The World Wars: Historical fiction that inspires interest
The World Wars is a 3 night special that premieres from 26 to 28 July at 10:00pm on the History Channel. Official Website.
For the 100th anniversary and the remembrance of the most turbulent and violent period in modern human history, the History Channel will be premiering "The World Wars", a documentary miniseries that attempts to condense 31 years of war into a 3-part, 6-hour epic.
While World War I and II had been heavily documented both in the form of physical evidence and dramatisation, "The World Wars" miniseries stands out with its bold approach that is very familiar to History Channel's previous series, "The Men Who Built America".
I can best compare how "The World Wars" is to World War I and II to how "The Avengers" movie was to the Marvel universe, a showcase of a few of the most influential characters in a single action packed film that may dilute each individual character's story and the environment that the film is set in, but will ultimately draw your attention.
This approach, as I mentioned before was done for History Channel's "The Men Who Built America" series, has been refined for "The World Wars". And this retelling of arguably the most known story in human history truly brings it to life, making you reach for the books to learn more about the war than for the remote control to change the channel.
Often times, I found myself seeing the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and others featured in this miniseries as larger-than-life characters than actual people. Probably this is justified as these people have certainly led larger-than-life lives and were pivotal to the events highlighted in "The World Wars".
But this approach is not without criticism, with some pointing out that this approach simply dumbing down a complex and profound subject, making it superficial in content and not of enough educational value to make it worthy of a documentary.
Such criticism is justified. The flaw of "The World Wars" approach is in its representation of the subject. The very few characters portrayed in the miniseries may form a misrepresentation in the minds of those unfamiliar with the wars, and the sudden introduction of pivotal moments to conveniently drive the storyboard of the documentary forward may dilute the significance of them
An example is the introduction of the atomic bomb to conclude the miniseries. It felt similar to the ending of an action-packed Anime, in which the hero will have a ultimate power, never revealed before to essentially wipe out his obstacle and triumph.
Personally though, I feel History Channel had made right bold choice. Retelling the chapters of the wars with a blockbuster tone is certain to reignite interest in the most important generation, the current.
As how Sir David Attenborough had highlighted the challenges documentaries faces today, History Channel's feature documentaries are adapting to it. Documentaries need to innovate so as to compete with other distractions such as Internet and general increase in knowledge to capture their attention.
A documentary may be used to educate the general masses, but it is ultimately a medium that focuses on the step before education - sparking an interest.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, there are a lot of resources for people to learn more about World War I and II, but unless there is something to reignite and spark the interest to fuel that earnest to learn, a subject will continue to fade in relevancy over time, no matter the weight it holds.
There is a funny similarity that traditionalist of historical documentaries and marvel fans share (this apart from the fact that Jereny Renner is the narrator of the “The World Wars” and plays Hawkeye in “The Avengers”).
Both criticised their respective blockbuster film for not developing the characters and certain events portrayed in the films well enough, presenting debatable points and out right facts, and not including other important figures.
But standing out of all these criticism is one positive fact - the fact that both "The World Wars" and "The Avengers" have propelled a period in time long past back into relevancy.
Enjoy the "The World Wars", be entertained by it, learn from it, be inspired to learn more about it, share it and never forget it.