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How Peter Jackson Brought WWI to Life

'They Shall Not Grow Old' shows the war in full color
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 26, 2018 2:22 AM CST
Updated Dec 26, 2018 7:15 AM CST

(Newser) – The director of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies has brought another world to life—and this one is real. Peter Jackson's latest film, They Shall Not Grow Old, uses colorized World War I footage and old veterans' interviews to tell the story of British soldiers on the Western Front, the New York Times reports. Much of the media focus is on Jackson's incredible footage restoration: His team not only sped up frame rates and added frames to make the jerky, hand-held film appeal to modern eyes, they hired a company to colorize much of it and a historian to identify colors down to the uniform buttons. Then came "forensic lip readers," who spotted what soldiers were likely saying and helped Jackson's team reconstruct the audio.

"You recognize the minutiae of being a human being; it suddenly comes into sharp focus," Jackson tells the Atlantic about their work. "You realize, for 100 years, we've seen these guys at a super-fast speed, full of grain, jerky, jumping up and down, which has completely disguised their humanity." Narrated by veterans' interviews from the 1960s and '70s, They Shall Not Grow Old focuses on the everyday—basic training, trench life, how soldiers killed time—and inevitably shows the horror of going "over the top." The documentary has high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and banked an impressive $2.3 million at 1,142 North American theaters Dec. 17, Variety reports; more screenings are slated for Dec. 27 and a theatrical release in early 2019. (A World War I naval mystery was recently solved.)

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