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Having only seen Band of Brothers and The Pacific in bits and pieces, I jumped at the opportunity to review the Band of Brothers/The Pacific Special Edition Gift Set, of only to have the opportunity to watch both series all the way through. Unsurprisingly, I was not disappointed with either of the two HBO miniseries, and, though I don’t consider myself much of a war history enthusiast, I found each of the miniseries to be extremely moving.
Band of Brothers is a ten-part miniseries based on a book by the same name by Stephen Ambrose, and developed by Erik Jendresen and Tom Hanks, which follows the true accounts of the men of Easy Company, during World War II. The cast includes Scott Grimes, Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Shane Taylor, and Donnie Wahlberg. The story begins with the men of Easy Company beginning their jump training, all the way through to the war in Europe, where many of the men or die or be injured.
Nearly a decade later, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks re-teamed to co-executive-produce The Pacific, another 10-part series, which focuses on the war in the Pacific through the perspectives of Marines Eugene Sledge, Robert Leckie and John Basilone. Based on Sledge’s memoir With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, and Leckie’s memoir Helmet for my Pillow, the series visits a number of well-known battles, including Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Okinawa, and the Battle of Iwo Jima, and then follows the surviving soldiers back home where they attempted to move on with their lives in a post-war world.
Both series do well to give us an idea of the magnitude of the war on a personal level as well as a national one, though much of the focus is on the experiences of the soldiers. Of the two, The Pacific seems to take a bit more time to offer an epilogue for Sledge and Leckie. And both series zoom in and pull back, giving us a more personalized viewer of the soldiers’ experiences in the war, and also showing us how some of the bigger battles might have looked, which I expect is where a lot of the series’ budgets went. Based on many of the scenes, it was money well spent as we’re shown numerous big-screen quality battle scenes.
What stands out the most, watching both of these series back to back, is just how different the war was from those who served in Europe, to those who served in the Pacific. That might seem like a fairly obvious understatement to those of you who have studied the War or experienced it firsthand, but watching it as someone whose knowledge of the War largely involves a few movies and what bits of it were focused on during high school Global Studies, the contrast of these two series is extremely impressive. Though the quality of the production and the acting is about equal, the two series feel like two completely different wars, which happen to be set in the same time period, as the soldiers were set in very different environments and made to fight two very different enemies.
HBO Home Entertainment did an excellent job with this gift set, packaging it beautifully, with the DVDs set in a book, with each page featuring a full, glossy photo from the series. The book of DVDs is then set in a box, which makes the whole set come together nicely as something you’d want to have on display. This set would definitely make for a nice, albeit somewhat pricy gift for any fan of one or both of these series, regardless of whether or not they own a previous version of it.
Each series offers a number of bonus features on their sixth disc. Band of Brothers includes “We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company,” which is an 80-minute documentary that focuses on the Army soldiers of Easy Company. “The Making of Band of Brothers,” gives us a brief look at the making of the series. It’s only a half-hour long, but it’s definitely worth a look. Ron Livingston’s video diaries are also really entertaining. Watch them on Play-All and get an inside look at Livingston’s experiences making the film, including the actors’ boot-camp. And the last of the features for Band of Brothers is follows a screening of the film in Normandy.
As for The Pacific, viewers will get a better look at who the featured Marines are in this featurette. It’s well worth watching immediately after watching the series’ conclusion, as it gives us an even better idea of who these men are and who they went on to be. “Making The Pacific” offers a brief look at the making of the series. Like the BoB one, it’s only 30 minutes long. Finally, Anatomy of the Pacific War is a documentary that takes a closer look at the war with Japan.
In addition to these features, there’s a disc that includes the excellent documentary “He has Seen War, which features Easy Company and 1st Marine Division vets and their families as they discuss the years following the war and what it was like for the men to return to the U.S. and find their place in a changed society. As The Pacific touches on this somewhat at the end of the series, it’s very interesting to see this documentary dig deeper into that and talk about what it was really like for these celebrated war heroes to come home. The world was different, and they were changed men, many of whom had found their purpose in the military and were now faced with an unknown future. Set in the context of what we see in Band of Brothers and The Pacific, this documentary really ties the set together. It offers a fine epilogue to what came next for all of those who survived.
The Blu-ray set offers additional features, including “In the Words of Easy Company,” which is described as a “dynamic, optional picture-in-picture commentary.” According to Amazon, the Blu-ray also includes an “Interactive field guide, featuring time lines, maps, soldier profiles and much more.” I can’t comment on either of these features as I reviewed the DVD set, however the DVD set does include profiles of the characters for Band of Brothers, as well as rank-guides and other information on the battles.
HBO really got it right with the Band of Brothers/The Pacific Special Edition Gift Set. Band of Brothers is ten years old and it still holds up as an excellent dramatic account of the second World War, and I expect The Pacific will as well, which makes both of these series worth owning. As mentioned previously, the set is packaged nicely as well, which will make this set a great gift. Check out some photos in the gallery below.
Length: 1235 min.
Distributor: HBO Home Video
Release Date: 11/8/11
Starring: Joseph Mazzello, Jon Seda, James Badge Dale, Scott Grimes, Ron Livingston, Damian Lewis
Directed by: David Frankel, Mikael Salomon, Tim Van Patten, David Nutter, Jeremy Podeswa
Produced by: Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Preston Smith, Erik Jendresen, Stephen Ambrose, Gary Goetzman, Tony To, Eugene Kelly, Bruce McKenna
Written by: Erik Jendresen, Tom Hanks, John Orloff, E. Max Frye, Graham Yost, Bruce C. McKenna, Erik Bork, Robert Schennkkkan,George Pelecanos, Larry Andries, Michelle Ashford