Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Think I Missed Something: Reviewing Red Tails

Last night, I was happily invited along to join my friend Steph and her husband Ryan to watch a screening of Red Tails at the Fox Studios Lot.

 Geek out moment: The lot is AWESOME! My inner tourist wanted to run around every where snapping pictures of Moe's Cafe, the fake New York(?) street, the giant murals painted everywhere. SO.COOL. But I knew I had to keep my shit together, so I just walked around in awe grinning from ear to ear while trying to not look too eager. I'm gonna have to find a way to go visit friends who work there.

 Going into the movie, I was very excited. Coming out of the movie, I was bummed at how disappointed I was.

 To set the record straight, yup, I'm a white chick. Yup, I'm ignorant about a lot of history. But somehow, I was raised to know injustice when I see it, to believe that we are all equal, and that there is an infinite amount of power in the art of storytelling so that it connects us all. Storytelling is such a powerful tool, and when you use it to pay tribute to someone, to educate people who know nothing about another person's struggle, you're using it to help connect to something bigger than the individual. Personally, whether fictional or not, I want to see how we come out alive, how we survive, how we become better people. So when I walk into Red Tails, I want to know that George Lucas has spared no expense in the effects, or in the writing, the editing, or the casting. I want to know he hired a fantastic crew and cast to tell the story of the Tuskegee Airmen.

 I felt like George Lucas produced a fairy tale. Here's the Bad Guy. Here are the Good Guys. Here's their struggle. Here's every shot clean and beautiful and glossy. Here's the Happy Ending. It felt like watching the Special Edition of Star Wars - every thing was so sharp and crisp and clean, it no longer felt real. Yes, I know Star Wars is fantastical, but man did you feel like every single atom in the movie was textured, layered, and palpable. It's part of what drew me into the universe and the struggle of the characters.

 I loved the cast, even if they were given some badly written lines. I especially loved David Oyelowo, as Joe "Lightning" Little. But did every word out of Terrence Howard's mouth have to sound like an epic moment with the music swelling, each and every time? The action sequences were really great to watch, especially the train blowing up. But did every set up of a fight have to feel so campy?

 I didn't feel like war was hell unless we were in battle in the movie. But I thought every moment was hell. I thought soldiers fought every day, every moment to feel human in the indignities of battle. I feel like Lucas poured a hell of a lot of money into giving us a glossed over, pretty version of the experience of The Tuskegee Airmen and the men they fought to protect.

 I don't know - I feel conflicted. I wanted to love this movie. I wanted to feel proud of the homage paid to our WW2 vets. I wanted to know that I saw historical facts in play, and that I could learn and relate through the experiences of our protagonists. But maybe I'm over thinking it all. Maybe, if I really wanted to learn something, I should just get off my ass and do some research my damn self and just enjoy the entertainment in front me. Maybe if I'm looking to be moved by the subject matter at hand, I should just watch The Tuskegee Airmen with Laurence Fishburne from 1995. (Which Cuba Gooding Jr. was also in). I just feel that Lucas produced a bad film, and it's such a shame when the stories, the people, the situations are so rich in every element. The Tuskegee Airmen did so much for our country, I feel that they are owed at the very least, from my world of Storytellers, the best job that can be done of sharing an amazing story.

 Did I miss the boat? Was I supposed to know that I was watching a fairy tale from the very beginning? If that's the case, I still think something was amiss in the execution of said fairy tale.

Go see it and tell me what you think.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, I have to say that they only way to get the proper Red Tails experience is to leave the movie in a tin vehicle with an aircooled engine starting on a cold evening. Bonus if it's also red.

    I finally saw it last night waiting for $5 Tuesday to line up with me having $5.

    Lucas had said that he wanted to do a throwback to the jingoistic war films from during the war where the good guys were good and the bad guys were bad and the message of the movie was USA!USA!USA!

    But so much of what is really Lucas' weaknesses were shown through in the sort of paint by numbers story elements. Lightening is reckless. Easy drinks. Junior is wide-eyed. Deac has faith. But rather than connecting the dots that these cliches dictate he sort of just leaves them on the table like Chekov's unfired gun.

    And there's not even a consciousness about it when that could have been awesome and jarring element, that the quirks and short comings of what would be your normal life are meaningless in war when death is not selective and the morals of traditional storytelling have little sway.

    Nope, instead we don't really know how alcohol effected Easy except calming his nerves, Lightning was risky because he was in fact awesome, etc.

    To say the characters were drawn with thick lines is to suggest too much texture. They were filled in like questions on a Briggs-Meyer personality test.

    Somehow he's gotten it in his head that the missing elements from films of the past is their thin characters that don't get in the way of the spectacle. What it makes me realize is that he's like a negative impression of Tarantino who seems to operate under the notion that the spectacle of old films just needed more character driven dialog. That literally occurred to me while I typed, so I'm going to have to think about that some more.

    He didn't used to be this way. American Graffiti had great characters in it and only the one drag race set piece. I miss that Lucas.

    Also, the perfect woman is apparently one you can't talk to.