Last night I watched Peter Jackson‘s They Shall Not Grow Old. The enhanced-footage doc (colorized, digitally sharpened, converted to 3D) is about the arduous experience of British troops in the European trenches during World War I. I’m not a WWI buff but this is probably the first doc to emphasize the grisly aspects of the Great War. Ugly, muddy, bloody, cold, miserable, damp…men living like pigs. Not to mention horrific head wounds, the stink of dead bodies (including horses), no latrines, only two pairs of socks per soldier, no change of underwear, etc.
Roughly six million British troops were sent to fight in Europe between August of 1914 and September 1918. Just over 700,000, or 11.5% of the total, were reportedly killed. Then again the World War I Wiki page says 1,114,914 Brits died in the conflict — who knows?
An awful lot of young men in their teens and early 20s had bad teeth back then. Or missing teeth. Smiling wasn’t a good idea.
It begins and ends with conventional black-and-white footage of young troops preparing for battle and then a closing section depicting the aftermath and return to the home front. Only the brutality of war section. which lasts a bit more than an hour, is shown in color and 3D. The opening black-and-white section lasts around 19 or 20 minutes, and then into the colorized carnage and then a wrap-up that last between 10 and 12 minutes, not counting closing credits. The film runs 99 minutes.
The color on the version that I saw didn’t look as good as the tinting in the official trailer. I’m presuming this lack of subtlety is not what the film will deliver when Jackson’s plays theatrically in the U.S. on 12.17 and 12.27. I intend to see it that way, especially for the 3D.
The U.S. presentation of They Shall Not Grow Old is a co-presentation between Fathom Events and Warner Bros.