For those readers in the US, this is not going to seem like anything new – HBO’s miniseries The Pacific premiered a few weeks ago. But in Taiwan, today’s the day! There will be a double feature on tonight (episodes one and two), and I plan to see it!
In preparation for viewing the series, I took it upon myself to brush up on my World War II Pacific theater history by reading Eugene Sledge’s classic account of Marines taking Peleliu and Okinawa, With The Old Breed. I wrote a short review of it here. After reading Sledge’s account of the brutal fighting, I am left wondering to what degree Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are going to be able to capture the experience in this ten-part series.
Since as I mentioned at the outset The Pacific has been out in the US for several weeks, there have been many reviews of the series in the mainstream media and the reviews that I read from this category all seemed to be highly laudatory (NYT, LAT). Not everyone in the “blogosphere” was drinking the Kool Aid, though. Historian Eric Hammel, writing on Tom Ricks’s award-winning blog The Best Defense had this to say about it:
Why should I be surprised a “docudrama” like The Pacific is shit? The whole effort behind the docu part is invested in toys such as gunner’s gloves. I long ago boycotted documentary filmmakers who want my brand to legitimize their sorry little TV vignettes. Their objective is entertainment centered on the dramatic visual, not the intellectual, and not quite the historical. If self-professed documentarians can’t get it right because they edit the talking heads to accommodate their thin film libraries, why should self-professed entertainers make a better effort, show greater concern?
Ouch. So it’s not a documentary, it’s entertainment, got it. I guess my standards just aren’t as high as someone like Hammel’s. I fully anticipate having the same reaction to it that Tom Ricks initially did: “hooked instantly.” (He later took on a more critical stance about the series.) Let’s put it this way: I really enjoyed watching the Hanks/Spielberg/HBO series that preceded and set the standard for this one, Band of Brothers, and when I finished watching that series, I said to myself, what about a series like that for the Pacific theater and the Marines? (Band of Brothers, for those who haven’t seen the series, focuses on U.S. Army soldiers in the European theater of war during WWII – Marines do not play a role.) The series I had hoped for is now here. As a U.S. Marine, I am naturally going to be partial to something telling “our” story, and I think that the desire by parties involved in making The Pacific to “get… it right” is a noble one. The Pacific would have to be pretty crappy for me not to like it. But I don’t think that a series that cost some $200 million and took nearly a year to film is going to be crappy. If I feel differently after watching tonight’s episodes, I will write about it later. Otherwise, it’s time for me to make sure my Saturday nights for the next 2 months are clear.
I would be interested to hear what anyone who has already seen one of the first three episodes aired in the US has to say about them. The comments section awaits your input.
Here are a couple links:
http://www.hbo.com/the-pacific/index.html (US official homepage)
http://www.hboasia.com/pacific/ (HBO Asia official homepage)