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Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old"


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Peter Jackson recently released a new film in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WW1 called â€They Shall Not Grow Oldâ€.


For those who are interested in seeing this film on Dec. 17 or 27, you can put your city in here, and it will tell you where the nearest showing is:



Looks really good! :)

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  • 3 weeks later...

My brother Shaw and I saw it this evening. Quite possibly one of the best films I have ever seen in my life. We both were totally impressed by the colorization and by how authentic it actually looked. This is not your usual "colorized for TV" junk. Each frame was painstakingly colored based on the actual location and surviving uniforms and the result is something akin to time-travel. Choosing to have the film's narration provided solely by the soldiers themselves was a brilliant move. Oftentimes with war movies you are left wondering what sort of a spin the director put on it and whether things were actually like that. Not so with this one! Here we hear the stories right from the men who lived them. It's eye-opening, sometimes hilarious, and oftentimes chilling. 


Make sure you stay until after the credits. After the credits, there was about an extra hour of bonus features where Peter Jackson breaks down the process of how he went about creating this film. It was absolutely brilliant! We were taking notes, I can tell you for sure! 


Over all, I can't recommend this film enough. If you missed it today, there's still a chance to see it on the 27th. By all means, go for it! :)

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I saw it last night with a friend, and really really enjoyed it.  If you have the chance, please go out and see it on December 27th.


The movie is bookended by black and white footage, showing you what the extant film looked like before it was "corrected".  And the only parts that are in color, with sound, and digital enhancement, are the in-country moments of the actual war.  There is a Wizard of Oz moment where everything switches that is extremely powerful.  The actual fighting is talked about and creatively shown.  But because there is no film footage of trench-to-trench attacks, they had to use creative ways of getting the point across.


Without giving too much away, the documentary isn't designed to be a blow-by-blow description of a specific battle or event.  Nor is it designed to give the viewer an overview of the entire war, from July 1914 to November 1918.  It's a microcosm, specifically designed to show you what it was like for a British army solider: from enlistment, through basic training, to France and Belgium, and then into combat.  The end of the film talks about their experiences going home and what that was like for them.  As Hotlead says, it uses recordings of the real soldiers (recorded in the 1960s and 1970s), talking about their real experiences, warts and all.  Their opinions are their own "in-country" opinions, remembered through the lens of fifty years extra of life and old age.  Nothing is filtered or explained by a historian, who might understand the bigger picture.  And thus, there is no attempt to quantify what they're saying as truth, exaggeration or fallacy.  For example, one of the Sergeants early on says it was "like boy-scouting, just with the excitement of danger," but this is obviously juxtaposed against the opinions of other soldiers who said it was freaking horrific.  The visuals that were chosen for us to see help nail this very human dichotomy home.


The only hands that are clearly felt on the documentary are those of Peter Jackson and his team.  They're selecting the sound recordings to use.  And they're selecting the film to restore and see.  Thus, while they tried very hard to have it be "only from the soldiers perspective," you can still feel the modern presence throughout the documentary.  But that's okay.  The film isn't designed to be exhaustive history.  Rather, Peter Jackson, in his commentary, says that the purpose of the film was to push people to remember the sacrifices of the First World War, and not forget.  I think it accomplishes that in every way possible.


Having said that, I've heard clear criticism leveled at the film because it takes a very narrow view of the war, leaving out the experiences of colonial soldiers, pilots, factory workers, sailors, non-English, Afro-British soldiers, foreign allies, etc.  And, I'll be honest, if you don't know anything about the causes or history of WW1, I guess you might be confused.  The documentary does nothing to help you understand the sparks that caused the war, the build up, the guns of August, or the meat grinder that follows.  And if you're looking for that, you'll be disappointed.


To be honest, the only negative thing I have to say is that the movie was too short.  I was left wanting more.  And, perhaps to help appease some of the critics, I would love to see this movie be a starting point for further restoration of other footage.  Especially since Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop went out of there way to use badly decayed and previously unusable footage that no one has ever seen before.


It would be wonderful if They Shall Not Grow Old was the first of a series of WW1 documentaries that did tackle the subjects and people who were underrepresented in this film.  It would be fantastic to see a documentary, done in the same style, about Female ambulance drivers.  Or submariners on E-Class boats.  Or RFC / RAF pilots.  Or the home-front and the factories, or Women's suffrage during the First World War, or the Canadian experience, or you name it.  The First World War is such a huge topic that I can see hundreds of ideas for future projects.


My hope is that They Shall Not Grow Old is successful.  If it is, I firmly believe that the Imperial War Museum and 14-18 NOW will commission more.  I really do feel that Peter Jackson has opened up a new door for documentary filmmakers, even if future directors choose not to colorize, use forensic lipreaders, and give sound.  The digital restoration is so extremely impressive on its own that it gives me great hope that we'll see a plethora of new WW1 footage being released to the public (after years of being unwatchable).


Final thoughts - I also really appreciated that They Shall Not Grow Old is being used in classrooms in the United Kingdom.  It makes me wish that we had something like that here in the States.



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My wife and I enjoyed the movie.  As Klai was saying above, the movie is more focused on the day-to-day lives of the guys in the trenches.  The multiple scenes of the dead littered around was a serious impact, especially the couple of scenes that displayed the dead soldiers just outside the trenches, and even within.  The commentary of the soldiers talking about living with the stench of death day after day added to the images.  The most moving part for me, was the walking wounded, and the one individual suffering from shell-shock.

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  • Klaiber changed the title to Peter Jackson's "They Shall Not Grow Old"

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