They Shall Not Grow Old: An incredible film restoration project

I am a huge fan of restored motion pictures and vintage films.  Back when AMC was “American Movie Classics,” they would host an annual weekend “Film Preservation Festival” on TV, with commercial-free broadcasts of restored and preserved films – such as the Todd-AO version of Oklahoma, the roadshow version of It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and the 1920’s edition of Charlie Chaplins The Gold Rush – the version where Chaplin kisses Lita Grey in his only on-screen love scene.

That’s why this upcoming film release by director Peter Jackson intrigues me so.

Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and other blockbuster films, took on this incredible project.  He examined thousands of reels of action and war footage from World War I, and through the use of film preservation and restoration, he brought the images up to a standard we currently would appreciate.  The films were colorized, the scratches were removed, and sound was given to the silent soldiers.

The result – is this incredible film, They Shall Not Grow Old.

Here is a preview of the film, which will appear in cinemas for two nights in December.

This is incredible.  It’s almost as if we’ve been transported back in time and are walking through the trenches with the infantry.  We see the weapons, we see the wounded, we see the action of a war that was supposed to end war … and it’s as crisp and as clear as if someone took a GoPro to Gallipoli.

Now here’s the thing.  I was not a fan of colorizing black and white movies, I thought that the early attempts were too cartoonish, the colors were not properly balanced, and the aesthetics of a colorized film took viewers out of the story.

This time, however, Jackson brings us into the story.  We see the tanks rolling through the battlefields.  We see the wounded soldiers, their eyes torn from exposure to mustard gas, walking in a processional, each man resting his hand on the shoulder of his comrade ahead.

Here’s a clip from They Shall Not Grow Old, in which the British soldiers discuss their meeting with the German soldiers.

They Shall Not Grow Old will appear as a special theater performance on December 17 and 27, and when it plays in this area, I definitely want to see it.

It just looks incredible.

Totally incredible.