Ken Burns gets a huge budget from PBS to make epic 14-hour World War Two documentary and he makes... a Ken Burns film. No surprise, I suppose--but a terrific disappointment so far. In fact, the best half hour of tonight's first 2 1/2 hours of the film was the "tacked-on" bit about the two Latino Marines in Carlson's Raiders and their experience at Guadalcanal. The worst agony was realizing, about 2/3 of the way through, that Midway was going to be relegated to about 30 seconds of voice-over.
To keep this short: Burns' predisposition to tell personal stories while panning-and-scanning over photos just isn't a very effective way to tell stories--at least, to tell stories that convey both the information and the experience one would like to have about such a monumental event. As I talked over tonight's episode with my history buff neighbor (we were both disappointed), an example I used to point up one aspect of my dislike for Burns' method was Errol Morris' Fog of War. In particular, the section in which Robert McNamara discusses his role in WWII, as a statistician on Curtis LeMay's staff. The various intersections/disjunctions between McNamara's facial expressions, tone of voice, actual words, and the visuals used by Morris to convey the points McNamara was making were extraordinary--perhaps the best part of that entire film.
There's good stuff in The War (I'm thrilled to see Sam Hynes take such a huge role, as he's fantastic), but it seems fated to be drowned out by Ken Burns' clumsy hand.
But I have 11 and a half more hours to watch, which means: I have two weeks, or so, to further develop my thoughts on The War. Stay tuned...