The Pacific, Sky Movies
The Man Who Cycled the Americas, BBC1

Steven Spielberg has spent $230m getting his new war epic all dressed up – but is it going anywhere?

The first casualty in war, so they say, is the truth. In the case of the Second World War, there's a pretty good chance that the wounded truth limps into the tender care of Doctor Steven Spielberg, to be tended to, operated on, nursed and returned to its feet looking, one suspects, better than it ever did. But whether that's entirely in the interests of the patient is another question.

In the film Saving Private Ryan, the TV series Band of Brothers and now that series' palm-fringed successor, The Pacific, Spielberg continues his project, with co-executive producer Tom Hanks, to fight the "good war" all over again – albeit with 20 catering trucks and a couple of chamber orchestras just behind the front line. He certainly has the war chest: $230m has been lavished on The Pacific, a 10-part account of the American role in driving back Japanese imperial forces in the Far East, making it the most expensive TV series ever.

Unfortunately, the producers also have another foe to tackle: ignorance of what millions of Allied forces got up to in the so-called "Pacific Theatre" from 1943. (And let's not sneer at the ignorance of American audiences. How many of us have the first clue about the horrific campaign fought by British and Commonwealth forces in Burma?)

The result is that the first episode of The Pacific has all the complexity of a bayonet charge: here's a few US marines, there they are parting from their families in America, look at them hustling ashore from a landing craft on to the beaches of Guadalcanal off the Solomon Islands, here's a map in case you didn't know the Solomon Islands were just north of Australia (I didn't). And then let the fighting begin.

The problem is that Spielberg and Hanks don't have a spectacle such as D-Day to splurge their dollars on. That terrifying landing-craft sequence in Saving Private Ryan is here replayed, knowingly, as anticlimax, the terrified Marines spilling on to the beach to be assaulted by nothing more forbidding than the wisecracks of those already there: "What took ya so long?" And those pesky damned Japanese only come out of their fox-holes at night – the light's terrible and their uniforms are a mess!

Which isn't to say that there isn't much else to focus on. The Pacific conflict was, apparently, characterised by a racial hatred between the opposing sides, quite unlike that in Europe. (Though did anyone tell the Russians and the Germans that?) A couple of American war dead are shown, tortured and mutilated by the Japanese. By way of dutiful editorial balance, a Japanese soldier is toyed with brutally before the coup de grâce is delivered. And the fighting, when it takes place, is as thrillingly staged and choreographed as you might expect.

But in its earnest desire to "educate" its audience and "honour" the undoubtedly immense effort of the Allied war veterans, The Pacific, you might say, succumbs to "friendly fire". Lantern-jawed commanding officers appear to be on secondment from the comic Warlord, and as for the Japanese, they've yet to reach the psychological complexity of Spielberg's comedy caper 1941 (which is curiously omitted from the press notes' official biography).

As one hellish trudge along the Pacific rim began, another was concluding in The Man Who Cycled the Americas. Last week saw Mark Beaumont's third and final film of his 13,000-mile, nine-month attempt to cycle from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, climbing the highest peak in each of North and South America along the way.

The producers, via Bill Paterson's voice-over, repeated ad nauseam that no one else had ever attempted such a feat, prompting the inevitable question: er, why would anyone have ever bothered? And Beaumont's occasional diversions to local attractions (hill-billy music festivals, tequila slamming, coffee roasting) were another distraction.

No, this programme's virtue was Beaumont himself, a sunny, uncomplicated Scot with only the mildest of interest in engaging with anyone he met (he spoke comically little Spanish). He was clearly happiest spinning along in a Zen state of perpetual revolution, and it's been a bit of a late-night treat each week to watch him doing so.

After the recent film of Eddie Izzard's attempt to to complete 43 consecutive marathons, how about a new sub-genre? The physical endurance feat as existential psycho-drama. This one will run and run.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits