Rogue Hippo’s Review Score: 9

I know it’s a tough sell to get people excited to see a World War I documentary in 3D at the movie theater; but damnit, I’m going to try.

As usual, I like to start off with the trailer:

When I first watched that trailer, I was amazed at the transformation that occurred at 0:27 when the footage changes from black & white to color.  That was all it took to get me excited to see this documentary because there just isn’t a lot of footage of World War I, and what does exist is often very poor quality by today’s standards so I was very interested in seeing what a digital restoration could accomplish…

Then I get to the theater and “oh by the way, it’s in 3D.”  As someone who typically can’t stand 3D, this made me skeptical but I was also curious about how well 100 year-old footage would look in 3D… and I was blown away.  This is why They Shall Not Grow Old needs to be seen in theaters.  The 3D is as good, if not better, than any 3D I’ve seen in a modern movie.  Some of the shots are simply amazing and I kept wishing I had the ability to pause the movie and just stare at the screen.  It’s an incredibly personalizing experience as you’re suddenly standing in a trench, next to British soldiers, preparing to charge the enemy as artillery shells rain down overhead.

In my opinion, that personalization is the most moving part about this documentary.  The viewpoint is that of the soldiers on the front lines from the day they lied about their age in order to enlist, to the last few minutes of their lives as they climbed over the trench walls and charged into no man’s land.  You won’t get a lot of facts from They Shall Not Grow Old, but you’ll walk away with a deeply personal connection to soldiers who died over 100 years ago.  That, in itself, is an incredible achievement by the director.

Speaking of the director, you may have noticed that it was directed by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame.  He was clearly the right man for the job.  After the credits finish, Jackson discusses some of the lengths he went to in order to deliver an authentic experience, and his dedication is astonishing.  Just a few examples include: getting multiple WWI uniforms for reference when colorizing the footage, using professional lip readers to find out what individual soldiers were saying in the original footage, using Jackson’s collection of WWI artillery (yes, he has his own WWI artillery collection) to create authentic audio, and even searching the British war archives to find a specific telegram sent to a specific division on a specific date in order to know the exact speech that a British officer was delivering to his men just before they went into combat.  Jackson also reveals that he has multiple relatives that served in WWI and it’s clear that he has a lot of respect for the subject.

I understand that a WWI documentary won’t get a lot of demographics excited, but if you’re even remotely interested in the subject, this is a truly unique experience that won’t be around forever.  See it in theaters and see it in 3D while you can.

Until Next Time,

Rogue Hippo

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