Oh Netflix, you unbelievably stupid doofuses! 😦
A young German soldier’s terrifying experiences and distress on the western front during World War I.
This, my dear readers, this could’ve been the anti-war drama to end all anti-war dramas. What the 1930 movie and the 1976 mini-series (with John-Boy Walton and Ernest Borgnine) didn’t manage, mostly due to financial restraints, should’ve been a cineastic triumph with modern production techniques and Netflix’ endless financial power. This should and could’ve been better than the overrated 1917 and totally outdone its two predecessors.
Alas it didn’t.
For various reasons. But mostly for the one reason of ignorance! Same problem as with Amazon’s total Lord of the Rings failure: You had the perfect literary blueprint with Erich Maria Remarque’s diary-like first person novel. Both predecessor movies/TV series kept very close to Remarque’s novel, and told the key-elements and scenes in the same order. That’s what makes them both more powerful than the 2022 version.
Why the muck did the modern screenplay writers think they would improve on the original material by shuffling scenes around, leaving scenes out and needlessly adding some boring political stuff. Remarque never ever leaves Paul’s perspective; he, like all his comrades, only hears about political developments through third party news and rumours. And exactly with that “trick” we get drawn into the story, not by distracting peace talks and armistices.
The director, Edward Berger, gave away a lot of the impact he could’ve achieved if he stayed on the important stuff. And in a anti-war drama, we wanna see and feel why war is shit.
OMG, how could they be so wasteful and so ignorant, so tonedeaf and amateurish?
Let’s talk about the actors and acting. Everybody did ok-ish but I don’t see any Oscar-winning performances by the mostly German cast. Daniel Brühl, as the most famous of the bunch, did well, but his role as the German negotiator was, as I said, completely uncalled for and never been part of Remarque’s novel.
The direction and/or screenplay was a bit too much on your nose, the drama of war artificially overdramatized. This, my dear Netflixers, is adult material for adult audiences, for real human beings. It should’ve been written and filmed by adults, not by Gen Z-ers.
Need an example? Paul’s death for example: In the novel Paul is a naturist, a dreamer. On some day in spring or summer 1918 he notices a butterfly in front of his part of the trench. Curiously he tries to grab it … headshot by French sniper. End of story. In a very short closing paragraph Remarque just notes that the military report for that day only stated “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Why did this stupid stupid movie had to have Paul shot from behind while staring at another French soldier, like 5 minutes before the armistice of 11:00h on the11.11.1918. Needless spectacle with much less dramatic impact.
Also in the novel Paul and his classmates are volunteering pretty early on, I guess in 1914 already, and the novel, shows us how all the patriotism and confidence (“at xmas we’re in Paris!”) get slowly shelled out of Paul and his comrades in the following four years. In the 2022 Netflix movie they only join the army in 1917, when Germany’s defeat is already written on the wall.
And they totally misinterpreted some other scenes as well. The short romance with some French girls, was as typical and sad as you can imagine. In the movie they got rid of it in 2 minutes flat. We learn nothing, neither about Paul’s awkwardness as he loses his virginity nor about the French girls or how hungry and desperate they all were during that time. All these little scenes are not spectacular but very enlightening and belong to he most powerful and memorable parts of the novel. In the novel and the other movies there is also a sequence about Paul’s home vacation and how ignorant all the old geezers in the village pub are still shouting senseless paroles and refuse to listen to the “clueless young man”.
When you wanna make an anti-war movie you better leave such scenes in and don’t redact them out for some ADHD youngsters in the audience. FFS!
And speaking of spectacle. If you expected to see a big battle painting, like we know it from some Waterloo movies or Chinese battles with 3 million extras n stuff, you’ll be disappointed as well. 3 pretty short sequences of German, respectively French offensives, is all we get to see. The scale of the trench scenes were much better in 1917, although not too shabby in this one neither. The earth-shaking impact of artillery barrage tho, is missing from this version.
CONCLUSION: Netflix is kinda infamous for producing more garbage than really good movies. All Quiet on the Western Front had all the right ingredients to break the curse. German talent filming one of the most famous German novels, these guys shoulda know what it’s all about, no?
Turns out No indeed. 😦
PS: Don’t think I’ve stopped watching movies altogether. I’ve got around 3 million watched movies but was too busy/lazy to review them. I promise to produce at least a roundhouse kick soon-ish. Ok?