An ordinary road-trip... with an arbitrary historical angle
I'm both a history buff and an avid touring biker, so why didn't this show spark my imagination and glue me to the TV-screen as it was supposed to?
Maybe because it was neither a very good road-trip documentary, nor a history documentary. Sorry, but it wasn't. Perhaps had it been done by one single person as a presenter it might have been really good. This way it was hardly bearable - three brothers, none of them very interesting, and the oldest one downright annoying with his mugging for the camera.
It was a show about the three brothers trailing the arbitrary historical path through Europe which just so happened to be Hannibal's. Why am I saying "arbitrary"? Because it was probably an angle to attract sponsors to have them pay for a rather expensive trip and the logistics. It seems they might have trailed any given historical route with the same superficiality. It may be down to the director, but I learned more about contrived brotherly camaraderie and rivalry between the three than the actual trip or history.
The way they did the "reenactment" of crossing the Rhone river had me in stitches. It was reminiscent of "The Batley Townswomen's Guild" from Monty Python. I'm sure the humor wasn't intentional because they are not very funny otherwise, but crossing the river in three kayaks, pretending they are three parts of an army cannot be taken for anything else. And what was that business of unnecessary shaving of legs before the big climb and devoting an extended airtime to that? And when they were crossing the passes in the Alps, what was the point of having a guide on foot? Shouldn't he also be on the bike? That part seemed totally degrading to the whole effort of crossing a difficult terrain on the bike. Made me quit watching. From another review I see there have been silly bits like that throughout the series.
I must mention editing as well. It also falls into "annoying bits" category. While it was technically decent, the editors had an ungrateful task of balancing the screen-time between the three. So we constantly have shots jumping from one brother to the next, each of them delivering only parts of the story, complementing each other's sentences. At first it seems like a nice interplay but soon it loses its charm.
Of redeeming things there is, of course, the effort itself. The 3500 km of biking across the Pyrennes, the Alps and the Appenines is always, always worth the praise! Then there is the camera work. The beautiful shots of the Alps are always breathtaking, no matter the context. I wish they concentrated on that more. And the shots of bikers from distance, peacefully traveling through the landscape - also always look good. If you can't bring that splendor on the screen, without all the contrivances to make it "more interesting", maybe you need to find another job.
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