Tuesday, July 3, 2012

DVD Review: Red Tails

Red Tails is one of most singularly depressing movies I've seen in a long while. Not just because it's easily one of the worst movies I've seen all year (congrats Tim and Eric, you're not in bottom place anymore) but also because it signals the final proof that whatever was wrong with George Lucas was not restricted to the Star Wars Prequels. Yes, I know it was technically directed by Anthony Hemingway, but the increasingly grubby fingerprints of Lucas are all over it. It was also a massive box office failure, and thus Lucas enters the final stage of the M. Night Shyamalan/Frank Miller arc from Visionary to Cautionary Tale.

But what's more annoying is how many things it drags down with it. Yes, Lucas is on his way out, but that arc began long ago with the Special Editions. What is even more depressing is how Anthony Hemingway, a young filmmaker who has shown promise elsewhere, will most likely have to live with this on his resume for years. And the story behind it, that of the Tuskeegee Airman, is an interesting and worthy story in it's own right, one which deserved a better film than this (indeed, it has previously been adapted into a flawed, but well received, HBO movie.)

The story is simple. World War II is happening, and there is an all black fighter squadron known as the Tuskeegee Airmen. They're itching for some action, but the racist attitudes of their commanding officers keep them hanging in the back, until some general decides that they might be selfless enough to protect his bombers and blahblahblah.

I could harp all day on the film's negative points...so why don't I do that? The script seems like a good place to start, as it's laughably awful, both in terms of story and in terms of dialogue. Watching this I found myself laughing at some the dialogue and story turns, such as when a character begins a romance with an Italian woman when they see each other when he's flying and she's on the ground (No, really).

The dogfights are fairly boring in their own right, owing to inappropriate use of CGI and flat editing. Speaking of the editing, it feels like a lot of the movie wound up on the cutting room floor. There's a subplot concerning a captured Airman, who is instantly trusted inside his prison, because he's black and therefore obviously not a Nazi spy. However, barely a scene has transpired in the Prison before they're escaping, and I get the feeling the rest of the subplot got cut, most likely for time.

The idea at play seems to be to hark back to the simple 'good versus evil' war movies of the lat 40s and early 50s, the kind of thing that would have starred John Wayne back then. You see this mostly through it's sterile action scenes and it's hilariously one dimensional characters, on both sides of the conflict. This kind of backwards looking film isn't impossible (Lucas built most of his career on it) but it's hard to pull off and even harder if you're unwilling to try and think more about your subject. Star Wars and Indiana Jones both elevated the junky things they were based on to something of an art but Red Tails is merely content to wallow in it.

I was never full on the George Lucas Hate Bandwagon, so it brings me no joy to deliver the news that Red Tails is indeed as bad as everyone thought it was going to be. The curtain may be falling on his career, but that's cause for sadness, not for celebration. As for Red Tails? Avoid it like the plague.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he managed to get through the whole review without discussing the race of anyone involved.

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