Red Tails- My review
First question…have you seen The Great Debaters? EXCELLENT film. Great writing. Great acting. And a piece of history that maybe no one hardly knows about. The movie has the ability to make verbal debates look like war. Which in a way it is. You are talking about all African Americans, the underdogs, showing their intelligence and wit. It has all the drama you need and to this day is one of the best portrayals, I think, of historical events in telling one piece of the African American legacy.
Now about Red Tails…
I give it a C+.
I almost want to rate it lower than that. And I’m not sure why.
I don’t want to believe that it’s my Blackness that is so disappointed with it. Not that it’s my Blackness that is showing it mercy with that rating.
I don’t want to believe that it was the two older Black women I overheard outside the theater say they liked the film that bothers me, in the same way that you see a complete display of ineptness pass over people’s eyes and they say “That was good!”. Kinda like when I hear people say they love The Weeknd even though the guy misses almost every note he sings…Nah.
I think the biggest part of my disappointment and frustration comes from George Lucas’ rally cry for everyone to see it, and the fact that I already know what’s going to happen the rest of this weekend as Black people try to flood the theater with their money to support a film that, while it may have had a high budget, isn’t very good.
First of all, there is a love story within the film that is so cheesy, so forced, so out of nowhere that I called it my “facepalm” moment. It was cringe-worthy every time they brought the Black Tuskegee Airman and his Italian love on screen. It was like a forced PSA of interracial love, and that we are all human. In fact, the overall mantra of “We are all human” was repeated in a way that is so cheesy that it makes it feel very…I don’t even know what to say. Put it this way- it’s something that those in middle America, those who may rarely encounter Black people, those who may even be racist, may suddenly wake up and say “Oh wait…they are human, just like we are! I never thought of that!”. Yeah. It’s for people THAT basic minded. In fact, I actually think that while the cast is primarily Black, this film was truly made FOR white people. It is for the naive, prejudiced, and unknowing White person who never heard of the Tuskegee Airmen to learn something, then walk out of the theater and see a Black man as just as capable as them, which may have never occurred to them. Except for when Obama got elected.
Let’s get something else clear here: In 1995 there was an HBO film called The Tuskeegee Airmen, which has gotten very favorable reviews (Cuba Gooding Jr. was in that too ironically). There are also a few documentaries on the Tuskegee Airmen. With that said, I don’t really want to hear that there are no educational equivalents or alternatives out there, or that this has never been done before, as Lucas is trying to make it appear. Yes people, you can have your children learn about the Tuskegee Airmen in a much more informative way.
I already know how this is going to play out among the Black intelligentsia. Half of them are going to not like the film, but “support” it because… “You know, if we don’t support it then they ain’t gone make no more big budget Black movies, and then we gone be stuck with Tyler Perry.” I’m sort of thinking that Lucas made his rallying cry for everyone to see the movie because he knows that if you scare Black people enough with the threat of Tyler Perry forever, they will rush out. In fact, you make a “positive” Black film, and it becomes an immediate reaction to stamepede the box office so that more can be made. Creating a cycle. Threaten- ticket rush- duped of your money- and repeat. I heard the same rally cry about Precious, and when Tyler Perry’s films first came out. It almost becomes the norm for Black people to “support” Black films because they’re Black, and not because they’re GOOD. When I saw the trailer for Red Tails I cringed. It looked cheesy. And that’s exactly what I got.
Then the other half of Black intelligentsia is going to try to read through all the subtext, especially the interracial couple, and try to pick apart at Lucas and this movie as part of a grand conspiracy. Conspiracy theorists/Africana/Media studies majors- it’s not that deep, so put your magnifying glasses away.
Here’s what I think really happened. 20 years ago Lucas had an idea for this film. He had a great idea in the telling of heroes and the underdogs, just so happened that the cast would be all Black. It was gonna be his version of The Color Purple. Through it all, through the rejection, I’m sure many of the execs were racist. But then there were some that said “Uh…this isn’t very good. It’s not racial. It’s just not that good.” And he said “Nah..they’re just racist.” He got Aaron McGruder, creator of the Boondocks, and John Ridley, writer of some great movies like Undercover Brother and other TV shows, and got them to work. Then I’m sure he had his hand in the stew, changed some things around, threw some millions down and voila! Here we have it! I think most of the money went into the action scenes, and not the writing or the actors. The acting was very wooden, very cheesy lines, very forced ideas. It just didn’t work.
Perhaps I’m doing something traitorous by saying the movie isn’t good. And more likely than not, people are going to see it because somehow they feel they are donating to the Tuskegee Airmen, or that by watching the film they are qualifying the lives of those heroes. I think the biggest audiences will be senior citizens and teens, which I think Lucas was betting on. At the end of the day, George Lucas is getting paid. And, as a little help to the conspiracy theorists, I don’t think it’s coincidental that Star Wars is being re-released in 3D. Any money he loses in this film will be made back. He will not go broke, and primarily Black casts will not somehow wash away into the ether. Lucas, for all his effort, and perhaps his great intentions, didn’t make a good movie. That’s the bottom line, in my opinion.
But hey, don’t take my word for it. See it, if you’re so compelled.
Personally, I advise waiting for Netflix or cable.
Lucas is going to get paid off that too.
Trust me folks. The real demise to Black film is the fact that a lot of us are not skilled at our crafts, nor are we producing high quality work. We need to take writing and acting much more seriously. I didn’t feel power from any of the actors. I didn’t feel much suspense in the action. I didn’t understand what the motivation really was…kill Nazi’s or prove their worth as soldiers, or both? At one point, there is such an unnecessary kill of a Nazi boat, that I looked next to me and the older white man sitting there turned his hand, palm upward, as to say “Why did he do that?!”
Trust me though. Nothing is as bad as The Last Airbender. Nothing.