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"Battle 360" Battle of Leyte Gulf (2008)

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Questionable Gestalt.

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
15 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There seem to be innumerable movies about the battle of Midway, mostly American, though there is at least one Japanese version floating around. Midway provides Americans with a satisfying structure. A large Japanese naval force is headed towards the island of Midway, including four fleet carriers. The Americans, with only three carriers and far less support, are outnumbered. Yet the Americans sink all four enemy carriers with the loss of only one of our own. The Japanese strike force is turned back. It makes a good, big-budget movie starring Charlton Heston.

There is no movie about the battle of Leyte Gulf. It took place much later in the war and represented the last gasp of Japanese naval power. It was the largest engagement ever fought. We won decisively. But why is there no big-budget film about it? Because it provides American audiences with a poor Gestalt. A "good gestalt" is a closed circle. A "poor gestalt" is a circle with a gap in it. One itches to fill in the gap but can't. The Americans won but they could have won more. They could have virtually destroyed the Japanese Navy and they didn't do it because of tangled communications, arguable decisions, poorly written orders, and bad luck along with the good luck.

This episode of Battle 360 resembles the others that I've seen. The computer-generated graphics are unimpeachable. The close shot of a bomb plummeting towards a ship even shows flecks of paint that have been lost with time. Every lump on an airplane -- the vents, the windows, the tubes, looks accurate. And of course the "camera" can take us places where no real camera could ever go.

Yet the thing is barely watchable. The narration, which necessarily leaves out some detail, sounds as if it were written for eighth graders, and that's how the narrator reads it. "The Helldiver's bombs CRASHED into the battleship's deck and EXPLODED!!!!!"

Most distracting is the editing that seems to have become so fashionable lately in feature films. No shot appears to last longer than a fraction of a second. Irrelevant numbers and letters, sometimes in Japanese, blink across he screen with blinding speed. The percussive musical score pounds at our ear drums. Glitzy banners and title comes and go accompanied by WHOOMS on the sound track. It's like watching an hour-long commercial for a male enhancement product.

If anyone wants to see a description of this controversial affair that's made for adults, seek out the "Battlefield" series, Season Two. It's pre-CGI and it's longer, but it's deliberate, thorough, and doesn't smack of one of those supermarket tabloids that feature photos of celebrities now grown old and fat. You'll be doing yourself a favor.

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