Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Exfanding Review: WWII in HD

WWII in HD boxOkay, so this one's a bit off our usual subject matter. But, hey, if I have to sit through one of two space-heavy shows for the next who-knows-how-long, I'm at least going to talk about things that have nothing to do with space, including space operas or prematurely cancelled shows about space.

And today I'd like to talk about war.

Well, that's not entirely true. I don't like talking about war, but I watched something this weekend that was both captivating and horrifying. Last year, History Channel released a television show called WWII in HD. It ran nightly on the network for a whole week in November, but I managed to miss every single episode.

This past weekend was my dad's birthday, so when I saw the Blu-ray collection of the series at my local Borders, I picked it up. My dad's a history buff, and all of his presents--birthdays, Father's Days, Christmases, whatever--have to do with history in some form or another.

His office is littered with gifts from holidays past--books (so, so many books) and old Harper's Weekly issues and some nice Civil War memorabilia. He's also a movie buff, but interestingly enough, he has no patience for most documentaries.

He hates those shows with dramatic reenactments, and aside from Ken Burns' wonderful series for PBS, The Civil War, my Dad's shelves are pretty much devoid of any history-related DVDs.

So when I first saw the Blu-ray of WWII in HD, I looked at the back cover with some trepidation. But I'd heard some rave reviews about the series, and I decided to buy it.

My dad opened it and I told him a bit about the series. How the filmmakers had spent over two years scouring the globe in search of color films from the war. This is significant, because the vast majority of films that have been shown to the public were shot in black and white.

However, during the course of their search, the filmmakers discovered over three thousand hours of footage--most of it in color--that no one had ever seen before. The crew then spent months and months watching, cleaning, and preserving the films. They then converted all of it into High Definition.
Preserving HistoryThe eight-hour series follows the wartime lives of a handful of people--from soldiers on the ground to nurses, medics, and reporters--and tells their stories through actual footage taken during the conflict.

Once I explained what it was, my dad decided he wanted to watch a little of it right there and then. So I popped in the first disc and...nothing. The Blu-ray player froze, completely, and became a useless plastic thing.

After several tries, I managed to open the tray and retrieve the disc, which was obviously defective.

Good start.

I tried the second disc, and that one worked just fine. So, I told my Dad I'd return the disc during the week, but we could watch a little of disc two to see how the series is. And we did. And then four hours passed, and the disc was finished.

And neither one of us had moved from the couch.

Told through the voices of veterans, WWII in HD is a vitally important historical archive of the conflict. We see war from the perspective of both sides of the fight, and, while none of us can ever really understand what it was like to be there, through their words, we can better appreciate the sacrifices they made.

Watching children--because that's what they were--of 19 years old crouched and freezing to death in foxholes while shells explode around them, all I could think of was...I could never do this.

Not ever.

From the absolute nightmares of Iwo Jima to the story of a destroyed ship, lost at sea amid circling sharks, these men and women experienced horror upon horror in an effort to save the world.

Talk about a super hero.

We take so much for granted in this country, and man, was this eye-opening. I mean, I've seen many films of World War II on television before, but to see everything in color, and not to mention in Hi-Def, was just...different.

It made everything--and everyone--real. This wasn't just some grainy and distant stock footage we would watch in high school of a group of soldiers walking through the woods during a war that was fought too long ago for any of us to appreciate anymore. Personally, I think this series should be required viewing in high schools around the country.

It's gripping and emotional and heartbreaking and uplifting.

Some of the scenes are obviously gruesome in nature, but those scenes are the most important parts of the stories. The horror of the situation they faced was overcome only by their sense of duty and their desire to see their families again.

If you are a student of history--or, like me, you want to be one--then WWII in HD is a must-watch. I have to run out later this morning to return the Blu-ray, and hopefully by tonight, my dad can get to watching the first disc.

If he does, I have a feeling it's going to be a late night for him.

No comments: