The weapons of war are terrifying inventions that bring only pain. Heck, we remember a few teary-eyed moments from our youthful Nerf gun battles, and those are the toy versions of these weapons.
As for reminiscing on the true weapons of war, we'll let Erich Maria Remarque do the talking:
Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine-guns, hand-grenades—words, words, but they hold the horror of the world. (6.150)
While words can grasp at the horrors of war, they can never fully express them. Reading about war can only hint at the devastation of battle: only through experience can you truly understand.
Like Remarque's listing of words, Milestone's adaptation of All Quiet attempts to grasp at war's horrors through a visual medium…knowing full well that you can only use art to begin to touch the hellscape of war.
The director's goal was to depict the ghastly injures and death these weapons dealt. And, while the film's imagery might not totally encompass the real experience, it's pretty dang unsettling.
The major weapons featured in the movie are rifles, shells, bombs, barbed wire, machine guns, and hand-to-hand armaments such as knives, bayonets, and spades. (Yeah, we know: spades are technically meant for digging, but in war anything that will get the job done counts.)
In short: there's a whole lot of weaponry on display in All Quiet on the Western Front. A lot.
Even by today's standards, the battles scenes are super gruesome, even with black-and-white blood. Machine guns mow down lines of men. Soldiers trip over barbed wire, shredding their flesh in the process. The hand-to-hand combat scene in the trenches is harrowing—watching swarms of men stab, slash, and beat each other in claustrophobic quarters ain't fun.
(We suggest that you follow up your viewing of All Quiet with a nice binge of Disney classics. No one gets dismembered in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.)
So why is All Quiet on the Western Front so war-tech happy? Why not just have a few rifles and be done with it?
History, friends. There's a reason why the Lost Generation was so lost—they grappled with the horrific technology that had just been made possible at the beginning of WWI.
Tanks and airplanes made their wartime debut during the First World War.
Kat mentions both to Paul while discussing the Germans' struggles to defend their lines:
KAT: They've got dozens of airplanes to our one and tanks that'll go over anything. What've we got left? Guns so worn they drop shells on our own men. No food, no ammunition, no officers. Push on to Paris. So that's the way they talk back there. I guess we'd better be going.
Kat is then killed by an air raid.
Although this high war-tech is mentioned in the film, we don't actually see a lot of it in action. This was likely due to technical limitations…but it also could have been because the local Rent-a-Center was fresh out of Mark Vs.