They Shall Not Grow Old

theyshallnot

World War I is not exactly a forgotten war. But it has been eclipsed by WWII, Korea, Vietnam and recent Mideast action in popular U.S. memory. Even the long ago Civil War is more familiar to most Americans than WWI, thanks to Gone With The Wind, Ken Burns and recent statue controversies

They Shall Not Grow Old may elevate WWI’s profile just a bit. The film focuses on British troops from their enlistment through their return home from battle with the German enemy.

The technical achievements used to make archival film footage from a century ago appear realistic are impressive. But it is the faces and the voices of the young men who endure the horror of war that make this documentary a must-see.

Director Peter Jackson of Lord Of The Rings fame and his team have added color, speed correction and ambient sound to take the viewer into the trenches and onto the battlefield. The actual hand-to-hand combat is presented via illustrations, but the damages of battle—dead and injured soldiers—are impossible to miss.

Over a hundred men who fought in the war narrate the film. Their recollections, recorded in mid-century, are edited into brief soundbites to tell the story. Some of the British accents are harder to decipher than others. A captioned version of the film would be welcome.

They Shall Not Grow Old reveals the stereotype of bad teeth among Brits to have been a particularly acute problem back then. The few men shown wearing kilts and knee socks to the frontline seems odd. The pleasantries between British troops and some of the Germans they have captured are surprising.

“Man’s Inhumanity To Man” is timeless and unending. To see it up close and personal with real people, not actors, arouses multiple emotions. Among them, empathy for the young men in this film, as well as every other soldier who has seen combat action in every war.

Because of its graphic depictions, They Shall Not Grow Old is rated R.

 

 

 

 

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The Hobbit

The Hobbit has many great things going for it. Especially thrilling is the 48 frames per second technology, which provides images that are incredibly real looking.

Of course, what we see onscreen is unreal: Dwarves with huge feet. Creatures that are figments of creative imaginations. Settings that are other-worldly. And, our old weird little friend Gollum.

Unlike the three Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit is funny. Small chuckles and big laughs abound in a story that is also filled with peril and adventure. Yes, there were small bits of humor in the LOTR films, but The Hobbit is (as its director Peter Jackson has said in interviews) whimsical.

Martin Freeman is Bilbo Baggins, the Hobbit. He brings an air of complete bemusement to the role. He vaguely resembles Martin Short, but Freeman appears frequently dumbfounded by plot developments. (Short would, I think, always be on the verge of a snicker, I must say.)

The entire movie has moments to savor, but a favorite is the scene where Bilbo falls into an impossibly deep hole and meets Gollum. It’s a case of “Finders Keepers” when Bilbo picks up a certain ring that has fallen from Gollum’s keep. As the two trade riddles, both the character Gollum and the actor playing him (the talented Andy Sorkis) are revealed to be strong enough to carry an entire movie. (Maybe after the three Hobbit movies are done?)

The great Ian McKellan is back as Gandalf and even he seems a bit less severe than in the LOTR triology.

Here’s one where real parental guidance comes into play. It’s PG-13, but okay for most 9, 10, 11 & 12 year olds, in my opinion. If your kids have enjoyed the later Harry Potter movies with no ill effects, they should be able to handle The Hobbit.

As for its length, that may be another issue. While the movie flew by for me, its 2:45 run time may be a problem for the more restless among us.

I liked the LOTR movies, but I love The Hobbit. Yep, it’s a “must see!”