'Beyond All Boundaries' documents Pearl harbor to VJ Day

November 09, 2009

ENTONVILLE — Veterans Day will be upon us in two days, but it came a little early this year in New Orleans.

The Big Easy is where you'll find the National World War II Museum. On Friday, the museum opened three new venues -- a theater, a canteen and a restaurant -- as part of a $300 million expansion that is expected to continue through 2015.

The centerpiece of this expansion is the Solomon Victory Theater. It was built specifically for one movie, "Beyond All Boundaries." Produced by actor Tom Hanks, the 35-minute film, shown on a 120-foot-wide screen, takes viewers on a journey from Pearl Harbor to VJ Day.

But this isn't your run-of-the-mill war movie; it's presented in "4-D," meaning that seats shake, a simulated wind blows and snow falls.

"There's actual things that pop up, actual elements that come into it that put you in the environment," Hanks said.

Hanks, who also narrates the film, said it took about five years to make "Beyond All Boundaries" -- longer than the war itself.

Whenever World War II and Hollywood are mentioned in the same breath, it's a sure bet that you'll hear Hanks' name somewhere in between. He starred in the blockbuster 1998 film "Saving Private Ryan." He helped write and produce the Emmy Award-winning miniseries "Band of Brothers," and now he's working on a follow-up miniseries, "The Pacific." He also has helped raise money for the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as the museum in New Orleans.

We frequently hear stories about certain celebrities spending outrageous sums of money, making yet another trip to rehab, and in general making complete fools of themselves.

Every new story adds to the perception that there's a significant rift between Hollywood and middle America.

The most recent example of this divide is the "debate" over whether director Roman Polanski should have to face sentencing for raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, but fled the country before his sentencing.

Incredibly, some in Hollywood have argued that authorities should give the guy a break -- thus giving conservative pundits even more ammunition in their campaign to portray Hollywooders as the most evil people since Saddam Hussein.

Hanks, for one, has steered clear of the Polanski controversy. In fact, throughout his career, he's done a fairly good job of maintaining his down-to-earth, good-guy persona. With the possible exception of "Joe Versus the Volcano," he has not embarrassed himself.

Like a lot of Hollywooders, Hanks has made no secret of his political views. Last year he supported Barack Obama for president, and he was one of the leading opponents of a constitutional amendment in California that banned same-sex marriage.

But it's hard to think of him as a polarizing figure. Many of us grew up watching as he made the leap from television ("Bosom Buddies") to star in some of the most popular films of the last two decades. People still line up to see his movies. His last major release, "Angels & Demons," will go down as one of the highest-grossing movies of 2009.

It doesn't hurt Hanks' reputation that he has been out front in the effort to make new generations of Americans aware of the tremendous sacrifices our troops made during World War II. With hundreds of World War II veterans dying every day, it becomes increasingly urgent to record their stories for posterity. That's what Hanks is doing.

"Saving Private Ryan" -- directed by Steven Spielberg -- brought a history lesson to life with its intense opening scene showing the landing of the Allies at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Now Hanks gives us "Beyond All Boundaries," which I haven't seen, but I imagine is an extraordinary show (at least it should be, for all the time and money invested in it).

I've never had much desire to visit New Orleans, but after visiting the World War I Museum in Kansas City this summer, the history buff inside me is itching to get to the World War II Museum -- especially now that I know about the Victory Theater.

I suspect (and hope) that a lot of people will be drawn to New Orleans for the same reason.

By Dave Perozek

Source : NWA Online