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-   -   Plot Holes in World War II (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=645923)

Derleth 03-21-2012 09:30 PM

Plot Holes in World War II
 
Someone has finally pointed up some of the biggest failings in a very popular episode in the history of "The Universe" and we certainly can't miss out on that, can we? Especially when it's so incisive:
Quote:

Apparently we're supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren't that evil. And that's not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.
Indeed; you can't make some trait a defining feature of a character and then throw it out entirely when you get a new idea. Or, if you do, be sure to actually throw it out; maybe then the audience won't remember the nasty trick you just played on them. Flipping back and forth just doesn't go.

Quote:

So it's pretty standard "shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong" versus "evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide" stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics. The actual strategy of the war is barely any better. Just to give one example, in the Battle of the Bulge, a vastly larger force of Germans surround a small Allied battalion and demand they surrender or be killed. The Allied general sends back a single-word reply: "Nuts!". The Germans attack, and, miraculously, the tiny Allied force holds them off long enough for reinforcements to arrive and turn the tide of battle. Whoever wrote this episode obviously had never been within a thousand miles of an actual military.
Admittedly, it's possible to retcon your way out of a bad spot, as has happened in this case regarding the worst of the black-and-white morality. However, it doesn't count in some sense: The work is done, it's finished, and if you wanted to have said something different you're too late. Especially when it's obviously a different author writing the later episodes; going from this episode to the bigger-budget episodes in the "Cold War" plot arc is like Stan Lee handing off to Alan Moore or, in some regrettable cases, Frank Miller.

Anyway, the whole thing is worth a read. He doesn't touch on some of the other absurdities, like how Germany's anti-Semitic policy just happens to force out enough of the scientists working on the A-bomb miracle weapon (a largely unheralded deus ex machina, something one of the characters even remarked on in-story) so the Americans have it and the Germans never even come close, except for some espionage subplot fodder. All this after building up Germany and Austria as a wonderful place for science and culture, and giving the Germans (largely ineffective) wonder-weapons like the early jets and ballistic missiles. Again, inconsistency just doesn't go.

(And don't even get me started on some of the characters. Patton would never be allowed within spitting range of a real tank, let alone be allowed to rise all the way up to umpty-star general so he could gallivant around and fulfill a delusional reincarnation fantasy. It's like they didn't even care that the whole Theosophy plot was largely done with decades' worth of story time before this whole mess began.)

Chronos 03-21-2012 10:04 PM

Eh, I can gloss over the obvious anachronisms and shortening the time for major research projects and the like, and of course they're going to Godwinize the main villains-- Moral ambiguity doesn't sell. But I just couldn't buy some of those over-the-top action heroes. Audie Murphy? Yeah, right. I'll bet the actor they got to play him had never won so much as a bar brawl. And don't even get me started on that Simo Hayak guy.

Voyager 03-22-2012 12:31 AM

One of the main enemy nations building most of the houses of their capital city out of paper? So it can be bombed, and crackle, crackle, crackle, burn up? Sure.

And the cliched general who said "I shall return." And a major sea battle turning at the last minute thanks to a plucky group of fighter pilots. Please, don't rip off Star Wars for your plot points, okay?

Gatopescado 03-22-2012 12:41 AM

Lets just fool ourself by calling our bombers "Flying Fortress" and send them all the way to Berlin without escort, in broad daylight! and think that will change the tide of war!

MichaelEmouse 03-22-2012 01:11 AM

A bit formulaic for my taste. After the success of the first one, the sequel brought back most of the cast and added more explosions, ending with a Michael Bay finale.

SecretaryofEvil 03-22-2012 01:36 AM

I liked:

"the Soviet strongman whose name means "Man of Steel" in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman "Man of Steel" and the Frenchman "de Gaulle", whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot)."

movingfinger 03-22-2012 01:51 AM

And of course the pivotal battle between the Germans and Russians took place at a town called "Stalingrad". Oh, yeah; that took some imagination.

Tom Scud 03-22-2012 02:02 AM

I like his point about how the British PM is a total Mary Sue.

Little Nemo 03-22-2012 02:16 AM

There was weak pacing too. Look at the early months of the war. The whole "Invasion of Poland" story was over in just four weeks. And then nothing happened for six months! They all just sitting around acting like there isn't even a war going on.

Then suddenly in May, they finally remember they're supposed to be fighting. But do they do it right? No. France, which was supposed to be this big strong power, rolls right over. Yeah right, like that's believable. Any of you guys ever hear about World War I and five years of fighting?

My guess is they saw they were getting low ratings and they figured the war was going to be cancelled. So they threw together all of the stuff they had been saving up for the rest of the war as a grand finale. Then what happens? The war doesn't get cancelled after all! So now they have to rewrite the whole story and make Britain be the new big strong power.

Britain! Like a little island is going to be able to do something when a big country like France couldn't. And they had already written themselves in a corner by writing out the entire British Army. And they had to recast the British government and bring in new characters.

wedgehed 03-22-2012 04:06 AM

I was all set for some big payback when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but what do the Americans do? They invade NORTH AFRICA!

WTF?

It took me completely out of the story.

Slithy Tove 03-22-2012 04:28 AM

All you complainers got what you deserve. Everyone knows Rabat anything with Roman numerals in the title sucks.

Alka Seltzer 03-22-2012 06:29 AM

Quote:

So it's pretty standard "shining amazing good guys who can do no wrong" versus "evil legions of darkness bent on torture and genocide" stuff, totally ignoring the nuances and realities of politics.
I guess the author has never heard of Mers-el-Kébir, Dresden or Hiroshima. The axis powers won the "most evil" prize hands down, but there were plenty of questionable actions on the allied side. Even the history channel has touched on some of them.

JohnT 03-22-2012 08:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wedgehed (Post 14890409)
I was all set for some big payback when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, but what do the Americans do? They invade NORTH AFRICA!

WTF?

It took me completely out of the story.

Imho, this was a (not too subtle) jab at Bush2 who invaded Iraq after being attacked by Saudis.

I will say that having the American President die before the end of the war was a shocker. However, they ruined the moment by replacing him with a guy from Missouri who went from County Judge to Senator to VP to President in all of 10 years. :rolleyes:

RealityChuck 03-22-2012 08:32 AM

What lost it for me was that the most decisive battle of the Pacific naval war was won because the American fighters just happened to attack the Japanese carriers when all their planes were on deck and switching from fighter ammunition to bombs in order to attack Midway. I mean, the timing was just plain unbelievable.

I also didn't like the deus ex machina of "radar." One side has a secret weapon that can show the other sides planes and ships from a distance, but the other does not? Pretty damn convenient.

And don't get me started on how the British were able to break the German's unbreakable code.

Sailboat 03-22-2012 08:32 AM

Good follow-on in the comments:

Quote:

Oh, and lets not forget the episode with the heroic PT boat captain whose boat is sheared in half by a Japanese destroyer. The captain then swims to an island, while carrying a wounded crewman, and once he gets TO the island, sends a message to come rescue him to the Navy. Written on a coconut! He then gets elected President and sends men to the moon!

Really, who ARE these hacks writing the WWII series for History Channel?

well he's back 03-22-2012 08:44 AM

Oh I love this thread! (How I wish some clever History teacher could use it in a class for those students who claim history is dull. Truth = stranger than fiction, obviously.)

I have nothing clever to add, though.

Death of Rats 03-22-2012 08:44 AM

You have to give them credit though, for a small show in a cable channel they have a hell of a special effects team. Some of those explosions look real, not to mention the SFX on the death scenes.

JohnT 03-22-2012 08:48 AM

Let's not even get into how America did in this thing - WTF, did these people think that we'd believe this crap?

Let's look at the timeline:

1939 - Depression
1940 - Depression
1941 - Depression
1942 - Getting ass kicked left and right
1943 - Finally starting to fight back at the periphery
1944 - Huge fuckin' army, huge fucking industrial output. Invade Europe by water, island-hopping in the Pacific. Weren't they in a depression just 2, 3 years ago (show time)?
1945 - Huge fuckin' army, winning a 2 front war, miracle super-weapons, standing-off the true "winner" of WW2 in Europe

There's not enough :rolleyes: in the world for such an arc. Might as well give the US a magic wand while we're at it, guys.

Son of a Rich 03-22-2012 08:52 AM

The notion that, with millions of people dying and the whole world in chaos, a general could get in trouble for just slapping a guy is pretty stupid.

Wargamer 03-22-2012 08:59 AM

And please, you expect me to believe that some obscure Lieutenant Colonel in the beginning of 1941 will rise to become the Supreme Allied Commander by 1944? When he had never even commanded so much as a batallion in combat prior to this war? And that he won't command any in combat before his promotion? That he will then go on to become President due to his immense popularity?

Talk about Mary Sues.

Wargamer 03-22-2012 09:02 AM

And don't get me started about said Lt. Col's former boss. You know, the guy who, while commanding the most important outpost in the Western Pacific, managed to get caught by surprise even though he had NINE HOURS warning of the Pearl Harbor raid. The guy who managed to lose his entire air force on the ground. Who consistently lied to his superiors about how the fighting was going.

And when he finally gets away, those same superiors award him the nation's highest medal for valor and appoint him to command the entire SW Pacific war effort.

Scumpup 03-22-2012 09:05 AM

I thought it was rather juvenile that the bad guys had uniforms and weapons designed to be evil looking. I mean, things like that "Luger" pistol? Coal-scuttle helmets? It's like stuff from a comic book aimed at 6-year olds...

Lumpy 03-22-2012 09:14 AM

I don't get that the Soviet Union gets bitch slapped by tiny little Finland, and yet somehow heroicially defeats the much larger and better armed Germany. And what is it with Finland anyway? It's like the writers can't decide if they're supposed to be good guys or bad guys. They start out as good guys, but because they against someone who's against the main bad guys, that makes them bad guys by extension? And on a related note the story just glosses over that the British more or less conquer Iceland and yet we don't hear a peep about it. Frankly I kept expecting the British to do that to Ireland, especially after rabidly pro-imperial Churchill takes over; but it never happens.

Little Nemo 03-22-2012 09:17 AM

It was pretty obvious towards the end that they were setting everything up so that they could do a World War III series with Britain and America fighting Russia. But I guess World War II didn't do well enough and they never made the sequel.

JohnT 03-22-2012 09:19 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JohnT (Post 14890815)
1945 - Huge fuckin' army, winning a 2 front war, miracle super-weapons, standing-off the true "winner" of WW2 in Europe

Sorry to quote myself, but the highlighted part bothers me the most. We're told that one can't win a two-front war: that was the main point of episode 28 (Hitler Double Downs) where the German High Command argue about whether to finish the job in the West by invading Britain or to start a two-front war by invading Russia.

Hell, one of the characters even referenced the last time that Germany got into a two-front war: Even though they won one of the fronts, they still lost the war!

So the audience has been primed to believe that a two-front war is unwinnable, and the results of the German experience seems to bear them out, especially during episodes 36 (Trouble in Moscow), 44-49 (the Stalingrad sequence), and thereafter, right?

WRONG! Apparently the US (who I consider to be the true Mary Sue of the series) can do what the Germans cannot and win, not only a two front war, but a two front war fought thousands of miles away from the home country.

Not to mention the fact that they were in a Depression like 3 years prior.

Like I said: not enough :rolleyes: in the world for that one.

Bridget Burke 03-22-2012 09:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scumpup (Post 14890870)
I thought it was rather juvenile that the bad guys had uniforms and weapons designed to be evil looking. I mean, things like that "Luger" pistol? Coal-scuttle helmets? It's like stuff from a comic book aimed at 6-year olds...

Not to mention the Stukas! And the V-2--that looked like a kid's drawing of a rocket ship!

davidm 03-22-2012 09:34 AM

You want to talk about lazy writing? You want to talk about deus ex machina? The whole thing gets suddenly cut short by a new mad scientist invention that is orders of magnitude bigger than anything used up to that point. Why even bother with any fighting to begin with? Just pull a crazy ass big bomb out of your butt and obliterate the other side. :rolleyes:

They more or less ended the European part of it with an exciting large scale invasion and takeover, then decided to abruptly end the Pacific part of it with some bad science fiction. :mad:

Gedd 03-22-2012 09:37 AM

And what's with that character who fought with a bow, arrows, and broadsword? Seriously? They might as well have had another using a phaser!

JohnT 03-22-2012 09:38 AM

Well, the Pacific side of the story was a bit draggy after all... how many islands does one have to hop to get to Japan, anyway? And who can tell the difference between all those places - "Ooh, I remember Iwo Jima! That's the one with the palm trees, right?" :rolleyes:

To be honest, I was getting kind of tired of the whole thing by then. Might as well bring out some superweapon if all the audience is going to get is lookalike island after lookalike island - just end it and put everybody out of their misery.

Tom Scud 03-22-2012 09:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by davidm (Post 14890968)
You want to talk about lazy writing? You want to talk about deus ex machina? The whole thing gets suddenly cut short by a new mad scientist invention that is orders of magnitude bigger than anything used up to that point. Why even bother with any fighting to begin with? Just pull a crazy ass big bomb out of your butt and obliterate the other side. :rolleyes:

They more or less ended the European part of it with an exciting large scale invasion and takeover, then decided to abruptly end the Pacific part of it with some bad science fiction. :mad:

I don't agree. They had all those sequences in the New Mexico desert with the physicists leading up to it. Doesn't really look like something they cut in at the last minute. I guess they figured they'd already done the massive invasion and villain's last stand thing, and didn't want to take a second dip out of the same well. Not quite sure why they didn't just have the two invasions and last stands run in parallel.

Scumpup 03-22-2012 09:50 AM

OTOH, the musical soundtrack was pretty good. I especially liked the big band music they used for some of the scenes involving the Americans.

Hypno-Toad 03-22-2012 09:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bridget Burke (Post 14890954)
Not to mention the Stukas! And the V-2--that looked like a kid's drawing of a rocket ship!

They totally stole that rocket footage from all those 50's sci-fi b-movies.

Koxinga 03-22-2012 10:23 AM

The whole feminist "Rosie the Riveter" subplot was anachronistic and jarring. Come on, author, this was almost three quarters of a century ago, barely after women had even gotten the vote. Way to project modern values there. And that whole plucky women's baseball thing? My eyes about rolled out of my head.

Bridget Burke 03-22-2012 10:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scumpup (Post 14891014)
OTOH, the musical soundtrack was pretty good. I especially liked the big band music they used for some of the scenes involving the Americans.

Yeah, but I got tired of all that Wagner....

Scumpup 03-22-2012 10:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Koxinga (Post 14891118)
The whole feminist "Rosie the Riveter" subplot was anachronistic and jarring. Come on, author, this was almost three quarters of a century ago, barely after women had even gotten the vote. Way to project modern values there. And that whole plucky women's baseball thing? My eyes about rolled out of my head.

Yeah, I felt much the same way about making one of the leaders a handicapped person and having his wife played by an obvious transvestite.

JohnT 03-22-2012 10:33 AM

Wait.. I thought the Pres's wife was trans-gendered? Never crossed my mind that was a man in women's clothing. (Which, I guess, would make the Pres a homosexual?)

To be honest, considering the time period, I just assumed "she" was a really ugly broad with English teeth.

Edward The Head 03-22-2012 10:34 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scumpup (Post 14891014)
OTOH, the musical soundtrack was pretty good. I especially liked the big band music they used for some of the scenes involving the Americans.

Yeah, but you're not supposed to kill off the band leader.

Scumpup 03-22-2012 10:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Edward The Head (Post 14891153)
Yeah, but you're not supposed to kill off the band leader.

That really was an obvious attempt by the writers to jerk the viewers around emotionally, wasn't it? Lazy and clumsy writing. I've seen better in student films.

Jim's Son 03-22-2012 10:38 AM

Only good song is from the Nazis.."Lily Marlene"?

Japanese stage elaborate plan to get American carriers ambushed at Midway and don't bother with enough planes and submarines to find them? They reduce the size of their own carrier force because of airplane losses at Coral Sea while lazy decadent Americans work 72 hours to make Yorktown battle ready after damage estimated to need 4-5 months? I thought these guys practiced quality control.

Allies go to war to save Poland from murderous dictatorship (Germany) and it ends up being ruled by murderous dictatorship (Soviet Union). Russians then sit on judge panel at Nuremberg and are probably the harshest in condemning German war crimes, including blaming the ones they committed at the Katyn Forest on them.

British reward the man who warned them about Hitler in the 1930s, led them to victory as Prime Minister by kicking him out of office in 1945.

Truman becomes President after the death of the ailing FDR who doesn't tell him about the Manhattan Project?

Germany ignores lessons of First World War that large surface ships will sit in port or be sunk by superior British Fleet by building Graf Spee, Bismarck, Tirpitz, Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and several others that are quickly sunk and do little damage.

Sweden stays neutral, makes pile of money selling iron ore to Germans and spends next 40 years telling the Allies who defeat Hitler that they are corrupt evil men, unlike pure Swedes.

You tell me that this guy Stauffenberg will plant a bomb next to Hitler but it will be moved by an unsuspecting aide who stumbles over it. Placed at the other side of the table, the blast is muted. Force of blast is also reduced because the meeting is not in regular bunker with thick walls to keep blast in. Meanwhile this plot fails because these military people spend time listening to radio for reports on Hitler while philosophy PhD propaganda minister rallies key members to convince them that Hitler is still in charge.

American harvard educated President is surprised when Japan attacks without warning. Come on, the guy's fourth cousin (and his wife's uncle) when the Nobel Peace prize 37 years earlier for helping to end war when Japan attacked Russia without a declaration of war. And your fleet is damaged by aerial torpedo attacks because you think you don't need torpedo nets at Pearl harbor? How did the British aerial torpedo the Italians at Taranto a few months earlier?
Next you will tell me the guy thinks he can charm a cold blooded murderer like Stalin.

Immigrants from Europe play a major role in developing atomic bomb. Press labels the effort as another example of "Yankee Ingenuity".

Lumpy 03-22-2012 10:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JohnT (Post 14890743)
I will say that having the American President die before the end of the war was a shocker. However, they ruined the moment by replacing him with a guy from Missouri who went from County Judge to Senator to VP to President in all of 10 years. :rolleyes:

They had to write him out after the actor quit the series. There was supposed to be a subplot about how the Missouri replacement was the tool of a political machine, but they didn't follow up on that.

To follow up on my previous post, the whole series seems to be built around a rather disturbing theme: that if someone is eeevul enough, the people fighting against him are justified in doing anything at all. Great moral for the kiddies.

Dallas Jones 03-22-2012 10:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scumpup (Post 14890870)
I thought it was rather juvenile that the bad guys had uniforms and weapons designed to be evil looking. I mean, things like that "Luger" pistol? Coal-scuttle helmets? It's like stuff from a comic book aimed at 6-year olds...

Storm Troopers? Really!

Little Nemo 03-22-2012 11:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lumpy (Post 14891191)
They had to write him out after the actor quit the series. There was supposed to be a subplot about how the Missouri replacement was the tool of a political machine, but they didn't follow up on that.

The Vice President wasn't an important role so they apparently didn't bother casting a regular in it. If you pay attention you can see three different people playing Roosevelt's Vice President.

Little Nemo 03-22-2012 11:32 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JohnT (Post 14891147)
To be honest, considering the time period, I just assumed "she" was a really ugly broad with English teeth.

Another continuity blooper. If you watch the credits, you'll see they have her last name listed as Roosevelt even before she got married.

Gedd 03-22-2012 11:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jim's Son (Post 14891167)
(Snip)You tell me that this guy Stauffenberg will plant a bomb next to Hitler but it will be moved by an unsuspecting aide who stumbles over it. Placed at the other side of the table, the blast is muted. Force of blast is also reduced because the meeting is not in regular bunker with thick walls to keep blast in. Meanwhile this plot fails because these military people spend time listening to radio for reports on Hitler while philosophy PhD propaganda minister rallies key members to convince them that Hitler is still in charge.

They made Hitler a very unbelievable character IMHO. Really, how many times did he survive an assassination attempt because a bomb just didn't work for some reason, or because he just happened to change his plans? I wouldn't be surprised to find out in some "Making Of" special that he offed himself with a silver bullet or a solution made from unobtainium.

Duke 03-22-2012 11:47 AM

That whole North Africa campaign was just an excuse to introduce a desert setting. I think merchandising was pushing them to include one so kids could recreate it in their sandboxes.

Dallas Jones 03-22-2012 12:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Duke (Post 14891438)
That whole North Africa campaign was just an excuse to introduce a desert setting. I think merchandising was pushing them to include one so kids could recreate it in their sandboxes.

It was a set-up for the spin off series, The Rat Patrol.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060018/

Voyager 03-22-2012 12:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad (Post 14891039)
They totally stole that rocket footage from all those 50's sci-fi b-movies.

True. But they introduced the concept, and then threw it away. The bad guys secret weapon has no effect, and the good guys secret weapon wins the war. Very bad writing.

And did you notice how the scientists on the bad guys side are all conflicted? One slows up their atomic bomb secret weapon program and the other becomes a good guy in the sequel.

But I did like the comic release sequence where the high official of the bad guys flies to the good guys side, under their noses.

billfish678 03-22-2012 12:42 PM

I dunno. I really like the use of the "shaky cam" footage. If I hadn't know better I would say all that footage was taken during an actual war. I also like how they didn't bow down to modern sensibilities and shot most of the movie in black and white for artistic effect (and the obvious moral implications of course).

And all the smoking going on throughout the show. I loved it. Fuck all those health nuts and "smoking is bad for you..mmkay?" There's a war on, fuck you and your worries about second hand smoke.

Ludovic 03-22-2012 12:46 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jim's Son (Post 14891167)
Only good song is from the Nazis.."Lily Marlene"?

Original songs, yes. There's also at least two Pink Floyd cover songs.

TriPolar 03-22-2012 01:06 PM

Then there's the biblical metaphor at the end. When the Eastern and Western sides of the Alliance can't decide who owns Germany, they cut the baby in half.


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