The HBO Miniseries The Pacific was a pretty good miniseries if you take it as a standalone project. The problem I have with this miniseries is that it was pimped all over the place as being from the same people that produced Band of Brothers. Whether this is fair or not, I expected Band of Brothers 2. When I go into a situation with preconceived notions it is really hard for me to shake them…and I couldn’t throughout the run of this miniseries.
Don’t get me wrong here, I liked the series as a whole. I just could not get into it and relish every minute of it like I did with BoB. There was nothing that could have drug me away from a Sunday night during the run of BoB but I missed the initial run of the final episode of The Pacific because I watched the finale of Survivor. I was more into watching the finale of a show I didn’t even watch this season that than to watch the live first-run of The Pacific’s final episode. That alone told me that I was just not that into this show. Below are just some of the reasons that I just wasn’t as impressed with this series as I thought I would have been:
Care Factor, Part I – It took me until the 3rd episode to even be able to remember a single character’s name. It wasn’t until the Marines made it to Melbourne and the entire show focused pretty much on Bob Leckie that I put a name to at least one character’s face. This was a big problem for me right from the beginning of the series as I felt I had nothing invested in any of these men. Look at BoB where the first two episodes (Curahee and Day of Days) had me already invested in characters that I knew by name. Winters, Nixon, Sobel (dick), Toye, Randleman, Malarkey, Lipton, Guarnere, Perconte and Buck Compton….those are all names that went with faces that I could pick out of a lineup after just the first two episodes. And those are just the ones off the top of my head. There was an effort to get the viewer tuned in and caring about all of these guys from the first moments of the first episode. There wasn’t this same attention given to the characters in The Pacific. Up until this third episode I couldn’t actually put a name to a face so I was pretty happy when I could finally say, “Ok, so that guy is Bob Leckie”
Care Factor, Part II – I seriously did not care if ANYONE on The Pacific lived or died. I didn’t grow attached to any of the Marines throughout the entire run of the project. In fact, I started hoping a few of the guys would get offed for reasons I will explain below. There wasn’t a single character that I found compelling or could relate to at all and this was disappointing. How could BoB give us over a dozen different characters that we would grow attached to and really feel their loss (like with Guarnere and Toy in Bastogne) and there not be a single Marine that I grew to care about through 10 episodes?
Teamwork – I guess I should really call this “Lack of Teamwork”. Part of what seemed to bother me throughout the run of The Pacific was what appeared to be a lack of teamwork displayed by the Marines. It really did appear like it was every man for himself in just about every battle. Even the main cast of characters that were supposed to be a mortar team really didn’t feel like they were working together. Looking back at BoB, those guys all felt like a team that worked together cohesively and got the job done as a well oiled machine. Maybe this is just an accurate portrayal of the battles in the Pacific but it just didn’t feel like it made for a compelling story to me.
John Basilone – Allright, I must admit that in Episode 2 I was really impressed with the dude that was running around in the jungle with the machine gun burning the flesh right off his arm as he was trying to get his men more ammo. I still didn’t know who the hell this guy was though because there really was no effort made to give the viewer a clue that this was John Basilone, the Hero of Guadalcanal. He was a badass in this episode and his story was about to suck me in and make me a fan of the series. But nope, his real story had to go and completely blow that for me. This guy left the hell that is war to go back to the States to tour the country as a hero. Along the way this guy is bangin’ starlets and beauty queens, has a standing reservation in every restaurant in every city he goes to and is worshipped as a hero by everyone. He was living the dream. I mean seriously, Ana Torv….yum. And what does this guy decide to do? He decides that his life just isn’t fulfilling enough and heads back to the Marines. I wanted someone to shoot him right there. But no, he had to make it even worse. He gets a woman, and fellow marine, to fall in love with him while at Camp Pendleton and then marries her. He was tagging starlets and he goes to a mudpit to train marines and marries one? To me that just sounds like the move of a moron. But he makes it worse, he then decides to reenlist and head back to war. Guess what happened? Yep, he got capped while running around the battlefield like his skin was made of Kevlar. It was like he wanted to die as much as I wanted him to.
I know that this is based on a true story and I do give Basilone his props for being a brave (stupid) Marine that did what he thought needed to be done in a time of war. I just don’t, however, feel that his story is one that makes him out to be a hero. His entire story just made me feel sorry for this guy that was too blinded by his stupidity to realize that he should have just stayed in the States and enjoyed the ride that he earned.
Pointless Battles – This is probably the case in war in general but it really felt like just about every battle these Marines were in was pointless. I seem to recall that at the end of pretty much every battle that claimed an island there was some information relayed to the viewer that this “all important island” was never used for it’s intended purpose after the fact. After a couple of these purposeless battles all I could think about was the waste. All these poor young men that died to advance a few feet on an island that really didn’t matter. This is probably what the producers and director wanted those of us watching to feel…I just didn’t like it. There was the same sort of feeling during BoB and the Battle of the Bulge where these soldiers were dying night after night while being shelled continuously while they just huddled for cover (while freezing to death) in their foxholes. The difference here though was these men were holding the line and thwarting one of the last major German offensives of the war. There was a reason for the men staying here and dying in the thousands that I can wrap my brain around and make there loss not seem like such a waste. I cannot do that with the battles on The Pacific.
Snafu – I just didn’t get this crazy son of a bitch. He was like Yoda’s retarded kid brother that dropped acid and just kinda lived on the edge of the dark side. Sometimes he is digging teeth out of dead japanese soldiers and sometimes he is giving sage advice to a newbie. I didn’t know if I liked him or despised him. So I kinda just settled on indifference. As people kept dying around him I kept hoping that sooner or later this batshit crazy marine was gonna get hit. No such luck.
Sledge “Hammer” – So Eugene Sledge turns out to be the main character of the whole enchilada and I couldn’t have been less impressed. First off, I couldn’t get beyond the fact that this is that whiny little brat from Jurassic Park. Then I couldn’t get over how that whiny little kid from Jurassic Park grew up to be such a dorky looking adult. I know that we were supposed to be watching his journey throughout the show. He went from young innocent kid to a trained Marine to a “Kill em all” psycho that wants to dig gold teeth out of dead guys to a preachy whiner (when he admonishes some other Marines for killing an unarmed Japanese soldier…which he did himself the previous episode) to a catatonic Post war veteran. Though all of that all I could focus on was that stupid freakin’ pipe. Someone should have told this guy (and by this guy I mean the real Sledge…not the actor) how ridiculous you look when you smoke a pipe. Now someone else should have told the actor that he looked way to much like Col. Hans Landa when he had that pipe in his mouth. It is hard for me to feel sympathetic for a guy that I can’t look at without associating him with a turbo-evil Nazi.
As the miniseries came to a close I didn’t find myself wanting more like I did with Band of Brothers. I wasn’t glad that it was over either. I just didn’t care. And that is sad because I really wanted to.