It’s easy to think of The Pacific as Band Of Brothers 2: Heading For Tokyo. Easy but wrong.
The similarities between Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' first episodic visit to World War Two and this one are strong – the painstaking attention to historical detail, factual accuracy and gruelling action sequences stripping war of its veneer of glory are all present and correct – but in many ways this feels like a much more personal series.
Because in among the mud, blood and guts of the campaign across the Pacific (the big battle sequences are jaw-droppingly well rendered) you get the true stories of three Marines who experienced the war in very different ways.
Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) had a breakdown in the middle of it, Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello) had to overcome health problems to sign up and John Basilone (Jon Seda) left action after winning the Congressional Medal of Honor, only to return to the war with his old unit because he couldn’t bear civilian life knowing they were still in danger.
It gives the series a focus that hits you emotionally as well as viscerally.
As historical documents, the extras are near flawless. The ‘Field Guide’ alone offers 10 hours of additional material, allowing you to see the action of the episodes laid out as a timeline and then spin off into interviews with silver-haired veterans, maps, analysis and archive footage.
The ‘Enhanced Viewing’ feature takes you deeper still into the real story of the war, balancing on-screen action with P-in-P text biographies, interviews and more. And that’s all before you move on to the ‘Profiles Of The Pacific’ and ‘Anatomy Of The Pacific War’ docs on the bonus disc.
There is one niggle, however. In with this glorious history lesson, there’s virtually nothing about what went into creating the $200 million drama itself.
The only extra to touch on it is the half-hour Making Of buried on the bonus disc; there are neat snippets about boot camp, turning Australia into a passable copy of Iwo Jima and filming in constant mud, but it boils down to about three minutes of measly footage per episode, leaving TV fans feeling info-peckish while history buffs are overstuffed.
So never mind the untold story of the Pacific War, what we’re missing here is the untold story of The Pacific itself. It’s the one blot that stops the extras on this set getting a full five stars.
An exemplary war series in a historically lavish boxset, denied overall victory by a lack of Making Of reinforcements.