Possibly one of the first disasters to be caught on TV feed, The Hindenburg is one of those moments that people will reflect back and note with historical importance. This 2011 adaptation was originally a three-hour TV adaptation but has been scaled down to just over half that to make a relatively pacey movie that despite some iffy accents, is relatively well put together and the actual disaster itself is surprisingly explosive.
Runtime: 3hrs (TV), 1hr 38 mins (Movie)
We follow the secret lives of various people aboard the Hindenburg before it fatefully bursts into flames. Who will survive?
The Disasters Faced
A bomb, a ton of hydrogen, static electricity, an affinity with men’s toilets and some dodgy guess the accent games.
Due to the fact that no one has ever been able to pinpoint the exact cause of the disaster, this film decides to take several of the theories and merge them all together. Most of the character-driven plot and subtext drive the bomb theory and this throws most of the cast into the “who’s got the bomb” story. What that does, by shrinking the story down by half, is drop a lot of the subplots and characters into a few small scenes. A Jewish family is introduced about half hour in with a suspiciously pervy magician but then suddenly are thrown into main characters for the explosion and then be dropped straight after. I assume these, as well as other supporting cast members, had more time on screen in the TV series. As a whole though, there doesn’t appear to be gaping holes missing in the story. However in the background an electrical storm is going on throughout and this is the other main theory for the crash. It’s fun to see the two ideas flirted with. As for the disaster itself, for what only lasted a minute in real life, it’s stretched to a couple on film in slow motion but is well done, even if it’s quickly over.
The Hindenburg looks fantastic. Good sets, period cars and the ship itself look great. The explosion itself and subsequent action are well shot and the flame effects are way above the standard TV fare. There’s some good burn make up too. Yum!
Why It’s Worth Watching
From a historical point of view, I’ve no idea how accurate it is but it does feel like you’re viewing a bit of history. The acting is generally fine but the accents do take a wander from German trying to sound English to American to just stilted in a strange manner. However, because it’s not just one actor, it’s everyone, after a while it feels quite normal to have everyone talk in a bizarre hybrid of accents.
If you enjoy a good drinking game, I suggest a shot for every time someone turns out to already know a bomb is onboard. You’ll be sozzled by half way.
I want to say Mummy Dearest for burning in a very large fireball (yay) but I think Eckner may take it after being murdered and dumped in the men’s toilet’s urinal. What an insult to injury!
Strangely, not many characters stand out for me in the movie because no one appears to be good or bad, it’s all a blurring line. I’ll go for the lead lady Lauren Lee Smith as she’s very Winslet-esque.
There’s a magician and performer onboard and there’s a very random scene where he emerges with a cabin boy making slightly sexual strange remarks only to then tell our leading male he’s off to the male toilets as he hopes to have as much action in them as he has. Of course, he’s referring to the murder beforehand but it just comes across in a sinister kidnapper manner – not helped by the fact many of his other scenes are with a young girl.
In the film, a baby grand piano is onboard the vessel. I love me a grand piano in a disaster movie (SOS Titanic wins that award) but apparently, it was removed from the real Hindenburg to reduce weight.
Competent mystery before an explosive finale that while is over too soon, is worth the wait, Hindenburg is a good disaster flick. It’s certainly not a great one because of the strange accents, the completely inappropriate modern rock soundtrack and the strange need it has to overscore scenes. It is a quirky entry because of its unique subject matter and disaster movie buffs could do a lot worse. Just don’t expect to feel much for the characters.