23 May 2010

the Pacific

I regard Band of Brothers as some of the finest film-making i've seen. without trying to get up my hopes too much, i eagerly anticipated the airing of The Pacific. i think it helped that there were 9 intervening years.

what didn't help is that: the Pacific isn't very good.

or at least i should say, "when compared to Band of Brothers," as comparisons are inevitable.

the Pacific is certainly watchable (unless you're squeamish), it has some solid and moving performances, and it has moments of well-executed intensity.

it also has long periods of boredom, lacks focus, provides disjointed character and battle arcs, and wasn't as well cast as BoB.

i thought BoB had, among other strengths, two standouts: 1) the decision to follow a single company throughout the war, and 2) casting mostly unknown actors. The Pacific followed the second (with the exception of Jon Seda), but did not follow the first. I think that was to its detriment.

personally, i think i'm also suffering from knowing (much) more about the european theater than the pacific; i suspect the same is true for a number of viewers. i recognize that may have contributed to my lower enjoyment, so perhaps that's unfair. But i also think making the same choice as BoB -- following a single company -- could have provided that missing context and contributed to a better viewing experience.

that said, i'm sure the producers had discussions about formula, and wanted to do something different, such as starting some character arcs prior to enlisting. I think i would have agreed with this choice more had it paid off better. to me, it simply felt different.

it also didn't feel as epic as BoB. the series carried along with more or less the same energy, and all of a sudden, the Japanese had surrendered. it really felt as though the series was just getting started, so this was certainly "an odd turn of events".

it wasn't until the last two episodes where i finally started caring -- but not very much -- about what happened to the characters. at the end of BoB, when the reveal was made of "who was who" (matching characters to their real-life counterparts), that was moving. the Pacific used the same technique, without the same gravity.


pyker said...

It's on here now, I've watched a few episodes, and I completely agree with you. What a shame. In the episodes I've seen, they haven't bracketed it with interviews from the real guys. In Band of Brothers, their doing that, leaving the guys unnamed, was brilliant. The naming in the final episode was about as poignant and heart-rending as anything I've seen.

Matt said...

I agree also, but I enjoyed The Pacific enough to watch it every week. I also know much more about the European theater in WW2. My father was actually in the Army Air Force and spent time in London during the war and in Germany right after the war. The Pacific did give me a better understanding and appreciation for what those guys went through on those shitty little islands though.

For a humanizing look at the Japanese war experience, "Letters from Iwo Jima" is a must-see.

zim said...

yes, Letters was excellent. i must watch that again.

JustJoeP said...

I DVR'ed Pacific, with hopes that a Tom Hankian Saving-Private-Ryan-esque presentation would ensue. It didn't, but being DVR'ed, I was able to fast forward through the War Bonds, rich-kid-in-mortar-squad, bantering malarkey. Having played a ton of Battle Field WWII, I was familiar with many of the logistics and theaters (as was my son in his HS history class - lol!), but I think like in "actual life" much of the war in the Pacific was pointless. Kill thousands of Marines to take a malaria infested island in the middle of no where, and then NOT use it for the invasion of Iwo and Okinawa? MacArthur & Nimitz, two very rich boys who played with 100s of thousands of lives (not to mention "Halsey acted stupidly"... as Matt's favorite Scottish Dragon pointed out).

pyker said...

Joe, have you seen band of brothers? It is vastly superior to saving pvt Ryan. Minimum 3 orders of magnitude better.

Matt said...

Band of Brothers was outstanding. I just watched a couple episodes again yesterday. The casting was a big part of the success, and on top of that it was amazing how similar the cast members were to the real people. They didn't reveal who was who until the last episode, but it was easy to tell with most of them.

One weak point in the casting though I thought was Ron Livingston. I guess he will always be the disaffected cubicle drone from Office Space to me.

JustJoeP said...

admittedly, I have not seen more than 5 minutes of one episode of BoB. BoB and "The Wire" are two entire acclaimed series I missed out, but which everyone references. Finding the time to invest, is the hardest part for me.