Saturday, 28 May 2016

For me, the Bismarck was the Death Star.

Expedition: Bismarck
(2002)

And for his next trip, intrepid explorer Jimbo Cameron will be investigating another site of mass death and destruction, and having a thoroughly good adventure while feigning empathy for victims and survivors alike. A bit harsh, perhaps? It’s difficult not to be cynical, based on the design of this type of docudrama, with its feeble, budget-driven reconstructions and forced attempts to muster excitement from the dive itself.


Partly, I just mourn the days when the subject matter led the format, rather than those who should be servicing it. But there’s no way Jimbo couldn’t be the star of his own show, particular as he’s the number one ad-man for the explorative tech. This Discovery Channel piece is co-credited with Gary Johnstone, and forms a reunion of sorts with Lance Henriksen (after a whopping 16 years), who lends thoughtful delivery to the frequently crass narration. Almost the first thing Jimbo tells us, in perceptively low-brow fashion, is that “For me, the Bismarck was the Death Star”; Henriksen is required to repeat the observation about 20 minutes later.


This is the kind of doc that puts hard rock music over Hitler footage, as it imparts how he was adept at capturing hearts, better indeed than the biggest rock star. Elsewhere, there is treacly, over-indulgent piano accompanying the memories of survivors, and re-enactments serviced by risible effects. There’s even a bit of Holst’s Mars Suite, in case you were assuming this couldn’t be any more creatively redundant. Simply put, I’m not a fan of this tawdry, mass-consumption approach to documentary subjects, with faux-dramatic exploration of, and recreation of, history, and the assumption that everyone watching must be a feckin’ ijit.


That said, this is more interesting on a basic level than Ghosts of the Abyss, particularly when it comes to the debate over whether the ship was sunk by the British Navy or scuttled by its own crew. The problem is, even here, we have to suffer self-regarding Jim, with the intellectual rigour of a rampaging bull, compering events and nudging the unassuming participants in the direction he favours. This deserved a more diligent approach, rather than one fanning Cameron’s vanity, but I’m sure there are solid examinations of the historical event out there for those who want it done justice.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

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