Red Tails – Another Disappointment For Lucas’ Resume

by Yo Snyder

George Lucas has wanted to make this movie for quite some time. So,
with most of his Star Wars projects behind him, I guess he finally found
the opportunity. He also cared enough about this film to put all of his
own money behind it. Now the simple fact that WWII combat footage was
used to inspire the tactics and movements of most of the space battle in
Star Wars should be enough for you to know that the aerial sequences
are bound to be exciting, but what isn’t as much of a sure thing is
whether or not the stuff that happens outside of the cockpit would be
equally enthralling. So is this a worthy tribute to the brave airmen who
challenged both the Nazis and discrimination, or is Red Tails
going to get added to the long list of missed opportunities for
something great by one George Lucas? Sad to say, it may go down as more
of that latter than the former.

Now to be fair, George Lucas didn’t really direct this one, or
write this one, but his finger prints are all over it; and not always in
a good way. As long as the planes are in the air, things are okay. The
flight sequences are exciting, if perhaps a little too slick looking.
Then, there are a few moments that deal with the other battle the
Tuskegee Airmen faced; discrimination. These moments are interesting as
we see how these brave men overcame those obstacles, but unfortunately
they’re too short and far between. All the other attempts at bringing
out character succumb to some pretty bad writing and stilted dialogue,
with some truly cheesy and overly melodramatic music to “enhance” the
mood. These moments make the things feel more like a cheesy made for TV
movie with really good special effects.

The other major problem is
the final climatic battle feels like it gets cut short. The film builds
to this moment, but it never delivers on any resolution. Do the bombers
make it to their target? Do they succeed with their mission? Does the
rest of the Red Tails squadron perform their duty and make it back
successfully? All of this is swept aside for a more character focused
moments that tries to resonate emotionally but ultimately feels fairly
hollow. And this isn’t isolated just to this climatic moment. Several
other stories feel shortchanged as well. One character introduced early
on is quickly lost and forgotten. There’s a whole escape from prison
sequence that feels like it’s part of another movie, and it’s all so
rushed and has so little bearing on the rest of the film that I was left
wondering why it was even included in the first place. Plus, George
Lucas just has to face the fact that he can’t tell a romantic story. He
had an epic fail with attempting to do that in Star Wars Episode II,
and while things fair a bit better here, it’s still awkward and not as
romantic as the movie thinks it is. And so, these small problems
continue to mount throughout the movie and at the end I couldn’t help
but feel disappointed.

There’s a good story here, and some fascinating history and human drama to explore. Unfortunately, Red Tails
far too often ends up chasing its own tail with pointless stories that
don’t really lead anywhere filled with characters that feel more like
caricatures rather than representations of the actual men who heroically
fought for their country and their fellow man. On the plus side, the
movie doesn’t shy away from showing the importance of religion in the
lives of these pilots. We see them pray before battle and as a part of
their regular routine. They acknowledge the role God plays in their
lives and how his presence can sustain someone in a time of war. These
pilots talk about how every time they close that canopy on their plane,
they know they just might be closing the lid on their coffin. How could
one possibly face that without knowing what comes next? In fact, in war
time or peace, I don’t think any of us can truly face death without
asking those big questions; what happens when we die, where to we go,
and what if the Bible is right? The way all of this is presented in the
film is done quite well. Where many other movies might make this
material more humorous or controversial or something else, here it just
is. It’s just apart of who some of these men where, no more, no less, no
commentary necessary.

Red Tails should have been an easy
story to tell. Having talked to some WWII vets myself who knew some of
the Tuskegee Airmen I know for a fact that this is a compelling story,
yet somehow in this movie it doesn’t really feel that way. There are
moments that are interesting, compelling, entertaining, exciting and
even on occasion rather moving; but the pieces don’t come together to
form a worthwhile whole. Is Red Tails worth seeing? If you can
catch at the dollar theater or on Netflix, sure. Otherwise, I’m afraid
that a film I had such high hopes for is just too much of a
disappointment to justify paying full price for at the box office.

Score: 4/7