HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The World Wars
HTS Overall Score:78
The History Channel is the crème de la crème for history in the film marketplace, and they’ve done a TON of work on World War I and II. Actually, there are a lot of different documentaries and dramas and action movies surrounding the World Wars, so much so in fact, that I honestly wondered if there was room for another one. We have plain and dry documentaries on them; we have complete dramatizations like “The Pacific” and “Band of Brothers” from HBO, and just about everything in between. In recent years The History Channel has been branching out quite a bit and creating more docu-dramas like the upcoming “Houdini” than cut and dry documentaries any more, and many of these have been simply fascinating, despite the obvious embellishments that dramatizations and re-enactments tend to bring to the table.
We all learned the history of the World Wars at some point. We all know that the Germans and a few others basically wanted to take over the world several times and failed due to massive resistance by the rest of Europe and the Americas. However, instead of focusing on the individual wars themselves, this documentary does a great job at showing how World War I and World War II were actually both one instance that was separated by a short down time between uprisings of conflict. The docu-drama is split up into three 89 minute sections that depict the first World War, and then the two separate sections of World War II in chronological order. The first 89 minutes paints a very complex and detailed picture of how the World War I was just the fuel and fire for WWII, as all of the primary players in the conflict were forged in battle during that beginning time period. We have Stalin and Lenin coming together to create the USSR, Mussolini finishing up his freedom fighting and realizing the great potential that Italy had in the upcoming years, and we get to see a young Hitler grow from a sheltered loner to a man incensed with the defeat of his beloved Germany.
Something that I hadn’t thought about for quite some time is the Versailles treaty and the affect that it had on World War II. The Versailles treaty was, of course, the disarmament of Germany and the effective restitution that the winning parties enacted upon the losers of the war. Germany was so ostracized and demoralized with that treaty that it pretty much guaranteed a future that left the people angry and humiliated. Hitler wanted revenge, and the destitution of the Great Depression left him the perfect opportunity to step into the void created by the demolished German government. To compound this issue, Japan was completely snubbed in the treaty and lost an enormous amount of face to the West, priming them to switch sides from being the good guys to trying to create their own empire of aggression and allying themselves with the Germans in WWII. Mussolini saw his bid for power, and Stalin wanted world domination as much as the rest, and the Axis powers were formed.
The documentary did a very admirable job at trying to keep dramatizations pertinent and the narration accurate and engaging. I was really worried by Jeremy Renner taking on the role of narrator, as I fully expected him to try and grandstand or “spice up” the narration with some drama. I was very surprised to say that after about 15 minutes you stop realizing that it’s Jeremy Renner and just absorb his simple, yet effective, narration in stride. He blended seamlessly in with the rest of the movie and unless you know his voice, you really wouldn’t recognize him at all. The movie interjects plenty of commentaries from pertinent modern authorities on the subject such as historians, documentarians, ex-military personnel, and modern political figures from both sides of the ocean, including John McCain, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Douglas Brinkely, Michael Beschloss, to name a few, all of whom added their own brand of commentary, ranging from simple description of the events, to little anecdotes pertaining to their experience as children or their parent’s experiences in the conflict or historians giving their calculated input of what they felt was going on.
The story flowed very nicely, and I really loved the tapestry created in the first act over World War I, as you really got to see how that war was really just the staging ground for the second one to rise up. As the story moves into World War II, it tends to follow a more standard chronological flow of your standard documentary, but still manages to remain entertaining in both dramatizations and little anecdotes from the commentators.
Not Rated By the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=26129[/img]“The World Wars” is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in an encode that is pretty impressive. The Docu-Drama is shot in a mixture of different styles, ranging from the crisp clarity of modern days, to the slightly faded and old fashioned color grading of the war era’s to ACTUAL film from the era which shows the dilapidated state that it’s in (something that can’t really be helped). The majority of the film switches between the old fashioned re-enactment grading to modern day shots of the historians and political figures weighing in with their opinions of the happenings of the war, and both look very good. The scenes with said commentators looking incredibly crisp and clear with a great amount of clarity and resolution that you would expect to be present. Blacks are good, and colors are vibrant and bright. In the re-enactment scenes of the documentary the color grading leans a bit towards some earthy brown tones with some contrast blooming to achieve that slightly faded look from the past. Detail is still exceptional and there is no apparent softness, but there is some slightly faded blacks that is a result of the color grading. It’s a very serviceable encode that is uniquely stylized in a way that doesn't always create demo material, but still allows for a very pleasant viewing experience.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=26137[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just as good as the video, and really its only flaw is in the nature of the type of film being played out. A documentary first, it keeps the weight of the track in the front three speakers and allows the surrounds to come out and play in some of the battle sequences between parties. Those surrounds are used well and used often, but there is an enormous amount of dialogue that just dominates the front sound stage and overshadows the rest. I really enjoyed the LFE as it added some very powerful oomph to the battle sequences, and even the score was sufficiently heavy enough to really excite the viewer in the political machinations of the various leaders and generals. As mentioned, it is a very satisfactory track save for being a bit front heavy, and there really are no measurable faults in the mix that I could detect. Lionsgate did a fantastic job with it and I, for one, am very pleased with the results.
• Characters in Depth
- WWI: One Word
- Tech Developments of WWI
- Life in a Trench
- The US in WWI
- Did WWI Lead to WWII?
- Legacy of WWI
- WWI: Global Connections
- One Thing You Should Know About WWI
- Nationalism and WWI
- Harlem Hellfighters
• Deleted Scenes
I’m very picky with my documentaries and have a tendency to be leery of them, as I’ve been burned in the past by very slow moving and dry mouth piece films, as well as others that try to spice up history past what it was and turn it into an exciting feature film. While this one certainly did add some salt, pepper and ginger to the mix, it was done so effectively it kept the viewer engaged AND informed. The audio and the video are impressive and certainly will not be cause for any disappointment; the special features were rather fascinating (if not a little briefer than I would have liked at times), so I heartily give a recommendation for people who enjoy history to give this a watch.
Starring: James William Barker, David Mitchum Brown, C. Conrad Cady
Narrated By: Jeremy Renner
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Rated: Not Rated
Blu-ray Release Date: September 9th, 2014
Buy The World Wars Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It