Sunday, May 16, 2010

He Fought for Television

I have been a dedicated watcher of The Pacific, the follow-on project from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg's Band of Brothers, of which I am a big fan.  Tonight was the finale, focused entirely on the homecomings as the war ended essentially in the ninth episode of the series.  Comparing the two is inevitable.  I guess I will have to watch this one again sometime down the road to be fair about it, as I have seen BoB a few times now.  The Pacific, the first time around, had the same challenge--the guys all look alike in the uniforms, dirt and all the rest.  But it was easier to follow in some ways, harder in others since BoB focused on a single company from Georgia through Normandy onto Bastogne and beyond.  So, the relationships between officers and enlisted men and among officers was clearer than in The Pacific, which was really about three different guys and their experiences.

The bigger difference, I think, is that the first series focused on what the company meant to the individuals, while in the latter, the focus is on what the war meant to the individuals.  While the war in Europe was awful, especially at Bastogne, the Marines depicted in the Pacific faced several incredibly tough fights--one Normandy after another, with Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and the Okinawa against an adversary that didn't surrender in mud and rain.  So, it was quite appropriate that the former ended on a baseball field in Austria with a voiceover by the man who led Easy company and then Easy's battalion, Dick Winters, about what happened to the men of Easy after the war.  While some had tragic lives, most became quite successful.  They still have annual reunions and a website.

As appropriately, the last episode ended with the survivors wondering how they managed to beat the odds.  The featured players, Eugene Sledge and Robert Leckie, wrote books about their experiences, which served as the basis for The Pacific.  The third, John Basilone, died the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima.  Instead of voiceover, the screen showed pictures of the actors, then of the real person accompanied by text telling about their lives.  It was much more somber than BoB's voiceover, as The Pacific was a much darker series.  All the major battles featured in this series were brutal campaigns, and the actors did a great job of showing how the war affected their characters.

Anyhow, I was amazed by both series for showing what real people went through so that we could have TV (Robert Leckie's smartass response to why he fought).  And since Leckie and his guys were successful, we can watch their stories on TV.  Now, I need to find his book.  Well, one of them, he wrote 40 or so!


1 comment:

Steve Greene said...

Brilliant depiction of battle, somewhat disappointing as a story of the men and the war. When they showed all the Marines at the end, I didn't even recognize at least half of them, which I think represents a failure to make an impression with lasting characters beyond the main 3 plus Snafu and maybe Sledge's LT. Maybe there was no single unit they could have followed from beginning to end, but certainly they could have done it with 2. The show ultimately needed more characters that I could really care about. Basilone's story was interesting, but ultimately distracting.