Sunday, January 22, 2012

Red Tails - Movie Review

I get a little nervous when I see Lucasfilm attached to anything these days, especially something dealing with race.  Let's face it, Jar Jar Binks put a bad taste in everyone's mouth.  When I saw that Lucasfilm was making a movie about Tuskegee Airman, I thought it might be an attempt at an apology.  As the same time, I was nervous that it could be an offensive film full of bad stereotypes.  I was practically expecting George Lucas to go back and edit in Jar Jar in as one of the pilots.  I'm sure he's saving that for the Special Edition.

Fortunately, I didn't think Red Tails was embarrassing in that sense.  However, it's not a particularly good film either though.

This is going to be a shorter review, as I actually don't have too much to say about the movie.  The story is inspired by the true events of the Tuskegee Airmen.  I'm not a big war historian, so I don't know too much about them other than just a general awareness of who they were.  Like I've said with other historical dramas, it's not a bad thing when a movie interests you into watching other (better) movies or documentaries about that subject or reading up on them.  I think Red Tails will do that for a lot of people, including me.

You start the film following a group of young pilots during World War II that are stuck with lame patrols and missions with little relevance to advancing the war.  Eventually, their commanding officer (Terrence Howard), is able to get them a forward mission guarding bombers.  In the movie they explain that existing fighter escorts were failures due to the (white) pilots going after enemy kills (being 'glory hounds') and abandoning their escort, leaving them exposed to enemy fire.  They ask the Tuskegee Airman to stay with their bombers and not chase after enemy pilots.  At first this sounds like they are asking them to die and I started thinking of the 'human shield' thing from South Park, but it was more that they just wanted the pilots to allow the bombers to do their job as they were losing too many of them.

Naturally, the mission is a great success and they gain the respect of their fellow pilots.  Later on they are even requested by other bomber pilots for future missions (a true fact, from what I read).  It's a feel good movie in that sense as you're rooting for these guys and happy they are succeeding.

That's pretty much all there is to the story.  After each fighter sequence, you are basically just waiting for the next fighter scene.  This is mainly because the characters are very paper thin and one dimensional.  I did like the pilots 'Easy' (Nate Parker) and 'Lightning' (David Oyewolo).   I feel like those were the only two characters that you got to learn anything about or had any kind of character development outside of flying.  Cuba Gooding Jr. is wasted here.  What happened to that guy?  It's all been downhill since Jerry Maguire.

The dialog is pretty corny for the most part.  It's a shame because a better script would have made a HUGE difference here.  At the same time, being a Lucasfilm movie, none of this surprises me.  Even though George Lucas only produced this, all of the trademark bad dialog and character elements are there.  The screenplay writers, John Ridley and Aaron MaGruder, have mainly only written TV shows, so maybe they were a little too far out of their comfort zone.  The director, Anthony Hemingway, also has a lot of TV shows to his credit, so again, I have to wonder if a more experienced feature film director would have helped.

While the flight scenes are done well, you do get too much of a fake feeling from it at times.  Red Tails didn't have as large of a budget as you'd normally expect for a movie like this, so sometimes the CG had a cheap feel.  With the smaller budget it seems like it would have been a  better idea to use old fashioned models instead of over relying on CG effects.  Again, not really much of a surprise here from Lucasfilm.

Despite all of if this, I was still kind of entertained by Red Tails.  It wasn't as bad as I feared it might be, but at the same time I was bummed out that they couldn't have gotten a better script and made the dialog better.  It ends up being a pretty cliched war/action film.  I did see with a packed crowd though and they definitely seemed to be into it and was a crowd pleaser.  I think it's worth a rental, but the effects don't really demand that you go out and see this in the theater.

2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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