Going into this miniseries you have to stop yourself from comparing this to other WWII series/movies like Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. This is a different kind of mini-series about a part of the war that is overshadowed by the Nazi’s takeover of Europe. Nonetheless, this is a story that needs to be told not only because it is a direct response to the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor but also because it portrays a different type of combat fought in a lush jungle on a paradise island. All that said, the first episode was somewhat underwhelming because it moves rather slow for the first half-hour.
The mini-series re-enacts the real-life stories of 3 Marines fighting in the Pacific Theater: steely veteran John Basilone (Jon Seda), writer-turned-machine-gunner Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and son of privilege Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello). They are deployed at different times and although their lives are intertwined they don’t regularly interact with one another so most episodes focus on only one of the protagonists. I had to see it twice in order to make sure I had the main characters and their respective storylines straight. The first episode introduced all the characters but centered on Leckie as his troop arrived in Guadalcanal.
When the Marines approach the beach in those small combat boats, we can feel the tension of the soldiers as they prepare for the first savage battle—they brace themselves to charge with force as they expect to encounter a hailstorm of enemy gunfire. As they charge out of the boat they slowly realize that all the Japanese soldiers have retreated inward to the jungle and the beach is riddled with other US Marines waiting around.
When all the Marines have landed they proceed into the jungle where the tension builds as they anticipate encountering the Japanese but only find the mutilated corpses of several soldiers. Most of the action happens during the night as the Japanese forces, who seem to have a poorly thought-out plan if any, prefer to attack under the cover of darkness. As a viewer it’s a chaotic atmosphere and you don’t know what’s going on, you just seeing bullets flying, people crying out in pain, and bodies falling. But from the look on the soldier’s faces, we probably understand no less than they do what is happening.
After the last night of warfare in the episode, which was a total massacre of the Japanese, the last Japanese soldier standing is taunted by the American soldiers who constantly fire to injure him without killing him. He cries and begs to be put out of his misery. Finally, Leckie fires the fatal bullet and the other Marines complain that he ruined their fun. The soldiers parade around the Japanese corpses with pride but Leckie gives us the slight indication that the psychological trauma of killing another human is starting to seep in. Nonetheless, he stresses how alien the enemy is and how they have learned nothing more about them after the “turkey shoot.”
Most BoB fans complained that the episode was disappointing because it doesn’t follow an entire troop but rather jumps between 3 men in separate troops. However, this strategy of storytelling is necessary in order to cover the three battles: Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, since no one soldier fought in all three and this mini-series is based on true stories of real soldiers.
Overall, the episode was a tad underwhelming but I’m hopeful that the action will pick up in the upcoming episodes. This episode needed to be slower in order to establish background information about the characters and their lives before deploying. The action scenes were powerful and very effective so I look forward to more as the soldiers keep pushing inward to wipe out the enemy from the island.
Did you see The Pacific? Were you disappointed or did you enjoy it?