The legend of the Tuskegee Airmen is a familiar history-books reference to many Americans. Given clearance to obtain military pilot training only with the greatest reluctance and expected to fail – in fact, many of the white decision-makers hoped they would fail – these young black men did far more than just rise to the challenge. They became one of the most decorated units in the Army Air Force during World War II, earned the respect of countless Americans, and helped pave the way for President Truman’s 1948 executive order commanding the desegregation of the armed forces. Despite their fame, though, their importance is often overlooked in the focus on more famous individuals and more vivid single incidents in the Civil Rights Movement that, along with antiwar protests, dominated American public discourse for the subsequent three decades.
In recent weeks, the story of George Lucas’ determination to make the movie Red Tails has received considerable attention too, including numerous media articles and particularly two quite candid interviews on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Oprah’s Next Chapter. When no major Hollywood studio was interested in funding the project, Lucas spent about $100 million of his own money, including about $30 million on marketing, to get the movie made and released. And Lucas has pulled no punches about why he had to do it: the decision-makers in Hollywood do not think there is enough profit to be made in an heroic war movie with an all-black cast for all the significant roles. Just as he did with Star Wars thirty-five years ago, I’m rooting for him to prove the studios wrong again.
Is Red Tails a perfect movie? Of course not. Is it a fun, exciting, entertaining action movie with a vein of serious social commentary? Absolutely. Our review has the details.
George Lucas teased Jon Stewart that this movie is as close as we’ll ever get to Episode VII, and in one sense it’s no joke at all: in its action sequences, characters, relationships, and banter, Red Tails channels much of the sensibility that has always made the X-wing series so popular with Star Wars Expanded Universe fans. If Red Tails does well enough, maybe Lucas will rethink his disclaiming of any more Star Wars movies. He’s right that the six-episode saga of Anakin Skywalker has circled to a close – but an X-wing movie just might light up the big screen for Lucasfilm and fans alike. And it could give Lucas one more platform for a bit of commentary on Hollywood and American society too, while he’s at it.
Two other notes to share from other blogs we follow:
One of our contributors, Priya Chhaya, takes a more historical perspective on Red Tails and compares it to two other works delving into racism in the mid-twentieth century.
Jennifer Stuller reviews another movie in theaters now, Haywire, which also breaks traditional Hollywood molds with a revenge-centered action movie starring a female lead, MMA star Gina Carano.
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