They Shall Not Grow Old – Wow! Amazing Restoration

Rating (4 out of 5)

Summary: I stepped into the theater, and they handed me 3D glasses. What the hell, I am seeing a documentary about World War I, what do I need 3D glasses? Nothing could have prepared me for the amazing restoration performed on “They Shall Not Grow Old” (TSNGO) with images literally popping off the screen. The entire movie is narrated by WWI veterans. All of these aspects combine to create an amazing view of WWI that young and old should see. I know I will encourage my teenage daughter to watch TSNGO.

Also, there is a 1/2 hour at the end detailing how they created the documentary. The inspiring segment showed the director (Peter Jackson) with a deep passion for creating an authentic documentary honoring the veterans of WWI.

Plot: A documentary covering World War I through archived film which has been restored and colored. All the narration is audio tapes of WWI veterans. The viewpoint of WWI is from these men in the trenches and does not layout the history and politics of the war.

Detail: What a tremendous visual and audio technical achievement they accomplished. Not only did they add color, but they added sound. They employed lip readers to watch the film and tell the filmmakers what people said on film. Then based on the units the young men belonged to, the director hired voice actors from the appropriate region to perform the voiceover.

For many, World War I is something you covered quickly in class, to get to the Great Depression and World War II. The documentary does a great job in showing the enthusiasm to support their country instilled in these young men, factual representation of the senseless death, how the young fighting men viewed the enemy and finally the veterans viewpoint as they return home, but all in their own words.

What is refreshing about the film, is the war is presented through imagery and recounting. TNGO presents the war as told be the veterans and enables the audience to decide what to take away from the film. There are saddening moments and others that horrify the audience, but the documentary is presented as fact. The man with a bullet hole through his arm lingers in my head.

I put on my 3D glasses skeptical of what they would be able to do. Nothing short of amazing. Now there are times when the 3d isn’t perfect, and the images are like layered cut out boards moving. Considering the source material is almost 100 years old, the 3D imagery is a truly astounding accomplishment. There is an opening scene with soldiers walking through the trenches, and you could see the depth of every item as they walked through.

I am extremely pleased I remained in the theater to watch the extra 30 minutes of the film, on how they assembled the movie. The segment also displayed Peter Jackson’s passion for the project which 4 years to make. The technical aspects of sounds and color were amazing. He also talks about how they decided on some approaches, which you realized comprise some of the most emotional moments in the documentary.