Scenes are either weighed down by excessively patent characterization or littered in a shower of ash and flames. An intrusive voiceover ensures each soldier receives a brief back story, clearly intended to supply some depth to their actions, yet each of these is so loaded with clichés that they invoke laughter rather than pathos. Cultural memory is often bound in political motives and delivered via war movies to help define cultures and promote political ideas. It soon becomes clear that there are no deeper themes being explored here other than some machismo muscle flexing and an empty attempt to promote national pride through mass-produced, populist entertainment at a time where Russian identity has become taboo. The most troubling element of Stalingrad is its problematic depiction of war.
Realism is often portrayed through artifice, but when the artifice is this apparent realism takes a back seat to boorish spectacle. An unhealthy mix of CGI effects, comic book framing and slow motion action sequence remove any naturalism from events, and for all intensive purposes present war as one long pyrotechnics display. Scenes of combat have long been a requisite ingredient in the production of war films, and yet so rarely have they been such a dominant flavour, presenting the audience with a virtual reality of 'real events' that by their sheer spectacle seem to have little semblance of realism. This incredibly Westernised presentation of conflict is clearly intended to appeal to mass audiences and promote Russian identity across the globe, but the lack of any empathy towards these thinly-drawn characters removes any sense of tension and excitement from what is an often vulgar spectacle.