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Guns, Germs, and Steel
Guns Germs and Steel
Genres: Drama, Television, Educational, Documentary
NR     2005     2hr 45min

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book and national best seller, Guns, Germs, and Steel is an epic detective story that offers a gripping expose on why the world is so unequal. Professor Jared Diamond traveled the globe ...  more »


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Movie Details

Genres: Drama, Television, Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Drama, Television, Educational, Documentary
Studio: National Geographic Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 07/12/2005
Original Release Date: 01/01/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2005
Release Year: 2005
Run Time: 2hr 45min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 12
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Loretta B. (bellorri)
Reviewed on 4/18/2009...
This DVD is so informative but also full of common sense,it answers alot of questions about humanity and it is amazing.Very thorough.

1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jeannine W. (jrelehw) from LONDONDERRY, NH
Reviewed on 1/29/2008...
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

Excellent book yields mediocre documentary
The Rocketman | Los Angeles, CA | 07/16/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"First, if you taped this documentary off of PBS, keep your tape as the "extras" here are little more than a few facts spiffed up graphically over a world map.

Diamond's thesis in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" is that geography, which governs climate which, in turn, governs indigenous species, is the reason for the unequal distribution of wealth in the world today. In short, Diamond is focused on why the Europeans conquered so much of the world.

There are 3 one-hour episodes in this series. The first is concerned with why agriculture took hold in parts of the world and hints at the benefits it bestowed in developing large, complex societies. The second episode is concerned with how these large complex (European) societies were able to develop weapons (guns and steel) to conquer much of the rest of the world. Germs were an unintended weapon against indigenous people that may have been the most beneficial. The last installment is concerned with another way to test the "guns, germs, and steel" hypothesis using the European march into Africa as test material. Here, climate (created by geography) creates indigenous germs that the Europeans can't handle. Nevertheless, guns and steel (apparently) still win the day.

This documentary is a reasonable, though somewhat superficial, overview of Diamond's thesis. The problem is, however, that it is somewhat glib and fails to get to the "Ken Burns" gold standard. There is much repetition of the "guns, germs, and steel" theme from episode to episode so that, even within the 3 hours, there should have been room to hint at some speculation on simple questions that the thesis itself invites. For example, there is essentially no mention of China (except the standard reference to gunpowder being developed there). If China had a complex civilization, why did they end up in isolation? It is never mentioned, for example, *why* the Chinese, having developed gunpowder never used it in conquest. (The neglect of China is particularly interesting as Diamond does deal with some of these issues in his book.) Another example is the tropic climate theme: the Americas had a tropical climate as well, complete with tropical germs and yet that did not slow the spread of European conquests there. Finally, geography is presented on a primarily 2-dimensional world map scale, not accounting for crucial issues like climate changes at altitude or rapid transportation as a result of internal rivers within a continent.

Lastly, while this is really Diamond's show, it would have been valuable to have a few scholarly, dissenting opinions on why Diamond's theories haven't been universally embraced. As it is, the documentary presents the "guns, germs, and steel" theory so forcefully, one is left to wonder why it took 30 years for someone as smart as Diamond to come up with a set of seemingly simple ideas. The elegance of Diamond's theory is precisely because it shows how simple issues relate to the complexities of human history, but the documentary completely neglects competing ideas in this arena (and there are many).

It's nice that National Geographic is introducing these provocative ideas to the public at large, it's just a shame that such weighty material didn't produce a deeper program."
Fine Overview of Jared Diamond's Ideas, But.....
John Kwok | New York, NY USA | 05/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Jared Diamond, a distinguished professor of physiology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles, has devoted much of his life trying to understand man's impact on nature, through significant, often pioneering, work on bird species diversity in New Guinea, and the extinctions of endemic species of plants and animals in the aftermath of human colonization of the South Pacific by the ancestors of the Melanesians and especially, Polynesians. For this excellent work he has earned numerous accolades, including - if my memory is correct - membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He is also a superb writer and a mesmerizing lecturer; qualities which are shown in ample abundance throughout this National Geographic miniseries devoted to his Pulitzer Prize-winning book "Guns, Germs and Steel".

Originally published back in 1997, "Guns, Germs and Steel" posed the interesting hypothesis that Western civilization's preeminence is due to mere happenstance, simply because its ancestral Fertile Crescent civilizations were lucky to have the richest abundance of potentially domesticated grains and animals. The eventual triumph of Western civilization is due to its successful colonization of the temperate regions of the globe, via its rich abundance in domesticated grains and animals, advanced weaponry and technology, and the accidental spread of virulent, often deadly, diseases associated with domesticated animals such as pigs and sheep.

This National Georgraphic miniseries is a somewhat successful exploration of Jared Diamond's work and the ideas described in "Guns, Germs and Steel". The first hour-long episode, devoted to domestication of grains and animals, is the most successful of the three. It is followed immediately by a second episode describing the clash of Western civilization with an indigenous, technologically advanced, American civilization - the Inkas - in 1532 and 1533 - in which the Spanish conquistadors succeeded only because an Old World disease - smallpox - had decimated the Inka population in 1531. The third episode is a more contemporary test of Diamond's hypothesis, set in Sub-Saharan Africa, but yielding a result not nearly as clear cut as the Spanish invasion of the Inkan Empire. Still, despite the mixed quality of these episodes, I can recommend this DVD set as a visual introduction to Diamond's hypothesis; an ecologically-oriented, testable hypothesis which was virtually unknown to anthropologists and other social scientists prior to the book's original publication."
Worth watching more for the grains component than for the gu
Rudolf Schmid | Kensington, CA | 09/06/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Based on Jared M. Diamond's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1997 book, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 480 pp., [32] pp. pls.), this July 2005 telecast (also available on DVD) received full and somewhat critical reviews by M. Balter in Science 309: 248-249 (8 July 2005) and by N. Martel in The New York times (11 July 2005).

Suffice it to say here, the first episode is the best, and by far the most botanical, dealing with Diamond's controversial ideas on the origins of agriculture and domesticated plants and animals in the Near East and their global latitudinal (rather than longitudinal) spread. Episode 2 is a tad overkill, focusing almost entirely on that fateful November-1532 day when 168 Spaniards killed some 7000 unarmed Incas; smallpox was the cour de grâce for countless Incan survivors of the massacre, who lacked the resistance to the disease many Europeans had. Episode 3 deals with the European and Boer colonization of Africa and ends in hopeful platitudes but regretfully offers no solutions for the continent's troubles. [Because the first episode deals much with grains, and because guns and germs do not enter until the second episode, I suggest a better title for the book would have been Grains, Guns, Germs, and Steel.] Despite the obvious padding and repetition characteristic of video endeavors of this sort, the program is definitely worth watching for its historical and biological insights."