World War II 360°
Studio: History Channel
US Rating: NR
Film Length: Battle 360°: 9hours, 40 Mins, Patton 360°: 7 Hours 50 Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS Master Audio
World War II was an extraordinary period in the history of humanity and the History Channel’s two series, Battle 360°and Patton 360° explore the two most distinct theaters of battle. While the European battle theater has been explored in numerous ways, documentaries, and films, the Pacific theater has been largely unexplored. The battles conducted under the notorious command of General Patton and the extraordinary accomplishments of the U.S.S Enterprise, are but pieces of the overall canvass of that war, but are such integral and consequential elements, and these two series provide an important look at the battles, strategies, luck, and heroics that define their contributions.
“Let's make sure history never forgets... the name..."Enterprise"."
The Show: 4 out of 5
Battle 360° relies upon interviews with men who served aboard the U.S.S. Enterprises during its incredible record of battle in WWII. These men recall the brutality of war and the bravery of those who served aboard the massive vessel. The rich stories shared are accompanied by footage, photographs, and documents, and augmented by impressive computer generated imagery of the theater of war, the strategy of battle, and a fascinating recreation of the events that mark the incredible history of her service. Hearing accounts from veterans including Rear Admiral James D. Ramage, and former crew including Yeoman Willard Norberg, Roy E. Blood, and Arnold Olsen humanize the history and connect the emotional toll and pride felt by the men who served to an audience largely disconnected from this history. The series also benefits from the perspective and input from military historians who are able to provide a context of the complexity of battle strategy, a sense of the military importance of particular battles from the war, and the larger strategy of the battle for the Pacific.
Written by Tony Long and Samuel Dolan, with narration by Wally Kurth, the retelling through CGI animation and urgent voice-over creates a genuine sense of tension. The sphere of war is dissected and explained and, though clinically presented at times, the true reality of war isn’t far behind. With footage of Japanese ships diving into the sea, crashing into the decks of vessels that made up the fleet of which the “big E” (as she was called) was a part, and smoke billowing from frigates and Destroyer Escorts, the violence of war is shared.
The U.S.S Enterprise was a magnificent ship and the most decorated of the entire war and fought in the most vicious and deadly battles in the Pacific, including Midway and Guadalcanal, but despite a few serious blows – including being damaged enough to need serious time in dry dock, the Enterprise was a remarkably lucky vessel, surviving battles against all odds at times. Her crew – a dedicated mix of gunners, pilots, deck hands, and more – were the heart of the grand vessel and the heroes who helped her become the most decorated vessel of that war. She gunned down over 900 enemy planes and her bombers sent more than 70 enemy ships to the bottom of the sea. She was a triumph of naval might and this series honors her contributions.
Episode 1: Call to Duty
Episode 2: Vengeance at Midway
Episode 3: Jaws of the Enemy
Episode 4: Bloody Santa Cruz
Episode 5: Enterprise vs. Japan
Episode 6: The Grey Ghost
Episode 7: Hammer of Hell
Episode 8: D-Day in the Pacific
Episode 9: Battle of Leyte Gulf
Episode 10: The Empire’s Last Stand
The Show: 3.5 out of 5
Patton 360° explores the rough and bloody European terrain that was fought for under the rumbling tanks and marching soldiers of General Patton’s army. Born near the close of the 19th century, General George Smith Patton, Jr. was a man born of strong military lineage. Patton commanded the only all-American force during Operation Torch – the allied invasion of North Africa, before being assigned command of the Seventh Army invading Sicily in 1943 up through 1944 when he was given command over the Third Army in France. His aggressive, bold, and unrelenting command style have been etched in the annals of war history, and many of his most famous and notorious engagements are explored in this series with the use of archival footage, historian interviews, personal diary quotes, and the use of computer generated imagery that provides a full-view of the scale and scope of his military engagements, the ferocity of his enemy, and his ability to exploit weaknesses in his enemy.
Known as “Old Blood and Guts”, General Patton’s military accomplishments and travails have been well documented in books and on film. Actor George C. Scott’s gave an outstanding performance as the general in Patton, and The Battle of the Bulge explored the notorious frozen battlefield conducted under his command. The style and results of the man have reached almost mythical heights and, though his death in 1945 as the result of injuries sustained in a car accident belie the grandeur of the man, he is considered an American war hero.
The series employs the same structure and cadence that made Battle 360°, which covers the major historical events of the U.S.S Enterprise’s actions in WWII, such a compelling series to watch. The difference comes from a change in the power of the show’s gravitas and emotional impact. While it can certainly be said that the events covered in the Patton series resonate deeply at times, its predecessor series was entirely more endemic in that regard. Both series, however, deliver history in an entertaining, exciting, and enthralling way.
Episode 1: Blood & Guts
Episode 2: Rommel’s Last Stand
Episode 3: Baptism of Blood
Episode 4: Rogue General
Episode 5: American Blitzkrieg
Episode 6: Leading the Charge
Episode 7: On Hitler’s Doorsteps
Episode 8: Siege Warfare
Episode 9: Battle of the Bulge
Episode 10: Crushing the Third Reich
The Video: 4 out of 5
Both series are presented in their original HD-Broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and both look very good. I watched Battle 360°during its original 10-episode run and was impressed with the look of the show and the high quality (for a documentary series) CGI animation, and this Blu-ray presentation does justice for both series. While the Patton series is predominantly the muddy browns and greens from grass and forests, the Enterprise series is filled with the steely-ocean, gun-metal grey vessels, red, yellow, and orange explosions. Both are beautifully presented, crisp, clean, and of solid quality. The use of footage from the era is of a quality commensurate with the tools of the day, and the conditions in which the footage was kept, but their inclusion adds a genuine sense of reality and context to the animated recreations.
The Sound: 3.5 out of 5
The History Channel’s limited run series Battle 360°, and its follow up series Patton 360° come with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and sounds good. There were opportunities to expand upon what has been presented that could have provided the audio with more power and envelopment, however. The audio is is crystal clear, with pristine narration coming from the center channel in all episodes from both series. A dedicated LFE track is sadly absent, but there is still a reasonable bass presence from the 2.0 track, and the non-specific surround sound provides some immersion.
The Extras: 3 out of 5
Battle 360°Bonus Scenes and making of(29:42): Presented in non-HD, 4X3 letterboxed, a making of is sprinted through (with a look at the creation of the CGI effects), and a large number of additional scenes not contained in the original broadcast.
During its broadcast on the History Channel, the series was shown with limited commercial interruptions courtesy of the advertising partnership with Enterprise Rent-a-Car. This partnership was born from the CEO of that company having served aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, and the show and the stories of her service and her crew are presented with all due reverence.
The follow-up series detailing critical battles of Patton’s army may not have the overall power of its predecessor series, but remains an engaging and at times stunning reveal of war’s madness and subjection to fate.
The use of CGI animation to explore the sphere of war is innovative and engaging and brings the magnitude and harshness of the battles the Enterprise fought to life. This is a terrific series for those with an interest in history and those inclined to be drawn to fascinating stories of bravery, daring, and naval cunning. This show and this Blu-ray presentation are very much recommended.
Overall 4 out of 5