Anchor Bay / 2011 / 191 min / NR
There's really only one reason anybody would want to make a drama about the Hindenburg disaster: to film the unforgettable sequence where the legendary zeppelin crashes down in flames. But you need a little more than explosions to justify a lengthy miniseries. So the writers crafted a what-if sabotage scenario around the event. That's a fair enough story, but it just didn't feel as if there was any heart in the characters. This is evident as the director decides to spoil the money shots of the disaster within the first few seconds of the miniseries. It's almost as if the producers are apologizing in advance for making you sit through over two hours of bad acting before the main event.
Right after the opening sequence, we're treated to a sequence of characters testing a glider to the most off-putting country music ever chosen for a period piece. This is the only time you hear this music as the tone is just gloom, doom and intrigue for the rest of the film. We are introduced to an array of characters that are mainly used as puppets for several subplots that I honestly couldn't keep track of nor did I care enough to do so. The central story involves a bomb being placed on the Hindenburg, discussions with Nazis, a family's scorn and a whole lot of politics crammed into every inch.
There is hardly any character development and the characters themselves are more recognizable as plot devices than human beings. A conspiracy tale about a planted bomb on a vessel can only work as well as the characters you fill it with. That's what made Titanic work so well; we actually cared for the characters so that when the visual effects extravaganza starts up we care about who dies. This film seems so focused on crafting a thriller that it forgets to inject emotion. Even the actors realize how lackluster this script is that they clearly are not trying. This is most evident with a reporter that hams up the climax far too much to take seriously. The dialogue is also equally base that you could have a drinking game with how many times the characters ask where the bomb is.
Okay, so forget the characters and the plot. How does the actual disaster stack up? For a TV miniseries, the visual effects are pretty decent. There is a lot of computer generated fire when the explosions start, but most of the time it looks believable. It's only when the fire is used to engulf people or send them flying that they really take you out of the film. The large crowd shots where people flee from falling debris of the zeppelin is pretty cool to see and certainly helps the movie go out with a bang.
Oh, but the movie doesn't end there. You'd think the film would cut its losses and end on a high note, but, no, it still has to wrap up all those conspiracy threads. Threads, I remind you, that we're too dull and drawn out to care about. Did the director honestly think that anybody would keep watching for an additional 20 minutes after the big explosion? I'm not trying to sound like a mindless thrill seeker, but the acting and plotlines are just so unbelievably dull and dry that even the most focused audience would lose interest. And at three hours the word bloated doesn't even begin to describe the monotony.
Despite the garish colors and dreary palette, Anchor Bay still turns in an impressive DVD. The anamorphic widescreen is very clean and free of errors, showing off some of the exceptional camera quality. And while the music is just as sleep-inducing, the soundtrack is still quite clear and well-mixed for a 5.1 audio track.
No extras are included on this DVD.
I'm trying really hard not to make a comparison of this overwritten miniseries to the failure of the Hindenburg flight, but there just isn't a whole lot here to keep it afloat. This is the SyFy Channel movie-of-the-week treatment for a historical drama. You only really watch a movie like this for one thing and once it gives you the money shot in the first few seconds what point is there in watching the remaining three hours?