Case Number 15760: Small Claims Court


Military Channel // 2009 // 360 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // February 21st, 2009

The Charge

Living up to the legacy.

The Case

The Military Channel has a much narrower focus than most other channels. While that may necessarily shrink its potential audience size, it also makes it more entertaining. While History sometimes flounders in its attempts to mix nonfiction with reality TV, Military simply presents shows about the military that don't stoop to cheap TV theatrics and are simply meant to be informative. While sometimes they can get a little dry or insular, Military Channel's shows can, at their best, be as compelling as any scripted show and as informative as what History used to be. Some of the best ones about the U.S. Marines are compiled on this DVD.

The title First to Fight refers to the fact that frequently, it's the Marines who are the first deployed to a trouble spot, and can arrive by air, sea, or land. Here are the shows on Marine history, training, and weapons, and their performance during the Iraq War collected on these two discs:

Disc One
Mountain Marines
A battalion of Marines is sent to train in a camp in California to prepare them for combat in Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Survival, Parts I & II
The Mountain Warfare Training School in Bridgeport, California, near the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is home to one of the most grueling classes for survival training in the military. Thirty-two Marines attempt to complete the course, but not all will make it to the end.

Delta Company: The Push to Baghdad
The Marines of Delta Company begin the 2003 invasion of Iraq by crossing the Kuwaiti-Iraqi border and fighting off exhaustion and the Iraqi Army.

Delta Company: A New Era in Baghdad
After a few brutal battles and obstacles, Delta Company is finally able to enter the city of Baghdad, setting the stage for the occupation of Iraq.

Disc Two
Weaponology: USMC
A look at the history and weapons of the U.S. Marine Corps.

The Fight for Fallujah
In 2004, the Marines were charged with seizing control of the insurgent-riddled town of Fallujah, Iraq, resulting in one of the bloodiest and longest battles in the Iraq War's history.

Operation: Red Dog
A group of Marine reservists is sent to Afghanistan to serve as pilots and escorts for Special Forces troops fighting Al-Qaeda and Taliban in the mountains.

The best shows are the ones that tell the Marines' stories with as little embellishment as possible. The Fight for Fallujah, for instance, is an absolute must for anyone who wants to understand the Iraq War. The battles are explained clearly and the Marines tell their stories of heroism and danger in language so unadorned that it becomes gripping. There are a few reenactments, but these are so minor and help so much in filling in some gaps that they aren't cheesy or obtrusive at all. The show also helps to put the battle in context by explaining how typically inept decisions by U.S. provisional authority Paul Bremer actually made the job of the Marines much harder and more dangerous than it needed to be. Similarly, the two Delta Company shows, while not quite as impressive, are also very good looks at the Iraqi invasion from a soldier's point of view. The show is helped immeasurably by the fact that all of the cameramen were actual Marines, not journalists, giving the show an immediacy that more sanitized looks at the war frequently lack. Of the training shows, the best is Marine Corps Survival. In its depiction of an unbelievably punishing but necessary test of character, it demonstrates just how craven shows like Survivor really are. Squeamish viewers might be put off by the scenes of Marines learning how to kill and clean wild game, but after seeing just how much the poor students are made to suffer, they'll understand why. Anyone who watches this show will have even more appreciation for the sacrifices soldiers make to serve their country.

There are a couple of weak links. Weaponology can't seem to decide if it wants to tell the Marines' history or examine their weapons, so it jumps back and forth between stories without telling either satisfyingly. Mountain Marines tells essentially the same story as Marine Corps Survival, except without the human drama, which makes it less compelling. Operation: Red Dog is also too dry in its storytelling. It should have been more interesting than it was, but it winds up a bit confusing and uninvolving. Still, even the weaker shows have some elements that make them worth watching.

The technical quality is solid. The shows alternate between 1.33:1 full screen and 1.78:1 anamorphic, but all look equally decent. The same goes for the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix. There are no extras, which is a shame. Even a text history or timeline of Marine history would have been useful. Still, First to Fight has enough good shows to make it worth at least a look for anyone interested in seeing well-told, real stories of real heroes and especially recommended to Military Channel fans. Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile
Studio: Military Channel
Video Formats:
* 2.76:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 360 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb: Fight for Fallujah

* IMDb: Delta Company

* IMDb: Weaponology: USMC