Customer Review

56 of 67 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 29 July 2010
This review is from: The Pacific - Complete HBO Series - Amazon Exclusive (Includes: Inside The Battle Of Peleliu) [DVD] (DVD)
After watching the excellent Band of Brothers which was made by the same producers and seeing the hype that surrounded this series I have to say I was really disappointed with The Pacific. All the ingredients were there but it just didn't live up to my expectations.

The special effects, cinematography and opening credits are stunning and they're exactly what you would expect from a big budget Spielberg/Hanks production. But the story arc, timeline, pacing, character development and script are all way off the mark. With the exception of Rami Malek (Snafu) who put in a superb performance, the acting too is at best patchy.

The main problem is that rather than focussing on a single military unit like BoB, The Pacific, instead focuses on three central characters. The characters served in different units, in different locations and at different times. There is some overlap but really it's three different stories shoehorned into a single story arc.

There is no feeling of continuity or flow because the focus of the series jumps around from one character, place and time to another, sometimes within a single episode. The lack of a single overriding story arc and a central `Winters' character like in BoB makes it's incredibly difficult to get a fix on where you are and how the events fit into the overall narrative of the war. Tom Hanks does a short documentary style introduction at the beginning of each episode but this highlights the weakness of the storytelling. It wouldn't surprise me if these episode introductions were bolted on at the last minute to compensate for the incoherent story arc. After all the first rule of writing is "show don't tell".

It's also difficult to get a fix on who's who since you have three ensembles of supporting cast members and with the exception of Snafu the supporting cast are almost always in the periphery. They're not given enough screen time and this is frustrating because there were some supporting cast characters that seemed genuinely interesting and likeable but we're denied the opportunity to learn more about them and they drift off out of the story never to be seen again. Often when someone was killed I felt little emotion or empathy because I didn't know their face let alone their name or who they were. I think it's telling that at the end of the series when they showed all the characters and their real life counterparts I only knew the three protagonists, Snafu and Sledge's friend from back home (see I don't even know his name!) all the other characters completely passed me by.

The three main characters are a mixed bunch and I didn't find any of them particularly engaging certainly not in the same way that Winters did in BoB. One of the main characters is very melancholy and hard to like, another is sent home after the first episode and is sidelined for much of the series and while the third is more likeable and his story is more coherent, by that part of the series it felt like too little too late. By that time I had lost interest and only watched the final episodes so I could get some closure. The story is very dark and in places very gory, even the episodes away from the battlefield have a relentlessly sombre and serious tone. This is mixed with the sickly sweet sentimentality of the Speilberg/Hanks war film formula. I have to say that the violin strings and shots of American soldiers looking wistfully into the distance with a tear in their eye is starting wear a little thin. War is hell, of course, and they had a duty to show the reality of war but jesus, even Platoon had the scene where they all got stoned for a bit of camaraderie and light relief!

I think the producers tried to cram too much into a ten part miniseries, most likely, because they wanted it to be a complete overview the Pacific campaign. That's a very noble ambition but most of episodes 3, 4, 8 and 10 were unnecessary and I think it would have been better to reduce the scope, focus on the combat and flesh out the supporting cast and story. Better still would have been to reduce the scope even further and focus entirely on Sledge and his unit from his basic training to the end of the war, much like the story arc in BoB.

In my opinion The Pacifc falls into the category of `bad storytelling' and I really expected much better from a Spielberg/Hanks production.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 8 Aug 2010 19:53:00 BDT
Lensman says:
Totally agree with this review, all the hype about it going to be bigger and better than B.O.B, but i'm sorry to say that it was no where near as good. I just didn't feel as much for the characters as I did with band of brothers. I didn't feel that I got to know these guys, as said in this review. Shame really as I expected more from Spielberg/Hanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Aug 2010 15:44:13 BDT
M. EMBERSON says:
the reason the couldn't get a link between units is because people were killed or wounded at such a rapid rate (all of the people Leckie knows, and Leckie himself are causualties by Peleliu. Als most the people Sledge knew were dead or wounded by the end of Okinawa).

It is completely ridiculous to compare The Pacific to BoB they are both layed out in different ways. IDIOT

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Aug 2010 17:56:13 BDT
T. Williams says:
Of course they were both LAID out in different ways. That was precisely my point!

One is a coherent and well told story which makes for engaging and captivating entertainment. The other is not. The fact that you had to read Sledge's and Leckie's books to get vital nuggets of information which were not clear in the TV series rather proves my point!

They are both TV mini series about the same war (albeit different theatres), are similar in duration, made by the same producers, using the same cinematography style and techniques. The Pacific was even advertised as `from the producers of Band of Brothers'. It would be ridiculous NOT to compare them.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Aug 2010 00:27:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 24 Aug 2010 00:54:34 BDT
Kev Mc. says:
I have to say that this review pretty much hits the nail on the head for me. As someone with a deep interest in anything WW2 related I was naturally predisposed to like this series. However, while overall I enjoyed it, and indeed have rewatched it in recent weeks, my overriding impression is of what could and should have been.

If one single thing harmed the series for me it was the brevity of the episodes. The actual filmed drama on most episodes was only 40-45 minutes (Episode 9 being the longest at 50 mins). As we were following three largely seperate stories spanning three years this meant that everything was trimmed to a bare minimum, hence little character development of the supporting cast, questionable pacing, a jumpy, disjointed narrative and a poor sense of the passage of time. I recently started posting individual episode reviews over at the Imdb and found myself getting quite critical of the series precisely because of these factors. It's a real shame because there are some standout moments and sequences, and the quality of the production can't be faulted.

I think the comparison to Band Of Brothers is a fair one. While they are obviously telling very different stories, they are after all produced by largely the same team in a similar structure with huge budgets.

By the way, your mention of the Tom Hanks introductions being bolted on is quite right. Prior to the series airing it was revealed that HBO demanded that they be added having viewed the finished product, while Spielberg and Hanks were very reluctant to do so. However, with HBO having bankrolled the project to the tune of $200 million they had little choice but to comply. Thank heavens they did, can you imagine how confused the casual viewer would be without the intros?

Posted on 1 Sep 2010 14:49:18 BDT
Whoever coined the phrase "story arc" has got a lot to answer for. Used five times in the same review makes it read like a A Level Media Studies essay.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Sep 2010 00:51:47 BDT
Comparison to BoB is very fair.

Rewatch BoB and you see how well it is done, how every Epsiode ties in with the next and suspence is kept up.

Here there is nothing of the sort and even with such limited time you get several filler Episodes.

Episode 4 killed almost all interest for me and that was after the Episode 3 disaster.

IMHO HBO paid to much for the finished product.

Posted on 7 Sep 2010 15:11:22 BDT
Good review (better than mine)

I completely agree and feel that the points are better presented & supported here in my review.

Those giveing this sad series 5 * stars must really really want to like it.

With movies and series like this, Windtalkers, Flags of our Fathers and Pearl Harbor the Pacific seems cursed and does not get the attention it deserves.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Oct 2010 17:46:56 BDT
D. Williams says:
I completely agree with the final para - this series tries to cover too much. Also agree that it stands no comparison with the excellent Band of Brothers.

I only read EB Sledge's With The Old Breed so cannot compare to the Leckie memoir but was deeply disappointed with how details and events from Sledge's memoir were altered unnecessarily for dramatic effect (such as the manner in which Sledge's Company CO was killed - an important and highly revered character in Sledge's story). There was plenty of drama and emotion in the original memoir that needed no further embellishment - infact the producers would have been better off reducing the scope of the series to this book alone as they would have had a better chance of doing it justice that way.

Posted on 27 Oct 2010 23:32:44 BDT
Excellent review, thank you. I haven't seen the series but I was going to buy it for my dad for Christmas and you've just saved me from a possible blunder. If the writing's not there, all the spectacle in the world isn't going to save it. Thanks again!

Posted on 15 Nov 2010 19:24:17 GMT
R. J. Lister says:
I was going to write a review, but no need now - thanks!

The BoB comparison is entirely justified. Same war; same melodrama; same peerless production values; even the same font on the timeline/location subtitles.

The problem is that Hanks et al chose not to spend any of their $150m on a script, instead relying on a checklist of cliches. Of course we respect the sacrifices on show; of course the story deserves to be told. But a vital subject matter does not mean the product is exempt from criticism. The storytelling was simply lazy and incoherent.

Alongside its intricate deconstruction of camaraderie, BoB explored big themes in its subplots - fear, cowardice, loyalty, guilt etc. The Pacific, meanwhile, takes 540 minutes to tell us war is hell, and gives us ciphers instead of characters. Very disappointing.
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