Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Pacific

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Michael Osadciw, Dec 5, 2010.

  1. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

    Jun 24, 2003
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    Michael Osadciw

    Release Date: November 02, 2010
    Distributor:Warner Bros.
    Packaging/Materials: Six discs in gatefold/packaged tin
    Year: 2010
    Rating: Not Rated
    Running Time: 400 minutes
    MSRP: $79.99




    1080p 1.78:1



    DTS-HDMA 5.1

    DTS 2.0


    English, French, Latin American and Castilian Spanish,

    Polish, Brazilian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish,

    Norwegian, Swedish, Czech, Korean


    The Feature: 4.5/5

    When I knew The Pacific was about to arrive on Blu-ray disc, I was frantic to pick up a Blu-ray copy of Band of Brothers and squeeze in a few viewings. I had not heard one negative comment about that war drama, the “other” popular World War II HBO miniseries from about eight years back. Somehow it continued to slip under my radar. Not long after Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan shell-shocked the audience with its realistic portrayal of war, Band of Brothers has remained a highly regarded display of comradery on the European front. Unfortunately, I was not able to get enough viewings in before The Pacific became available. On the other hand, fortunately it does not need to be the precursor of the other as they both stand entirely on their own.

    Directed by Jeremy Podeswa, Timothy Van Patten, and David Nutter with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg as executive produces, the stories of the war in the pacific are not forgotten. Often, when we think about World War II we think of Nazi Germany and the slaughter of Jews. Those who know about the war as a whole know there is far more than that, and many thousands of men died in other areas around the world, specifically in the pacific with the war against the Japanese. So that’s why the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan…it wasn’t just about Pearl Harbor! There story of The Pacific is based on the books of the marines Eugene Sledge (With the Old Breed), Robert Leckie (Helmet for My Pillow), and Chuck Tatum (Red Blood, Black Sand). These marines all survived the war and in their years after wrote stories about their experiences. They also happened to serve within close proximity to each other or even together. With a little bit of dramatic writing to the real accounts, the miniseries The Pacific was born.

    There are many stories of soldiers, but the three central ones are John Basilone, the first marine to be awarded the Metal of Honor. Writer Robert Leckie, the youngest of many children who grew up to be a bit of a troublemaker but in a good way, joined the marines and was a highly respected gunner in his unit. Eugene Sledge, a Victorian raised boy who liked adventure and war stories, quickly realizes the real horrors of war. These three stories run parallel in the series and cut seamlessly with each other. Unlike Band of Brothers, this series focuses on their lives outside of the war as well, digging deep into the characters and the aspects of their lives. Once that is set into place, The Pacific was put together meticulously to display the wars at Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Okinawa, and Iwo Jima with accuracy. While the brutality of war is not the central driving point of this series, it is a necessary evil to display for the audience to have just a glance of traumatic experience the marines endured. To be killed in action can be by chance; it’s nearly impossible to dodge a whizzing bullet. Since surviving on the battlefield of gunfire and dropping bombs is unpredictable, this series is also unpredictable. Thus, The Pacific is stressful to watch because you just don’t know who will live and who will die. Not everyone in a marine’s company lives. Friends die and need to be left behind. Seeing this and understanding this makes one realize the horrors of war of then and today. It injects a bit of sensitivity and reality back into a desensitized world where violence is commonplace in fictional film entertainment.

    The series is spread over five discs with two episodes per disc. The episodes can be selected individually or played together. My only wish is that when selected as "play all", seamless branching should have connected the two together without end credits and beginning credits between the two. I found myself skipping the two and getting right to the film. Most people I know generally run marathons with series on Blu-ray by watching multiple episodes at once. There's only so many times I want to see the open in and closing credits...[skip.]

    Video Quality: 4.5/5

    Filmed on two Kodak Vision2 film stocks and then mastered to 2K for HD, the image looks spectacular for video release. I think many of us knew it as soon as the opening credits began once the charcoal hit the paper and lines began to strike an image for what became the drama for the next ten episodes. For artistic and storytelling purposes, the look of the image has been altered sometimes scene to scene or when following various storylines. Colours can look desaturated to give a drab, dry and dirty appearance when the soldiers are thirsting as they prepare for battle. This is contrasted with ultra-intense green of island foliage of walking through new jungle on unknown parts of the island. Flesh tones always appear good under these circumstances and it appears as though a great deal of care was taken with the final look of this film. White levels are commonly blown out in select areas of the image, mostly with the sky above where little detail cloud seems to creep through (most likely to keep a consistent look of day compared to cloud formations that actually happened during shooting). Black levels always look good to me during the night sequences, with just enough illumination added to see what is going on and who is fighting who. Getting a bit frustrated that the image is too dark in these scenes? Just imagine what these soldiers had to go through when fighting the enemy under moonlight!

    The Pacific appears hyper-detailed to me. It seemed as though there was too much of something present to make each small strand of rough facial hair stand out or the finest grain of sand to be noticeable. Is this pushing the limits of 1080p or a bit of enhancement? Using a single-pixel wide test pattern using my Accupel HDG-4000 video generator to my monitor, and then separately testing the preamp to make sure that neither was adding any enhancement to my image, I then confirmed with a test Blu-ray to ensure my player was keeping hands off as well. My guess is that a bit of high frequency enhancement has been added at the image, just up at the extreme end of the detail, as occasionally I noticed a hairline enhancement artifact on some contrasting images. It’s neither thick nor noticeable, and it’s tough to see at a reasonable viewing distance, but move a little closer and one may notice it. I know that’s a tough charge on an amazing image (as reviewers we often don’t get confirmed information on this), I can only infer from what I see. The aspect ratio is 1.78:1. Sometimes within an episode, the extreme outer edges of the left and right of the frame can be seen on a television with zero overscan. Even though it’s just a minimal fraction, I do notice a change in width at the outer edges.

    Audio Quality: 4.5/5

    Very impressive; I haven’t heard this much effort go into many feature films! The soundtracks on HBO miniseries continue to impress me. The full effect of the sound would hardly come through during broadcast (lossy and heavily compressed), but on Blu-ray disc the DTS-HDMA 5.1 soundtrack blasts the way through the room. In scenes full of war and relaxation (when it happens!), attention has been paid to dialogue and making sound right. …and does it ever! I never found dialogue in The Pacific to sound out of place or too loud. Whether watching character building scenes or being sent off to the battleground, the tonality of male voices is without boomines and the ladies sound just as sound soft and sweet as they are to the war boys. In terms of the recorded level, dialogue is drowned out when the boys are rocked with gunfire and it is never mixed to be too loud above the sounds of bombs dropping or machine gun fire. I prefer this over the dialogue being recorded louder during these moments because it heightens the realism of confusion of war.

    The music, by Hans Zimmer, Blake Neely and Geoff Zanelli, sets the tone for this emotional and sometimes tear-jerking story. It’s recorded well into the mix and creates the expansive soundstage and is subtly mixed into the surrounds without taking over the scene. In fact, I didn’t even know it’s there sometimes because I was so focused on the film. Subconsciously I knew it was there to impart a feeling on my behalf.

    The biggest effort it seems is in creating the soundstage for the war with so many different gun effects, location, volume levels, and layering upon layering of effects seem to be happening during the most intense moments; there never appears to be gaps in the sound. The viewer is bombarded with effects that don’t sound shrill to the ear because there is a lot of bottom end bass to balance out the bullets whizzing by or the machine gun by the ear. The only criticism, if I were to truly have one, would be to have a bit more effective ambience during the non-war scenes in town. Most of the soundstage is up front and the rear effects I think are a bit too modest. Overall, a great effort by the sound development team!

    Special Features: 4/5
    After watching this phenomenal series and getting inside of the character’s minds, much of what’s included here is real accounts of the war by the real marines’ survivors or themselves. This makes the special features worth going through and it actually enhances my appreciation for this miniseries by connecting my emotions to the stories far greater than ever before. Each episode of The Pacific includes enhanced viewing; HD picture-in-picture pops up during selected moments of the episode if it enhances the subject matter in the film presented by historians or the actual surviving marines or their survivors. These are also accessible independently in the enhanced viewing menu if you chose not to see the PiP this way. You can also select The Pacific Field Guide which tones of info on World War II – from interviews to footage and battle maps. Very exhaustive and something you’ll want to tackle over a period of time. I will also mention that each episode also has historical prologues with content relating the episode about to be viewed. You can only see this when you watch an episode individually and not when you select “play all”.

    Disc 6 has the remaining features, The Profiles of The Pacific, which features six specific marines and their lives before and after the war. They are all about 10 minutes each that can be played as one or as all. Highlighted by themselves or by their surviving families are John Basilone, Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie, Sidney Phillips, R.V. Burgin, and Chuck Tatum (I can’t believe how young Tatum looks considering he’s in his 80s.) Also discussed are the books three of the men wrote about their experiences during the war.

    Making of the Pacific(22:36) is a quick and to the point rundown of what everyone went through during the making of this miniseries. It’s not long and drawn out, it’s now full of raw boring footage, and it’s not slapped together. It’s a polished piece that features Hanks, Spielberg, the directors and some of the actors discussing what went into the making and how accurate they desired the finished product to be. Set to the music of the series, I couldn’t help to get a little emotional even though there was nothing really emotional about it…maybe I was just being a sap…but I was thinking that to be an actor for this series, especially one who took on a lead role, would have been one of the most rewarding experiences. It would make the job worth every moment.

    The last feature, Anatomy of the Pacific War (9:59) discusses the Japanese viewpoint of entering war, which ultimately made it a real world war. Cultural differences and brainwashing on both Japanese and American sides about their enemy caused them to take on the attitudes they did but the Japanese upbringing made a soldier much different than what an American soldier was. The feature mentions about the challenges regarding cultural differences.

    All features, except for a few archival interviews from 1991, are high definition sourced.

    The Feature: 4.5/5
    Video Quality: 4.5/5
    Audio Quality: 4.5.5/5
    Special Features: 4/5

    I just loved this series without question. It’s not just a story about men in combat; it’s a story around their lives before, during, and after the war. It’s a story about real men who lived through the war and the heroes who died and didn’t return home. They are men who voluntarily went to war to fight a people who they knew nothing of. They were told to kill and went to the pacific to do just that. These are loving men who became ruthless soldiers, killing the Japanese with the same brutality inflicted upon them. These are men who went to a war and whose lives were changed forever from it. This is the story of the war in the Pacific Ocean; the story often glanced over story of World War II that finally has a voice. With the accounts drawn from the books of the marines who survived this war, The Pacific succeeds with its intention to draw us into the lives of the men and women who served and to shed a few tears. While I sit here in my library writing this review looking up at my personal collection of old original books from pre- and post-World War II, I think I’ll hunt down an old copy of the books of this telling story.
  2. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Man, I'm so far behind my viewing of BRDs. I've had this boxset since it's release date in early November and haven't even open it up.

    Anyhow, thank you for the great review.

  3. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Finished this up several weeks ago, amazing series. Equally as impressive as BoB.
  4. Dan Keliikoa

    Dan Keliikoa Stunt Coordinator

    Feb 19, 2003
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    I just finished this on BluRay a couple of weeks ago and it's still with me. Like Ron, I feel it's every bit as impressive as BoB. HBO is SO on their game on historical miniseries! I loved 'John Adams' as well, for that matter.

    The Pacific was very personal, and on some deeper level hit a little harder and closer to the bone than BoB does. In the final episode when Eugene is back home, struggling with 'normal' life again after what you see him experience in war, it's.....jarring (the intended effect) and very affecting.

    I wept at the end of BoB....but The Pacific just haunts you afterward.
  5. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator

    Oct 9, 2001
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    Rensselaer, NY
    Remembering how long it took Band of Brothers to come down in price after its DVD release, I am surprised to see that the Blu-ray of the Pacific is already for sale for $53.xx at Wal-Marts in my area.

    I'm looking forward to seeing this sometime in the near future...but I'll be waiting for an even better deal (maybe a used bin if I get lucky...or a great coupon).

    But I sure do appreciate the review, Michael...and all the positive comments from the rest of you. I was, frankly, worried that The Pacific would pale in comparison to Band of Brothers. I'm glad to hear that many of you do not believe it to be so.
  6. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

    Jan 22, 1999
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    Aaron Silverman
    I seem to recall that Band of Brothers came down in price very quickly after being released on BD. I remember being shocked at how soon it appeared in the Amazon Gold Box for something like $40 (much less than I originally paid for the DVD edition!).

    If memory serves, HBO shows in general stayed expensive for a long time in the pre-BD days, but that's changed somewhat.

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