one; he has remained respectably fairly neutral on the subject of evolution in his past series, he mentions the facts, why and how animals, plants..etc are behaving, and leaves it up to the audience ,to conclude for themselves ,if its all the result of evolution or intelligent design .

This time around ,he threw the rules and long standing tradition of BBC aside and instead decided to keep regurgitating the still much debated theory of evolution through out each and every single episode in this 10 parts series as if it is a universally agreed upon fact ! And then ends the series with an hour long episode citing the similarities between apes and humans and regurgitates that human's were apes again and again as if it's a universally agreed upon fact . So much, that my uncle, a long time fan of David's work, was rolling his eyes many times during the last 2 episodes.much of the footage in last two episodes highlighting monkeys social nature and behavior is interesting,but clearly the narration was not objective.Rather than wasting time trying to shove evolution down peoples throats, precious time could've been spent showing more rare species and fascinating FACTs about mammals.

This review is not intended to spark a never ending evolution / creation debate, but with all due respect to the BBC and sir David, if you want to make the case of evolution, then make another dedicated show to debate the theory and represent other points of view in a neutral and objective way, the BBC way, or at least the way it used to be. That being said I still feel this series is worth watching, but ,for many may not hold the same replay value as other "Life" series .
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