Movie review by: Roman Morales
Writing this review sucks. It really does. This is something I love doing. I love writing and I adore film, so this should be cake. What makes this film so different?
I saw Red Tails last Thursday, but I am barely sitting down to write the review because the experience we had at the local AMC theater was so damn horrible I just don’t want to remember it. I seriously think it will go down in Austin screener history as the AMC Red Tails Clusterfuck. It was literally a headache-inducing affair that will be the measuring stick by which all other shitty screenings will be measured. The Austin critics’ equivalent of the concert where Jim Morrison pulled out his junk onstage and showed it to the audience.
I won’t stay too long on this, since Harry summed up the experience perfectly over on Ain’t It Cool. It still has to be said that this experience makes it really hard to associate many positive feelings with this film through no fault of Anthony Hemingway, George Lucas, or the studio.
As advertised, the film details the exploits of the Tuskegee Airmen – a group of ultra talented African-American pilots that are routinely assigned what could best be considered the Air Force version of busy work. The military has deemed the “negro” as incapable of handling the rigors of combat despite the constant prodding of Col. Bullard, played by a passionately infectious Terrence Howard. We follow the team as they deliver flat dialogue meant to give you just enough information that you can pick out the war-time stereotypes of the drunk, the coward, the lover, the reckless hero, the over-confident kid and so on. They may fly the hoopties of the sky, but they fly them with spirit and skill.
This spirit and skill, along with a flyboy’s tenacity, leads to a spontaneous bombing run that takes out a fleet of parked German airships, along with some additional prodding from the Colonel, giving the Tuskegee Airmen their shot at glory.
I can’t go into the plot anymore without getting deep into some second act spoilers, but this is all you need to know. From this point on the movie is rather exciting. It’s very easy to see how Lucas’ Star Wars bombing runs were inspired by what he thought WWII combat might look like if it was staged just right. Well, this is it. Even the Red Barron would be on the edge of his seat.
As for the script, although formulaic, it does do one thing successfully – it creates likeable characters. I rooted for each of them and found myself cheering the misfit bunch in spite of myself. So, it’s fun; just uninventive and highly predictable fun.
The movie is far from perfect, but not necessarily worthy of all the vitriol cast in its direction. Maybe if George Lucas had not said that the future of Black cinema hung on the success of his recent passion project, the critics may have been a little more forgiving. But as usual, George is George. And, as always, he blames outside factors to make up for his own failures as a filmmaker.
George, if you are reading, we do not criticize your movies because we are unwilling to let go of our past expectations of what your projects should be. We do not criticize because we never understood your true intentions. And we especially don’t criticize because you have an all black cast. We criticize you because you offer us mediocrity. Worse than that, you write the criticism off as a character flaw in your audience.
This is no Aces High success, nor is it crash-and-burn failure. Although a financial winner at the box office, it is more of the so-so storytelling we have come to know from Lucas, with the same so-so excuses.
I give the AMC theater experience a minus 5 nerdskulls while I can give the movie a decent 3 Nerdskulls.