Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Red Tails


Did you know:

That with only two strafing runs from a single P-51 Mustang with six 50-caliber cannons, it is possible to blow up a German destroyer and send it to the bottom?

That it’s possible to be drenched in fuel, crash your plane which then explodes in a fireball, and escape with only 60% of your body burned?

That rookie pilots flying superannuated P-40 Warhawks going into a dogfight with veteran Luftwaffe pilots flying Me-109s can record 13 kills and suffer not a single loss? That four of those P-40s, low on fuel, can follow a crippled 109 back to base (the German ace somehow “forgets” to radio ahead) and destroy 50 planes on the ground?

That P-51 pilots, encountering a Me-262 jet squadron for the first time can learn in five minutes how to compensate for the blinding speed advantage (550 mph vs. 440 mph) of the first operational jet fighter and shoot down half a dozen of them?
You didn’t know that? Well, good, because it’s all bullshit.

What this is, is Star Wars 1944. If any of this preposterous story were true, then it is clear that all Ike had to do was train more Tuskegee Airmen and the Luftwaffe would have been destroyed in a week, and probably the Kriegsmarine and Wehrmacht as well. Think of the lives that would have been saved.

I laughed it all off while watching, but in the end, this story is disturbing. By portraying the Tuskegee Airmen as something along the lines of supermen, I think the real accomplishments of the all-Negro 332nd Fighter Group are diminished. I suppose that’s debatable, but what is beyond doubt is that this is one of the worst-written scripts I have ever seen. Every line is predictable and every character is a cliché. The main conflict here is between Luke Skywalker … uh, I mean “Lightning” Little, the hotshot who keeps disobeying orders, and the older squad leader, who keeps cutting him slack when any sane man would have grounded him. I hate hotshots. It is true that all fighter pilots are, by definition, hotshots, but there must be limits.

The story of these men has been told several times, and every time it was better than this. It proves that, except for the action comic book Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, where the characters are intentionally one-dimensional, George Lucas (who has wanted to produce this film since 1988) really can’t make a good movie anymore. Remember Howard the Duck? Painfully? Remember Radioland Murders? No one else does, either. You have to go all the way back to American Graffiti to find a good non-Star Wars Lucas movie.

Anything good about it? Well, the aerial combat looks great, though a few of the SFX are surprisingly bad here and there, considering that that’s how George makes his money these days. But a lot of it looks very real, which left me wondering: Were any actual airplanes used in the making of this movie?