World War II From Space (2012) review

World War II From Space (2012) review

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WW2FromSpace1Fake Tagline: World War 2: The Video Game

I’m a longstanding history fan, and the two World Wars of the 20th century are particular topics of interest for me. So when faced with a documentary that has a title of World War II from Space I’m naturally going to dive in and see what it’s all about.

Mixing talking heads with a CGI look at America’s involvement in World War II, this documentary film from the History Channel is a surprisingly effective glance at the biggest conflict in modern memory. Events are picked up from the entry of the United States to the war in 1941, quickly progressing through an overview of some of the biggest battles of the conflict. All of this is shown using a “satellite” view of the world.

The CGI effects look good on the whole, although now and again they somehow manage to obscure the relevant details by placing a text label in an inconvenient spot or, ironically enough, placing the “camera” a little too close to the action. It’s a minor gripe all things told, but bearing in mind they had full control over the graphics it should have been an easy fix ahead of release.

Even for someone like me who has had a longstanding interest in history and WWII itself, I was surprised at how many new angles the satellite-style presentation provides. Subjects like the mid-Atlantic gap and the struggles in the Pacific Theatre are areas of the war that have not received anywhere near as much mainstream focus as you would hope, and they get specific focus here. The Pacific Theatre in particular is an aspect that rarely gets mainstream coverage, although as proven here it is slowly gaining focus as new details about the war in Europe start to decrease in volume.

It's not as entertaining from this distance, is it?
It’s not as entertaining from this distance, is it?

If there are any complaints to level at it, it’s that the documentary covers many important aspects of the war without the opportunity to spend more than a few minutes on each subject. It would have perhaps benefitted from being spread out into a series focusing on each individual subject rather than cramming everything into a single 90 minute documentary, but the key points are covered in sufficient detail for somebody new to the study of World War II. This documentary could very well act as a stepping stone towards more detailed analysis of the history of the conflict. There’s less here for those well versed in the important details of the conflict, but the CGI presentation adds that veneer of freshness that justifies a viewing.

I have one further issue in that all of the talking heads are discussing events from the Allied perspective. There are no contributions from any German or Japanese veterans or experts which leads to quite a one sided discussion of events. I’m firmly of the opinion that a balanced discussion requires contributions from both sides of the conflict, whether or not history is written by the victors. Because of this we end up with a sadly one sided analysis of each of the big conflicts featured. Perhaps of lesser concern is that there is no focus on any significant Axis victories to act as a counterpoint to the Allied advances. In any case, if you come into Worl War II From Space expecting a balanced discussion, you will be disappointed. For everyone else, there is enough here to warrant at least one viewing.

Score: 3/5

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