Fantasia Blog: First Squad: The Moment of Truth|
I haven't even gotten to the worst part of the film, which I understand is lifted straight from the show. Periodically, short clips of real experts (or actors?) intersperse the action, either to tell us about the real history of the war, or to explain how parts of the narrative could be real. The former lend an interesting tone to the film, reminding us how real the war was, especially when the interviewees are war veterans. They do, however, also break the flow, and the suspension of disbelief (it's hard to but into the ghost battle when you've just heard about somebody's real experience.) However, the latter type of testimonial is the real problem - some of the experts tell us how sedatives and shell-shock could have caused hallucinations to explain anything that's not from the real histories, while others go on at length about how all the secret occult things really happened, and how Germany really had a plan to summon the souls of their ancestors. These conflicting attitudes, one vouching that the story is a fever dream while the other tells us that much of it is real, undermine each other and the credibility of the film as both an attempt to tell a real story and as fiction.
While my colleagues who I spoke to after the movie (some of whom fell asleep for much of it) found the visual style very dull, I must say that it was the one aspect of the movie I enjoyed. Aside from the cgi/drawn vehicles that pervade anime nowadays, it reminded me very strongly of Battle Angel Alita and Akira, minus the excellent settings and interesting monsters.
First Squad is an interesting idea, but bites off about three times more than it can chew. If they had dropped the whole occult aspect, the testimonials could have made it an excellent way to engage with a Russian perspective on WWII. If they'd dropped the testimonials, it could have been a good fantasy (with a bit more work on the characters.)