The Pacific: Spielberg & Hanks historical hit

Mar 17, 2010 at 1:01 a.m. ET

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg brought World War II to the screen with Band of Brothers. Now, the duo investigates the other side of WWII with The Pacific, a 10-hour epic that tells the story of U.S. Marines who paid a harsh physical, psychological and emotional price in the name of freedom.

While most WWII movies focus on the European Theater of Operations, this venture seeks to investigate the much less examined Pacific Theater of Operations.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks (center) at The Pacific premiere

"The European war at World War II was the last war of its kind, in which great armies fought and an enemy soldier could throw up his hands [and] his war would be over," Hanks explained. "The war in the Pacific was more like the wars we've seen ever since--a war of racism and terror, a war of absolute horrors, both on the battlefield and in the regular living conditions."

While most of us recognize the locations of European battles, the Pacific Theater is less obvious, taking place on little islands like Peleliu, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

"These islands were stepping stones to the mainland of Japan and we were trained by the enemy how to fight the enemy," Spielberg said. "They trained us how to fight like them and we fought in a very different way than we fought the axis in Europe. I don't want to compare one war to the other in terms of savagery, but throughout this particular engagement, there's a level when nature and humanity conspire against the individual."

The Pacific airs Monday nights on HBO

The brutal story follows a crew of marines throughout the entire course of events leading up to the dropping of the two atomic bombs, with actor James Badge Dale playing Robert Leckie, Jon Seda as John Basilone, Joe Mazzello as Eugene Sledge and Ashton Holmes as Sid Phillip.

"What moved us to tell these stories based on these survivors, these veterans, was, in essence, to see what happens to the human soul," Spielberg said.

The HBO original film has received rave reviews, but Hanks, who has been working the news circuit, is now getting flack for a quote in his recent Time Magazine cover interview.

"Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as yellow, slant-eyed dogs that believed in different gods," Hanks reported in the article. "They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what's going on today?"

The Pacific has a picnic

Critics are claiming the statement slanderous, attacking both soldiers and Marines who fought in the Pacific in the '40s and those fighting Islamist terror in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think -- of the movie and the controversy.

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