It’s easy. Look for the gasoline bombs.
I reminded myself of this last week watching Hacksaw Ridge which received ecstatic reviews and tells a genuinely inspiring story but seems aimed at young adults. I found it too full of stereotypes but, far worse, historically inaccurate.
Everyone remembers the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan because Steven Spielberg made an immense effort to get it right. Mel Gibson’s crew had other priorities in Hacksaw Ridge, most likely staying within budget.
World War II battles featured lots of explosives – shells, grenades, mortars, bombs. When explosives explode, debris and dirt fly into the air. Fire may appear later when flammable stuff burns, but explosives don’t produce flames. Special effects people can duplicate an explosion with explosives, but it’s tricky and expensive and probably dangerous.
Much easier is a gasoline bomb. Pour a little gasoline in a can. Allow the fumes to collect and ignite them with a spark. Poof!! A ball of flame. It doesn’t make much noise, but you can add that later.
A cheap battle scene features a crowd of soldiers running across a field of gasoline bombs. Flames shoot up everywhere. Some soldiers fall down. It looks spectacular. Teenage boys like that.
Sorry.... Sometimes I get distracted from hotel doctoring....