Red Tails opens in movie theaters across the country in less than two weeks. Screenings have been held, yet there is still no real word as to its quality. That’s more than a little troubling when we are so close the wire. Many want this film to do well, and for obvious reasons. The immediate future of Black films not squarely aimed at the “Chitlin’ Circuit” crowd could very well hinge on how Red Tails performs on its opening weekend. Black audiences are being encouraged to come out en masse, so as to show Hollywood that such films can be profitable. If Red Tails is to receive the desired level of success, it would be nice if the movie itself was deserving of it. The film will likely have to be exceptionally good to enjoy any measure of crossover business.
As if to wet the pallet of audiences even further, seven minutes of footage from the film recently got posted over at Vimeo. It juxtaposes both the action oriented and dialogue driven elements. The former bears all the familiar stamps of Lucasfilm product. The action is firmly steeped in Lucas’s child hood influences. It’s essentially 1940’s daring-do rendered with the best modern film-making technology available. It’s all very reminiscent of similar such footage from the first three Star Wars films, where the pilots can be seen in their cockpits communicating with each other in the thick of battle. It’s damned exciting to see Black faces behind the controls of these flying machines in the midst of large scale action.
As for the dramatic elements, the moments presented here play competently. The cast clearly takes the subject matter seriously, though the dialogue does seem of the stoically noble variety. Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. do their usual thing. Watching this, I’m beginning to think that black actors in Hollywood are encouraged to play military dramas the same exact way every time out. At this point, it’s clear that the films tone is deadly serious. In order for that to work, the various elements of the production will have to be firmly in sync. Then again, maybe Lucas doesn’t mean for this to be Oscar fodder. He’s gone on record as saying that the tone of the film is rather corny and jingoistic. That can work to, as long as Lucas isn’t writing the script.
Though I’m a bit worried, I’m still rooting for Lucas and company to pull this off. Red Tails need not be a flawless masterpiece. It only needs to have something more to recommend it aside from the aerial dogfights, which are admittedly a large part of the films appeal. I used to watch the Death Star trench run in Star Wars and imagine myself behind the controls of an X-Wing fighter. Lucasfilm is now giving Black kids across the country a chance to do just that, albeit not in a galaxy far, far, away. More power to him.
RT Clip from Tambay Obenson on Vimeo.