The World Wars (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
August 31, 2014 by Dennis Amith
“The World Wars” is not an in-depth analysis on both World Wars but it is an accessible, simplified and captivating miniseries that does a great job of introducing to people to the key figures of both World Wars and a few things that transpired during the 30-years. Captivating and entertaining, “The World Wars” is recommended!
Image courtesy of © 2014 A&E Television Networks. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The World Wars
YEAR OF FILM: 2014
DURATION: 270 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, 1:78:1 Aspect Ratio, English DTS-HD MA, Spanish and English SDH
RELEASE DATE: September 9, 2014
Directed by John Ealer
Written by Chelsea Coates, Randy Counsman, Zachary Herrmann, Claire Lawton, Alec Michod, Keith Palmer, Frederick Rendina, Jordan Rosenblum, David Schaye, David C. White
Produced by Randy Counsman, Brian Burstein
Co-Producer: Alec Michod, Jonathan Soule
Executive Producer: Stephen David, Paul Cabana, Russell McCarroll, Christian Murphy
Co-Executive Producer: Tim W. Kelly
Cinematography by Roger Chingirian
Edited by Mike Alfin, Tim W. Kelly, John Kilgour, Brian McAllister, Jonathan Soule
Casting by Erica Arvold, Donny DeSeta, Kevin Kuffa, Brian Burstein
Production Design by Hugh D.G. Moody
Art Direction by Carmen Cardenas
Set Decoration by Kathleen Pullan
Costume Design by Sarah Beers
Jeremy Renner – Narrator
Kevin McKillip as Young FDR
David Mitchum Brown as Harry S. Truman
C. Conrady Cady as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Don Hartman as General George Patton
Matt Dearman as Young Patton
Hugh Scully as Adolph Hitler
Maximilian Klas as Young Hitler
Don Meehan as Charles DeGaulle
Michael Perrie Jr. as Young DeGaulle
Jacopo Rampini as Young Stalin
Nabil Vinas as Young Mussolini
Daniel Martin Berkey as The Elder General Douglas MacArthur
Prescott Hathaway as Young MacArthur
Tom Vickers as Young Churchill
Ian Beyts as Winston Churchill
Jonathan Hartman as Benito Mussolini
Adolf Hitler. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Benito Mussolini. Winston Churchill. Charles de Gaulle. George Patton. Before they were the giants of WWII, they were infantrymen and privates in WWI, the “war to end all wars.” The World Wars from HISTORY® and H2™ brings you the story of the devastating three decades of 20th-century world war through the eyes of the men whose characters were forged in the trenches before they commanded a world on the brink of disaster. See how, from Ypres and the Somme to the Battle of the Bulge and the invasion of Normandy, the iconic figures of WWII became synonymous with either battlefield glory or murderous fascism.
One must regard these 30 years of strife in Europe as part of one story…one story of a 30 years‘ war. – Winston Churchill
On July 1914, the First World War began.
During this time, a young Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler were young men, who would one day become leaders for their countries during World War II which ended in September 1945.
What connection do these men and others have between both World Wars? And how did the First World War shape these men?
These are questions that is answered in “The World Wars”, a three-part six hour event miniseries which aired on the History Channel on Memorial Day and viewed by 13 million viewers and later viewed by audiences in 160 countries.
Produced by Stephen David Entertainment (who produced the Emmy Award winning miniseries, “The Men Who Built America”), the miniseries was narrated by actor Jeremy Renner (“The Avengers”, “The Hurt Locker”, “The Bourne Legacy”) and would feature dramatic reenactments, archived footage and interviews with historians, authors and prominent political figures such as U.S. Senator John McCain, former U.S. General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, former British Prime Minister John Major, former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and many more.
The series showcases the younger version of Roosevelt, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Patton, McArthur and others during World War I and shows us how these men were shaped into the men they became during World War II.
“The World Wars” is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 aspect ratio). The mini-series is presented in HD and mixes modern dramatic re-enactments, footage from archived news sources and also older films, plus modern digital footage for interviews.
So, you can expect a mix of quality differences for this mini-series but for the most part, “The World Wars” looks fantastic. There are moments which I saw some artifacts and banding but for the most part, the entire mini-series looks great. Skin tones look natural, closeups showcase detail, use of CG to show people dying in war is often used and may not look too realistic but it does work.
Overall, solid picture quality for this miniseries.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
As for audio, “The World Wars” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. I was quite surprised by this mini-series as I expected it to be focused on the center and front channels and would be primarily dialogue driven, but surprisingly, there are moments of surround channel usage and LFE. So, you can hear bombs going out in a distance, you can hear crowds of soldiers in the background.
Dialogue and its musical soundtrack are crystal clear and overall, a very good lossless soundtrack for this miniseries.
“The World Wars” comes with the following special features:
- Characters InDepth – (25:40) An in-depth look at Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Harry Truman, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Adolf Hitler by Amy Woodson-Boulton (Professor of History at Loyola Marymount University), former NBC news correspondent Tom Brokaw, Joshua Goode (Asst. Prof. of History and Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University) and more.
- WWI: One Word – (2:30) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts of World War I.
- Tech Developments of WWI – (3:03) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts on the technology utilized in World War I and use of open warfare.
- Life in a Trench – (3:16) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts of life in a trench.
- The US in WWI – (3:32) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts of the United States involvement in World War I.
- Did WWI Lead to WWII? – (2:20) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts about if World War I led to World War II.
- Legacy of WWI – (2:31) Former military personnel, historians, professors and authors on their thoughts on the legacy of World War I.
- Deleted Scenes – Featuring three deleted scenes.
“The World Wars” comes with a slipcover, Blu-ray and an UltraViolet code to watch your films on your PC, laptop, tablet or cell phone.
While I missed the original television premiere of “The World Wars” and hearing my wife tell me how wonderful the miniseries was, I was so thrilled to know that Lionsgate would be releasing it on Blu-ray.
And after watching the miniseries and being captivated for the last two days by its wonderful writing and re-enactments, I learned a lot about World War I, which I never knew before, but nor am I one wanting to be an erudite on both World Wars.
So, for those wanting something simplified on the involvement of key figures of both World Wars, then “The World Wars” will surely entertain you. Otherwise, for those who are knowledgeable and want to learn more about the war, the strategies employed, the people involved, there are many documentaries and books out there that will no doubt satisfy you.
But “The World Wars” is for the most part entertainment and the aim of the miniseries is not just to educate but primarily to entertain. From the earlier years of Winston Churchill and how his career was nearly destroyed during World War I, Adolph Hitler and how he nearly was killed twice and how one soldier could have killed Adolph Hitler and changed the course of history if he took the shot, Patton’s use of a machine gun to fight Mexico leading him to lead a tank battalion and many more.
I absolutely loved this miniseries because not only did it feature smart writing, wonderful presentation and acting for its reenactment segments but how it incorporates historians, educators, political and military figures to shed their thoughts on various parts of the war.
I never knew about the strategies that were employed during the war and there were a lot of things that I never knew, such as Patton’s slapping of a shell-shocked U.S. soldier which grounded him or even General Douglas MacArthur and how he was originally defeated in the Philippines.
Having had a grandfather who fought during World War II as a Philippine soldier and being given the opportunity to work and retire in the U.S. Navy, I have had two grandfathers who discussed World War II and always instilled in our heads of the greatness of General MacArthur and what he did for the Filipino people.
But watching and seeing how these men were during World War I, when they were younger but also knowing that while the war was over in World War I, there was still growing tension as many people from different countries were still suffering economically. And each country wanted had their own agenda in the war.
And considering the tensions with Russia and forming the uneasy alliance with Joseph Stalin, just knowing the tension of a new world tyrant and how it could have led to a new World War is quite shocking.
As for the reenactments, of course, everyone is speaking in English and some actors are better than others. What would have been nice to see is a longer miniseries than the three parts. There is no doubt that “The World Wars” could have been extended for another six or more hours but for all that the writers and editors had to work with and getting so much into the six hours, I felt the series was entertaining and didn’t seem too rushed.
But I do know that those knowledgeable about the war especially with the original uniforms, weapons and tanks will be critical of the re-enactment scenes.
Yes, there are other documentaries on both World Wars that have aired on the History channel (or PBS) alone that are more thorough, but I found “The World Wars” to be much more simplified and accessible for everyone because it didn’t seem too cerebral, nor technical. The presentation was overall entertaining and captivating, but it’s great for those who are not interested in getting to deep and just wants a shortened version of what happened during both World Wars and the key figures involved or lived during the time of both wars.
As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality for the miniseries is great. Granted, there are many different sources utilized but for the most part, the miniseries looked great on HD and the lossless soundtrack was much better than I was expecting. And you also get several fascinating special features as well.
While I don’t envy writers who have to compile 30-years of war, tensions between countries and many situations into a 6-hour miniseries, I do feel that the miniseries turned out much better than I expected. Sure, the miniseries has its flaws and I’m sure historians and war erudites can pick apart the miniseries, but for me, from what I watched, I was entertained and felt that the series may spark interest in the young and old to research, watch and read more about both World Wars.
Overall, “The World Wars” is not an in-depth analysis on both World Wars but it is an accessible, simplified and captivating miniseries that does a great job of introducing to people to the key figures of both World Wars and a few things that transpired during the 30-years. Captivating and entertaining, “The World Wars” is recommended!
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