Movie Review: World War II in HD
Curtis Szmania sits down and gives his review on the mini-series that presents World War II footage in high definition with narration from several famous actors. Is it worth a spot on your shelf?
Mini-Series Review: WWII in HD
Production Company: Lou Reda Productions
Starring: Justin Bartha, Rob Lowe, Josh Lucas, Rob Corddry, Tim Dekay, Mark Hefti, James Kyson Lee, Ron Livingston, LL Cool J, Jason Ritter, Amy Smart, Steven Zahn and Gary Sinise
World War II was a conflict which dwarfs all others in comparison in nearly all categories: fatalities, number of states involved, size of area of hostilities, and lethality of weapons. These aspects are the reasons why there are more documentaries and films about the war than any other war. The facts about the war are so astonishing and jaw-dropping, its no wonder why it's been documented in length and retold time and again. Many documentaries and films about the war have a certain theme and/or agenda. Some of the war footage is seen over and over again from one documentary to the next. So, as we know, through history the victor gets to write the history books; telling their story. Films about World War II are no different as most are from the Allies' perspective. In fact, this perspective is so common that its quite a chore to find anything that views the conflict from a different light. So is WWII in HD any different? Also, does it bring any new war footage to our TV screens?
A PLOT WITH NO SPOILERS
WWII in HD is a documentary mini-series featured on The History Channel. Most of the footage is shot in color (not colorized) and converted to a High Definition format. The documentary also claims that much of the footage has never been seen by the public before. Its based around the personal accounts of a dozen different people who experienced the war, one way or the other. The personal stories range from a Tuskegee pilot, to a nurse, and a Japanese-American medic. From American military personnel to war correspondents, there is also an account of an Austrian Jew immigrant who joined the US Army. The documentary covers mainly the US involvement in the war, from Pearl Harbor to the fall of Japan. These include Operation Torch, the Normandy Campaign, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and many other engagements in a total of 10 episodes.
When I first saw the title "WWII in HD", I was skeptical. We didn't have HD cameras during World War II! But that's not what happened here. The footage in the documentary was shot with cameras of the time period and most of the footage was shot in color. But some of it is black-n-white, like the footage of the Japanese-American units and Tuskegee airmen (supposedly the US military gave them black-n-white cameras). The footage has been "re-mastered" to high definition resolutions from the original source. So don't think the detail will be as good as a HD channel broadcast because it isn't, it wasn't filmed in HD. Although, the quality is much better than any other World War II footage Ive seen. And that's saying a lot. Its very clear, video noise has been reduced, and its been accompanied by intensive sound effects. There is also a whole bunch of footage Ive never seen before on TV.
The music accompanying the footage does a great job at setting the mood of what is being shown on film. For clips showing casualties and war-torn civilians there might be slow and soft music, perhaps something with a violin. This intensifies the emotional impact of these clips for the viewer. But the series also has fast-paced and intensive adrenaline-pounding music for the action scenes. The series also does a great job at switching from one scene to the next, from a sympathetic scene to an intense war scene. For example, a scene of starving and cold Japanese civilians will change all of a sudden to a scene of Panzers rumbling through the Ardennes during the winter of '44-'45. I think this keeps the attention of the viewer, instead of boring them with just one type of emotion. The documentary also seems to do it at the perfect time, switching from the Pacific Theatre and back to the European Theatre. It will switch back and forth, from one front to the other, several times in one episode.
The whole series is full of personal accounts, and is solely based on these accounts; whether through personal interviews, writings, or posthumous writings and interviews. Along with these accounts is a narration that transcribes the events of the war as they fit in with the stories. The personal accounts are emotional, heroic, and astounding. They range from desperate combat situations, amazing rescues, terrible POW experiences, descriptions of the horrors of war, and witnesses to mass suicides. Many of the accounts are moving and can be quite heart-wrenching. But most of the accounts didn't show any sort of hatred towards the war, a dislike for war, or tried to make the Allies look bad. All of them were proud of their service, the cause they were fighting for, and at times showed ignorance of their Japanese adversaries. Most of the hardships discussed in the personal accounts are either in relation to the weather, lack of supplies, boredom, or the stubborn resistance of the enemy. I did notice an anti-war sentiment with the interviewed, but none of them ever asked the questions, "Why am I here?"
The fact that all of the interviewed don't question their role in the war and were willing to support it without hesitation (at least they didn't say they questioned it) seems quite extraordinary. Were the personal accounts only from a certain demographic or opinion? It sure seems this way. I would also have liked to see accounts from other countries as well. Since the mini-series was titled WWII in HD, you'd think the documentary would have personal accounts from several of the nations that participated in the conflict. But it doesn't do this, suggesting the mini-series is incorrectly titled. Perhaps its a ruse to draw in viewers? It's unfortunate that the victors get to write the history books and documentaries because it hinders the development of new knowledge relating to the conflict. In this atmosphere different perspectives are discouraged, biases continue to breed, and ignorance reigns. So as you might think, the film mostly focuses on the Pacific Theatre and the war in France, Germany, and the Low Countries. Unfortunately, there isn't much time spent on the events and battles that occurred before the US entered the war. It also seemed to skip over the battles on mainland Italy (Anzio, Salerno, and Monte Cassino). This seems to happen all the time because it seems that the Allies refuse to acknowledge the very slow advance up the Italian peninsula.
Whether the title is to draw in viewers or not, WWII in HD brings a lot of new footage to the public never seen before; and in high definition resolutions. Mostly in color and accompanied by personal accounts, the mini-series is very entertaining and brings World War II to the 21st Century. It will definitely keep your attention because its an emotional rollercoaster with sad scenes and adrenaline-rushing battle scenes intertwined beautifully and exemplified with immersive music. But although it keeps your attention, it really only chooses to tell one side of the story. Throughout the series you hear personal accounts from a dozen Americans, so its basically an American perspective of the war. In doing so, WWII in HD skips over much of the pre-Pearl Harbor events, barely touching on the fight in Italy. The Japanese enemy is kept at an arms length and the series may be incorrectly titled. I would recommend the series to anyone, but I would like to stress that they shouldn't take this perspective to heart.
The Good: A lot of new footage never seen before by the public, much of the footage is in color, converted to high definition, immersive and evolving music, emotional footage and storyline, built around a foundation made of personal accounts, tells the stories of various Americans who participated in the war.
The Bad: All personal accounts are Americans and only Americans, skips over much of the first half of the war, portrays only the US perspective of the war, the source obviously wasn't HD, it's incorrectly titled because it suggests its about the "whole" war.
Would I watch it again? Yes, but only if I was using it for research. The mini-series is definitely entertaining and has a lot of "never seen before" footage. A major reason why I wouldn't watch it again is because it refuses to show both sides of the conflict. I prefer to look at wars and engagements as a two-sided coin, unlike this documentary. Although at times its appropriate to understand the perspective of a belligerent, packaging it into a mini-series called WWII in HD for the public to see is quite inappropriate. Even though its much less prejudice towards the enemy then documentaries released just after the war, please don't get caught-up in the ignorance.
- Viewed on a Samsung PN63B550 - 63 Plasma TV
- Heard through Samsung PN63B550 TV speakers
- Watched in my living room
Review Written By: Curtis Szmania, Staff Writer