Life (2009)
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Primates include apes, monkeys and even more primitive simians, such as lemurs. Thanks to their intelligence, the higher primates take adaptation beyond anatomical evolution: their behavior... See full summary »


Paul Spillenger (Discovery Channel)




Episode credited cast:
David Attenborough ... Self - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Justine Evans Justine Evans ... Self
Tatyana Humle Tatyana Humle ... Self
Oprah Winfrey ... Self - Narrator (U.S. Broadcast)


Primates include apes, monkeys and even more primitive simians, such as lemurs. Thanks to their intelligence, the higher primates take adaptation beyond anatomical evolution: their behavior transcends instinct thanks to learning and invention. Their social life especially holds the seeds of human culture, such as tribal warfare. They occur in widely different environments, which they cleverly interact with, from icy northern Japan to (mainly) the tropics in Old - and New World. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




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User Reviews

Life of the primates
8 January 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Despite how much he apparently dislikes the term "national treasure", that term really does sum up David Attenborough to a tee. He is such a great presenter (in his 90s and still sounds, and looks on a side note, great) and whenever a new series of his is aired they are often among the best the BBC has done in years.

Am a great fan of a lot of Attenborough's work and BBC's nature documentaries with his involvement are among their best work in years. Have been watching the BBC less over time, but there are always exceptions, unexpected gems and expected treasures that come our way every now and again and their nature documentaries are the perfect examples of expected treasures. 'Life' is a crowning achievement for a documentary series and actually, like the best documentary shows, feels much more than that. As far as Attenborough's work goes too, 'Life' to me is one of his biggest achievements.

"Primates" couldn't be a more perfect end. It is very difficult to pick a favourite of the ten episodes of 'Life', but they are all wonderful in their own way. A couple of them, especially "Reptiles and Amphibians" and "Insects", made me appreciate more species that give me heebie jeebies usually. It's utterly transfixing and very educational, with a good mix of the old and the new. It may explore the challenges for all these different primates, but for the viewer watching it's an awe-inspiring delight from start to finish.

First and foremost, "Primates" is exceptionally well-made. Hardly surprising, one comes to expect that from Attenborough's work. In fact saying that doesn't do the production values justice. 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. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery and various habitats are remarkably diverse and look speechlessly spectacular.

On a documentary level, "Primates" continually fascinates and illuminates, while there are some familiar facts here a lot of it was very much new. By the end of the series for me more was gotten out of it, and educated me much more than, anything taught when studying Geography and Science in secondary school.

Attenborough's narration helps quite significantly too, 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 primates are both adorable and dangerous, the wide-ranging diversity in personality and ability of what was included was staggering and it was lovely to see a mix of the familiar and the not-so-familiar. How they adapt to their environments, why they behave the way they do, how nature works and how what the wildlife and life-forms do affects their environments were all touched upon and made their points subtly, not hammering it home too much (a potential danger with documentaries).

In terms of standout sequences, the Tarsier and the Japanese Macaque ones are particularly fascinating and beautifully filmed. The evolution stuff was the least interesting moments of the episode but make some pertinent, relevant and important points that didn't feel that preachy to me.

Not once does "Primates" feel like an episodic stringing of scenes like it easily could have been. Instead it feels like its 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. One really cares for what they're told and the wildlife.

Altogether, a more than ideal end to one of Attenborough's biggest achievements. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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Release Date:

14 December 2009 (UK) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Discovery Channel See more »
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Technical Specs




Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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