Judge Victor Valdivia's autobiography was also called First to Fight, until a judge sentenced him to anger management classes.
Living up to the legacy.
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:
Marine Corps Survival, Parts I & II
Delta Company: The Push to Baghdad
Delta Company: A New Era in Baghdad
The Fight for Fallujah
Operation: Red Dog
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.
Give us your feedback!
Scales of Justice
Studio: Military Channel
Review content copyright © 2009 Victor Valdivia; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.