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Featured TV on DVD Review: WWII from Space

May 5th, 2013

WWII from Space - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The History Channel started out in 1995 with shows about history, many of which were about World War II. In the past two decades, they've moved away from that focus, and instead have begun to focus on reality TV shows. WWII from Space is an interesting exercise in that regard. There's little more that can be said about World War II that's new, but is there a new way to present this history? Or will this be nothing more than a cheap gimmick?

The Show

Usually I start these reviews with a plot summary, but not this time. It's World War II summed up in 90 minutes. I don't need to describe the plot in anymore detail than that. All I need to do is say whether or not I thought it did a good job doing so.

The answer to that is, "Not really." Ninety minutes is simply not enough time to cover such a huge topic. More than once I found myself heading over to Wikipedia for more information on an important topic that was barely mentioned in the special. WWII from Space also suffers from some problems common to other similar shows on History. There is a heavy-handed attempt to make the events being described as dramatic. Most of these events are incredibly dramatic, but by overplaying, it hurts the show. Also, like some other History channel programs, there's a lot of repetition. When the show originally airs, there are a lot of commercial breaks, and each time, there's a short recap. They also reuse the phrase, "From space... is revealed." way too many times. It could become a drinking game. Finally, this show suffers from style over substance. In fact, some of the style interferes with the substance, not just overshadows it.

On the other hand, there are some instances where the, "From Space" elements are well done. It is very interesting to see battle maps animated that way. Also, there are many experts interviewed, from military officers of today, historians, and even a few veterans of World War II. They are just never given enough time to talk about the subject in any deep and meaningful way.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray.

As for the technical presentation, it's mixed. For some reason I don't understand, they decided to use, and overuse, visual distortions. Maybe someone thought it would give the documentary style. All it was for me was a distraction. The video is drained of colors, while many scenes are soft and lack fine details. The audio is better, but the show is mostly talking heads, so there's not a lot of audio pizzazz.

The Blu-ray only costs $3 or 20% more than the DVD, which is an excellent for this type of release.

The Verdict

It has been a lot time since the History channel put out a TV show that really lived up to its name. Most of what they produce is either bad reality TV or shows that have no basis in reality at all. (I'm looking at you, Nostradamus Effect.) The best you can hope for these days is something that deals with history and has an interesting hook, but mixed execution. That's exactly what WWII from Space is. It is a history show with an interesting hook but mixed execution. Unless you are a hardcore consumer of these shows, I don't think the DVD or the Blu-ray is worth picking up. Even if you are a hardcore fan, I would start with a rental.

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