On my flight from Denver to Chicago on Monday I chose to fire up a video on my Tablet PC to watch on the flight. I happened to have Red Tails on there. So I fired it up, it looked like an interesting and fun movie.
I am a fan of history, and had read a lot about the Tuskegee Airmen and Experiment(s). I felt that if done right this movie would tell a good story about how socially underestimated people can do extraordinary things. This country needs stories about how a group being politically and racially oppressed overcame through actions of their own. All for a country that still saw them as worse than animals in some cases. But unfortunately George Lucas paid to make this movie instead.
I blame George Lucas below, because this was his project. He didn’t directly write, or direct, but he did pay for it all, and said this movie was made to his vision. Just because John Ridley (writer for epics like the Wanda Sykes Show, Barbershop, Undercover Brother…) , and Anthony Hemingway (who has actually directed very detailed and emotional shows like The Wire, Oz, Ali…) wrote and directed the film doesn’t leave George off the hook here. If George didn’t like it, he could have changed it.
<spoilers below, don’t get butt hurt when you learn something you don’t want to…>
The movie starts off quickly, we are already in Italy, and the 332nd fighter wing was using some older P-40 fighters, and doing mundane tasks like shooting trucks, blowing up trains, and overall hooting and hollering in the planes. They want to do more, but it seems only white people are allowed to kill Germans in the sky.
We learn one of them in the flight is the reckless cowboy, one of them is the drunken leader, one of them is the young energetic hot shot, the mechanic is a wise talking care taker of the planes and what seems to be the wise mentor, and their black leadership is looked down on by the rest of the Army. And that is where George Lucas chose to stop wasting everyone’s time with character development. He knows… you all just want some CGI or some Ewoks STAT!
Then… as if this overwhelming amount of character detail wansnt enough, we do get some typical cliche shots and actions. I can only imagine the screen play for this movie was only 10 pages long with items like “Black Guy enters Officers Bar – Gets run out, goes back and fights.”, “Black officer – told he and his team aren’t good enough after they just showed they were better than everyone else…”, "Black pilots banter with black mechanics in the most stereotype supporting way possible", "White bomber pilots, now love black fighter pilots because they saved them once – RACISM DEFEATED!“
I am not even going to get into how much liberty was taken with historical facts. This movie cares about facts as much at the RNC does. "This movie will not be defined by fact checkers!” Nearly every aspect of the movie besides for location was incorrect in one way or another…
George Lucas thinks you are an idiot. The last 3 Star Wars movies, weren’t bad by mistake. It wasn’t because he was trying to cater to a younger audience, it wasn’t because he wanted a different vibe; Its because George Lucas thinks you are dumb as shit, and cant be challenged to understand complex things like – Motivation, Emotion, Bigotry, Sarcasm, Humor, etc… without being told EXACTLY, WORD FOR WORD, what a actor is feeling, or why hes doing something.
Dialog in George Lucas movies is like actors are told to read all the subtext/stage notes between their lines in the script. An example: The black pilots just saved the bomber crews lives. That could have been conveyed with a quick nod, a glance, a smile, or even a simple “wow those guys were good!” by the bomber pilots. This was instead presented as “I am very happy that the black pilots were able to defeat the germans who were trying to shoot us down, after the other white pilots never have been able to do that”
Thats after we just saw… THAT HAPPEN. Why the need to have an actor burn 15 seconds of time telling us what we just saw. We know they are happy to be alive, what kind of sick pilot would be like “Shit! We lived all because of some negros… DAMNIT!”… No… George you suck at producing movies. This was one of about 2 dozen times in the film where it took longer for an actor to just talk about what they did… than it was to show us what they did just before.
This explains why the dialog, and motivations were so painfully on display in the last 3 Star Wars (hell… even Return of the Jedi). Nothing left to the imagination. No investment by the audience needed, he’ll just spoon feel you the dialog, motivations, and even what seems to be stage notes for actors.
Please… for the love of god George. STOP… Stay retired, DO NOT try to bring any historically relevant topic to the screen under your direction/production/writing. You have just made the distinguished, and honorable Tuskegee airmen look like a bunch of tools who lack any emotional depth, any subtlety, and need to talk talk talk talk about any thing they are feeling. Its almost like you gave them all a mild case of Tourette syndrome. Thanks for that!
In conclusion of the movie review:
Besides for the fact George Lucas shouldn’t be trusted to produce even a commercial for adult diapers. (dialog like: “Ohh look I pooped myself and this device kept it off my pants, and boy am I happy about that” rings to mind…)
The movie could have been great. If it was edited way down, removed much of the talky bullshit, and made more interesting around motivations and the pilots. Or how about cover their journey from nothing in the southern US to getting into this experiment in Italy, it could have been interesting, inspiring, and somewhat educational. We also never learn how the Tuskegee airmen came to be simple details like that would have helped.
I think its an injustice to the Tuskegee airmen that this movie may be held as a record of their achievements. Because all it showed was some of them lived, some of them died, some of them killed Germans very well, some of them were drunks, some of them were fools, some were dead , and then they were alive…
I do truly like some of the actors in the movie. Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrance Howard, Tristan Wilds, Andrew Royo, Bryan Cranston, etc… Just a shame none of them stood up and punched George Lucas mid way through the shoot saying “I AM BETTER THAN THIS!”
See this movie only if you are on a cramped plane, and the only other option for entertainment is trying out the air sickness bag, trolling your neighbor about their power point presentation they are working on, or start kicking the seat in front of you as if you were a child just to see what the people do.