Chapter 47 – A Glimpse of Startling Beauty
Although Bradley had been warning himself not to compare “The Pacific” with “Band of Brothers,” as even though they had similar production crews, these were two completely different works. But when the series began to air, he couldn’t help but feel the same kind of excitement he had felt when he watched the acclaimed and classic work that is “Band of Brothers” years ago.
“Oh! Oh!” When the interview footage of the real veterans appeared on the big screen again, cheers and screams erupted in the theater. Like “Band of Brothers,” each episode of “The Pacific” started with interviews with veterans, leading the audience back to that period of time.
The similar visual quality and framework structure aroused the audience’s excitement. The anticipation for “The Pacific” was palpable, and the long-awaited excitement and joy overflowed uncontrollably. Bradley couldn’t help but smile and symbolically raised his fist in response.
However, Bradley soon noticed the differences between the two dramas. They are two completely different works.
The first episode of “Band of Brothers” began in a boot camp with over 20 characters interwoven together, making it difficult for those with prosopagnosia, but the characters without names became three-dimensional through the rigorous training, and the tense atmosphere in the air made one feel the urgency of the war. The opening group scene showcased the deep level of coordination and control, quickly raising anticipation.(T/N – Prosopagnosia – face blindness)
On the other hand, “The Pacific” chose to start with family life, describing the direct reaction of American society to the war after the Pearl Harbor attack. The restlessness and uneasiness hidden beneath the surface of the roaring twenties slowly spread.
The series used an ordinary day in the lives of Robert Leckie and John Basilone before they joined the military as a starting point to depict their lives with their families. Although the mundane daily stories seemed to have no deliberate portrayal, the details revealed the people’s reaction to the war – full of confidence and marching forward, and their anxiety about the war was masked by their confidence in victory, even the festive atmosphere was a bit more agitated.
Without the hardships of the “Band of Brothers” boot camp, it became more realistic and truly connected the war with reality, adding a touch of realism to the series and awakening the audience’s inner resonance.
Bradley felt somewhat surprised, this opening was undoubtedly bold, but also wise. As a journalist, he was not a professional film critic, but he was also not an ordinary viewer. He knew that this choice would weaken the audience’s expectations and might face negative reviews, but such a radical change was a good thing for “The Pacific,” demonstrating Steven Spielberg’s determination to create a unique series, which made him look forward to the subsequent story.
The first episode of “Band of Brothers” was not sensational or thrilling, but in its simplicity, it revealed true emotions, establishing the initial camaraderie between soldiers, while also contrasting the heavy difficulties of boot camp with the unimaginable horrors of the battlefield, laying a solid foundation for the brilliant episodes to come.
The opening of “The Pacific” seemed ordinary and trivial, giving the characters enough time to be fully and clearly presented to the audience, with distinct images and names that allowed the audience to establish sufficient connections with the characters. This made Bradley curious about the purpose of this approach.
Was it to contrast the peace and harmony of family life with the brutality and cold-bloodedness of war, or to outline the painful hardships of the three characters on the battlefield through family ties? Or did Spielberg have other ideas?
As he pondered, Bradley’s eyes suddenly lit up when Renly appeared on the screen.
Like the other two main characters, John Basilone and Robert Leckie, the opening of Eugene’s story began with his family life. His father, a doctor, announced the verdict that Eugene, due to a heart murmur, could not pass the soldier test and could not join the military, while his older brother had already donned his military uniform and was about to go to the battlefield. Seeing the figures of his father and brother, Eugene left his home in disappointment and anger to bid farewell to his friend, Sidney, who was also joining the military tomorrow.
Bradley’s eyes lit up slightly, Eugene’s performance really brought out something different, which should be considered the first highlight in the opening twenty minutes.
“Exhale…” a long breath was expelled. Kyle Smith, the senior professional film critic of The Wall Street Journal, shook his head and exhaled the stale air from his chest. His thoughts were a bit jumbled and heavy. The first episode had just finished airing, it was almost an hour-long episode. He needed to sort out his thoughts and expectations, and objectively evaluate the series.
From a structural standpoint, “The Pacific” abandoned the cinematic production style of “Band of Brothers” and adopted a more mini-series approach.
“Band of Brothers” can be said to be a one-episode, one-story format, where each story is connected yet independent of each other. This cinematic production style gives the show a movie-like quality – compact, concentrated, and with rising tension. However, in the first episode of “The Pacific,” it can be clearly seen that the script structure is layered and pushed forward, with foreshadowing buried early on that may not emerge until several episodes later.
In the first third of the first episode, the three main characters each shine in their own way, but later on, Robert Leckie becomes the leading character, while the other two disappear.
The downside of this production style is that it loses the unique cinematic quality of “Band of Brothers.” However, the advantage lies in the slow accumulation of the series’ central ideas. If it can eventually explode and ascend, the depth, height, and connotation of the drama will surpass the shock brought by “Band of Brothers.”
This maintains the sense of anticipation for “The Pacific”, after all, only the first episode was aired today.
Judging from the quality of the shots and the special effects, the investment of 223 million dollars in “The Pacific” undoubtedly paid off. The uniqueness, hardship, and intensity of island warfare were all displayed, and the grand and shocking war scenes were done really well. The latter part of the first episode brought about questioning of human nature.
When the American army successfully ambushed and annihilated all the attacking Japanese soldiers, only one Japanese soldier stubbornly resisted on the other side of the river. The soldiers began to use this Japanese soldier as a target, playing the game of “cat and mouse”, toying with his life while they were applauding.
This brought strong shock to Robert, forming a sharp contrast with the daily life at the beginning of the drama, and the core idea of ” “The Pacific” began to emerge.
Unfortunately, the first episode was somewhat conservative, and the overall script structure and plot development were not particularly novel. Moreover, the plot seemed somewhat fragmented, with some parts being too forceful and others somewhat insufficient.
As a mini-series, the first episode of “The Pacific” was good enough to score 80 points. In Kyle’s mind, the first episode of “Band of Brothers” scored 85 points, and it can be felt that there is a slight difference in the overall level of the two series. But Kyle did not show any regret, because the first episode brought an unexpected surprise!
Kyle had to admit that this new actor who appeared on screen for the first time had an unimaginable charm. Although Eugene, played by Renly, appeared for less than three minutes, the complex emotions he showed in his restrained performance exploded with tremendous impact.
The most impressive scene was undoubtedly when Eugene stood at the hall door watching his father and brother. The brief pause of only three seconds conveyed the cruel and painful burden on his thin shoulders under the sunlight. The subtle changes in his muscles could be seen in the shadows of his profile, fully expressing his inner struggles, contradictions, forbearance, obedience, and sincerity.
He didn’t even show his face, let alone his eyes, yet his body language was naturally expressive that when he appeared on the screen, the audience’s attention was immediately drawn to him.
This fleeting moment left an infinite aftertaste, making it hard to forget.
Kyle couldn’t help but become curious about Renly’s acting talent, wondering how high he could reach, whether this was just a one-time thing or if he could continue this level of performance in his future works. Kyle also wondered what story Renly would bring to the character of Eugene, as this was only a three-minute scene in the first episode, which was stunning but didn’t reveal much.
However, there was no denying that Renly’s debut as an actor left a deep impression.
Recalling the premiere, Kyle originally thought Tom and Steven’s praise and admiration were just a publicity tactic. Compared to the other two leads, Renly was younger, fresher, and more handsome, with more potential for publicity and commercial value. The crew’s praise should have been a part of the publicity strategy. But now, Kyle feels that things may not be just that. Perhaps this unknown newcomer really can be a surprise.
If Renly was put aside, the first episode rating would probably be a seventy-five. But it was Renly’s shining performance that filled Kyle with anticipation.
Besides, this is only the first episode of “The Pacific.” The main focus is on setup and layout. The real essence is going to be in the next nine episodes.
If, before tonight’s premiere, the high acclaim of “Band of Brothers” made people doubtful about “The Pacific,” then after the premiere, Kyle believes that at least the first episode successfully completed the task and maintained expectations.
Kyle was already feeling a little impatient, on the one hand, he was looking forward to the quality of the series and whether it can reach the level of “Band of Brothers.” On the other hand, he is also looking forward to…Kyle doesn’t want to admit it, but he is really looking forward to the performance of that newcomer.
He’s not even 21 yet? That is truly amazing!
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T/N – The name of first episode of “The Pacific” is Guadalcanal/Leckie, it is 52 minutes long and it currently has a rating of 7.9 on IMDb.