They Shall Not Grow Old: Peter Jackson’s WW1 Doc

A restored and colorized image showing a moment from Peter Jackson’s acclaimed WWI documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Using innovative technology, director Peter Jackson takes us back in time to the days of World War 1 in a new documentary, They Shall Not Grow Old.

While most of us see a black-and-white world when we watch World War 1 footage, the reality is quite different.  The reality is that the 1910s were very much a world in living color.  We don’t tend to see this in the archival footage of the day because the technology didn’t exist.  The groundbreaking innovations to bring us a world in technicolor wasn’t quite there just yet.  We only needed a hundred years from the war’s end and a filmmaker named Peter Jackson to make things happen.

Jackson puts quite the care into restoring and colorizing footage from a hundred years ago.  While Jackson and crew could have stopped there, they go further by converting the film into 3D.  I didn’t feel that such a conversion was necessary to be honest.  Regardless of my strong feelings when it comes to 3D films, Jackson knows what he’s doing as far as the story is concerned.  The only narration we hear comes from the veterans of World War 1–pulled from some 600 hours of archival interviews.  Put up against the visual footage we see and They Shall Not Grow Old really tells quite the story.

The restoration of the footage in its own right is something to behold to tell you the truth.  These soldiers weren’t just documented on the front lines.  We see footage of them in their training and surprisingly, during time of recreational needs!  Just when you think you know everything, along comes a documentary to change up the status quo!  To tell you just how stunning the restored footage is in quality, there were times where I thought I was watching a reenactment.  I wouldn’t put the stunt past Jackson but I just couldn’t believe how far technology has come.

With technology that allows us to restore World War 1 footage and colorize it, perhaps it may be time to think of what other wonders could be done!  Whether it is sitcoms like The Dick Van Dyke Show or I Love Lucy to films that are American classics, the sky is the limit!  For what it’s worth, this is a project that’s personal for Jackson because his grandfather fought in the war.  Just because it’s okay in this instance doesn’t mean it’s okay for everything.  One has to wonder how many directors of the classics would opt to shoot in color had the option been available to them.

They Shall Not Grow Old not only honors a bygone era but director Peter Jackson helps to bring about new innovations in the way we tell stories on screen.

DIRECTOR:  Peter Jackson

Warner Bros. Pictures will present They Shall Not Grow Old December 17 and 27, 2018 as a part of Fathom Events screenings. A limited release in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC will follow on January 11, 2019.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.