The best war epics deftly balance stunning set pieces and immersive action sequences with a gripping narrative that plunges you right in the thick of the battle, but 2013’s Stalingrad only succeeded on the first front.
Not that an apathetic shrug from critics and audiences did a thing to dent the Russian blockbuster’s chances of success, with director Fyodor Bondarchuk’s recount of the titular battle that played a pivotal role in World War II proving to be every bit the smash hit it was predicted to be from the outset.
The nation’s first feature to be released in IMAX, Stalingrad repaid the investment by hauling in $68 million at the global box office. While that doesn’t sound like a great deal compared to the numbers pulled in by Hollywood productions, it’s still good enough to rank as the biggest domestic opening weekend and highest total gross on home soil, while it even became the top-earning non-English language feature from outside the United States in China.
Unfortunately, a 51 percent critical score and 41 percent user rating on Rotten Tomatoes underlined that there wasn’t enough steak to go along with Stalingrad‘s undoubted sizzle, but sometimes a visually dazzling war story can prove enticing enough on its own, regardless of a threadbare and undercooked narrative.
Streaming subscribers would surely agree, seeing as the record-breaking blockbuster has soared onto the iTunes Top 10 in multiple countries per FlixPatrol, even if a meatier level of emotional investment would have worked wonders.