Judge Joel Pearce was caught in a whirlwind battle of deathly doom!
Prepare for a riveting portrayal of some of the most exciting battles of ancient history…
At its best, Battles B.C. can be a lot of fun. It gleefully borrows 300's visual bravura, melding it with historical analysis to immerse the viewer in good old fashioned military bloodthirstiness. Alas, the series ends up with a bit too much glee and not enough precision on the part of the creators.
Facts of the Case
Battles B.C. uses digital recreation and expert testimony to uncover the military tactics used in a number of early history's most famous military battles and campaigns. From Egyptian chariot attacks to the Roman conquest of the Gauls, Battles B.C. wants to be a stylishly comprehensive look at Bronze and Iron age warfare.
It includes the following eight episodes:
• "Hannibal: The Annihilator"
Battles B.C.'s loose approach to historical accuracy is its greatest asset and worst enemy. The vibrant and bloodthirsty visual style helps to set the series apart, turning dry history lessons into engaging visual blasts of color. True, Hannibal wasn't a hulking bald black man, but that's part of the way the series winks at viewers who have seen recent film depictions of ancient warfare. The History Channel clearly feels left out of the fun; Battles B.C. is their bid to show how much fun they can be.
On some of the episodes, this really works. Although there are minor historical inaccuracies and omissions throughout, many offer a decent overview to viewers who have not been exposed to more serious analysis of these battles. We get a picture of how brutal war has been since the dawn of time, and we also gain a solid understanding of the importance of tactics. This is especially true in the episodes on Hannibal, Caesar and Alexander the Great. All three of these campaigns have been well-documented and studied, so it didn't take too much work for the creators to pull together that information.
A few of the episodes, however, have no place on The History Channel. Specifically, these are the Exodus story from the Bible, Joshua's invasion of Jericho, and the reign of King David. The only source used for these stories is the Bible itself. Whether or not you believe in the Bible, only the most ardent fundamentalists would approach the early books of the bible as textbook history. The series approaches the Bible as history rather than mythology, and yet tries desperately to find natural explanations for supernatural biblical descriptions. This is not too terrible in the case of David, but worse with the explanations provided for the falling of the walls of Jericho and the pillar of fire that leads the Israelites through the desert. These explanations strain credibility, let alone historical knowledge. Blind speculation into ancient mythological texts makes for pretty poor historiography.
Historical issues aside, the style of Battles B.C. is likely to polarize viewers. Younger viewers who are interested in History will probably have a blast, finding this a colorful, coherent, clear explanation of ancient military tactics. Although many of the details are incorrect, the series does have a clear central goal of exploring the earliest developments of military tactics. Serious history buffs, however, will find the gruesome descriptions and haphazard approach to detail crass and distasteful.
The DVD is also quite a disappointment. The series is presented in widescreen, but it is non-anamorphic. This brings with it a loss in detail, which is often noticeable during the brash battle sequences. The sound is delivered in stereo, which is acceptable but lacks the depth or clarity that a 5.1 track would have offered.
Without question, Battles B.C. is one of the most deliciously fun experiences I've ever had with historical television. It is simple, straightforward, and violent. At the same time, some of it is too historically suspect to take seriously. As long as you stick to the better episodes, Battles B.C. offers up some gruesome historical good times.
I liked Battles B.C., but it's guilty of choosing style over
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