Spielberg on WW2: The Pacific (Mini-Series) TV Review

I review a whole season rather than individual episodes, so there is a chance of spoilers. If you haven’t watched the whole season yet, stop reading now!

The Pacific felt like Steven Spielberg’s attempt to create another World War 2 TV masterpiece. Band of Brothers had already brought the conflict successfully to the screen, with a story which had the same group of men, many of which surviving the whole war, experiencing D-Day, Market Garden and The Battle of the Bulge. It was a tale designed for television.

It isn’t that The Pacific isn’t an interesting story, just that it doesn’t seem to lend itself to the same style of storytelling. There isn’t the huge conflicts which mark the series. The characters don’t seem to stick around long enough to have a huge impact and The Pacific seems to miss the heart and realism of Band of Brothers.

The characters lack the appeal of their mini-series predecessor

Tom Hanks is back on producing duties, as well as narration, and this automatically gives the series a documentary feel. It is more like a matter-of-fact retelling of events rather than a dramatic retelling, never really giving the characters the depth they need to make the emotional impact.

The environment they are fighting in doesn’t seem to offer as much variation and interest as the European campaign. The conditions were terrible but the characters never seem to experience them long enough to sell the effects. The battles are gruesome but because the characters haven’t made the same impact as their Easy Company counterparts, deaths or injuries lose their impact. One particular episode aside, where the soldiers flee across a airfield, does have the violent, terrifying effects that Spielberg framed so well in Saving Private Ryan, but other battles feel like faceless, generic moments rather than capturing history.

The airfield run is one of the more effective scenes

It is unusual that the characters feel less developed because we see more of their “home life” than in Band of Brothers. This should add some emotional attachment and context to their stories but it instead distracts from the more interesting elements rather than enhances them.

This isn’t to say The Pacific isn’t effective. It is a very good TV drama and offers a very accurate depiction of war against the Japanese. The issue is that we know Spielberg, even as a producer rather than director, can do better and has delivered depictions of World War 2 which are more effective. Compared to those, The Pacific unfortunately fall short.

The story is generally lacking in interest

Overall, The Pacific is an attempt to tell a similar story to the Easy Company campaign but from the other side of the world. Unfortunately, the characters lack appeal, the locations feel generic and the action lacks punch. Easy Company had heart and a insightful experience. The Pacific seems to be lacking something to make it feel as convincing and effective.

Best Episode – Peleliu Airfield: The run across the airfield is the most terrifying and effective of the whole season

Best performance – James Badge Dale as Robert Leckie

Should there be another season? – No, one mini-series tells the story that is intended.

Season Rating – 3

(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)

Well made but not quite up to the task

 

 

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