History Channel // 2008 // 580 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // November 7th, 2010
Experience a 360° view of the most intense battle of the Pacific.
Battle 360° made its television premiere in early 2008 and quickly became one of the History Channel's most success programs. The 10-episode series examines the World War II exploits of America's most famous aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise. The series' first episode, "Call to Duty," covers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Enterprise's actions in the Marshall Islands, and Doolittle's Raid. The finale, "The Empire's Last Stand," looks at action on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, as well as Japan's surrender. In between, we're treated to intense and dramatic sea battles in the Solomon Islands, the Battle of Santa Cruz, the Gilbert Islands, Operation Hailstone, the Battle of the Philippine Sea, and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The crews of Enterprise and the other ships in her carrier group experience stunning victories and crushing defeats as they struggle to gain tactical and strategic advantage over a Japanese fleet that is initially larger (about twice the size of the American fleet, in fact), better equipped, and more experienced. Battle 360° buries viewers in facts about military hardware, strategy, and history, but it is the stories of the resilient and determined sailors and pilots aboard Enterprise that leave a lasting mark.
Battle 360° may be about the 1940s, but it's a show made for the 2000s. The series unfurls its history with a combination of talking head interviews with Enterprise veterans, historians, and military experts; archival footage; animated maps; graphical stats sheets on a variety of American and Japanese ships, airplanes, and weapons; and, most notably, detailed 3D computer animated reproductions of key moments from the various battles. It's a dynamic and fast-paced way of delivering a ton of information to a post-literate society. If this kind of hyper-edited program normally turns you off, don't let it chase you away from Battle 360°. The series may have high-sheen production values, but that doesn't mean that it's free of substance. It's not the sort of history-free show about the lives of ice road truckers or speculation that aliens may have built the pyramids that too often litters the History Channel's line-up. Battle 360° offers genuine (and mostly accurate) history. Its producers wisely realized that computer technology wasn't necessary to imbue Enterprise's adventures with drama, but it could be useful in providing us a fresh perspective on those adventures by combining oral history, statistics, analysis, and good old fashioned combat footage into a program that provides a visceral as well as an intellectual punch. Viewers knowing nothing about the battle for the Pacific during World War II will ride a wave of compelling drama across the series' 10 episodes, and emerge at the end having learned much about the catalysts and events of the conflict. Battle 360 isn't merely a collection of historical facts. It's also a collection of personal stories set against epic human events about which it is easy to become emotionally involved.
This Blu-ray set spreads the series' 10 episodes across three discs:
* "Call to Duty"
* "Vengeance at Midway"
* "Jaws of the Enemy"
* "Bloody Santa Cruz"
* "Enterprise vs. Japan"
* "The Grey Ghost"
* "Hammer of Hell"
* "D-Day in the Pacific"
* "Battle of Leyte Gulf"
* "The Empire's Last Stand"
Given the History Channel's penchant for releasing DVDs with non-anamorphic widescreen transfers, there's really no comparison between the image on this Blu-ray and the previously released DVD. The 1080p/AVC transfer presents the show in its original 16:9 aspect ratio. The modern interview footage and computer animation is nearly perfect, while the archive footage (trimmed to fit the widescreen presentation) is limited by its vintage as one would expect. The lone audio option is a DTS-HD master audio stereo mix that is bright and clean, though perhaps not as robust as it could be during the battle sequences.
The only supplement is a 20-minute reel of bonus scenes on Disc Three.
Battle 360° is as slickly produced and dramatically compelling as it is educational. Considering the shoddy non-anamorphic transfer on the old DVD, this Blu-ray set is the only way to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 2.0 Master Audio (English)
Running Time: 580 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Scenes