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Great visuals but skimpy history. An overview
on 10 November 2010
Apocalypse is good in parts; *very* good in its visual presentation, less wonderful in its approach to detailed, unbiased re-telling of major historical events.
The good bits first: the footage is incredible and fascinating to watch. It has been carefully and subtley 'colourised' with an attention to detail that is utterly impressive. It really does make a difference, seeing even familiar film shots in an entirely new perspective. The use of colour, even in the very gentle shades which have been utilised here, make the scenes of invasion, retreat, refugees, bombing and so on extremely personal. It takes 'history' from 'long ago' and transforms it into something which could happen to any of us at any time. The people become real. And the few scenes which are left in their original black-and-white then stand out in stark contrast, miserable mono being used to best effect to illustrate the horrors of the ghettos and camps.
This series also contains an occasional gem, like the information that Von Paulus, commander of the defeated armies at Stalingrad, cooperated with the Soviets after his surrender and eventually took up residence in East Germany. The footage of beaten German troops being shipped to Canada and the USA was remarkable, too.
On the downside, the commentary is quite lightweight and at times very subjective. This is hardly an in-depth examination of the events of WW2, although an occasional snippet of unusual information does creep in (like those above, or the fact that German pilots who were captured by the French were not shipped overseas before the fall of France, which meant they could return to their planes to attack Britain).
But too many of the main characters are presented as two-dimensional sketches. Hitler is an insane, unstoppable war criminal; Churchill is the British bulldog, and so on. There's precious little detail about how individual battles were won or lost, and far too much use of cliche. Really, no one should even need to use the phrase 'men, women and children'... Also, the narrator struggles with the most basic German and Russian pronunciation. The Russian name 'Georgi' somehow became an English 'Georgie' and some place names are utterly mangled. You get the impression of someone reading from a script without a proper idea of the relevence of the information.
So each 45 minute programme is filled with both wonders and irritants. The flow of the narrative is very pacy, much more to modern tastes than the all-time classic of WW2 histories, The World At War: The Ultimate Restored Edition 2010 [DVD]. But The World At War is a far more accomplished series, which uses interviews and examination to far better explain the appalling events of the time.
So Apocalypse is recommended as one to watch -- but mainly to enjoy the film. Get your facts and understandings from other sources!