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Red Tails: History by George

Red Tails PosterIf you were told that George Lucas was executive producing a new movie, with state-of-the-art special effects that depict some of the most amazing aerial dogfights ever seen on film, you’d probably think your dreams had been answered and that Star Wars: Episode VII is finally in production. Well, you’d be wrong, but on the plus side you are in for a treat with the new Lucasfilm produced World War II action flick, Red Tails.

Red Tails is an intentional tribute to the World War II Hollywood propaganda newsreels and films of the 1940s, made to rally the public into supporting the war effort, and Lucas, together with director Anthony Hemingway, has made a film that revels in so much corny dialogue and old school bravado that it would make John Wayne blush. And if you can get onboard with where the filmmakers are taking you, it’s a lot of flag-waving fun.

The story is a tribute to the courage and valor of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter group (the 332nd) in the United States military. These men were not only war heroes, but also had to overcome segregation and racial discrimination just to be able to fight for their country. But Red Tails is pleasantly light on message and instead focuses on the action and sacrifices these real –life heroes experienced.

The almost all-black cast of Red Tails includes Nate Parker, Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr., and they all do an excellent job of portraying their characters as they might have been played in the Flying Leathernecks (1951) or the Flying Tigers (1942). The poetic irony of this film is that it was never made in the era it depicts, and yet it revels in the filmmaking style of that period, albeit with special effects that were never dreamed of in the ’40s or ’50s — well, maybe George Lucas (born in 1944) was dreaming of them…

The special effects in this film are incredible, and maybe it’s just because of Lucas’ involvement, but many of the dogfight action sequences looked incredibly like something out of a Star Wars film. From damaged fighters wildly spinning off into flames, to bomber gun-turrets spinning and firing, to fight chorography that looks like it was created by a template pulled straight from The Empire Strikes Back, you physically feel George’s love for high-velocity aerial battles.

George Lucas has been trying to get Red Tails made since 1988, but because of the nature of the film and the necessity of an all-black cast, he has struggled with getting financing and support from the Hollywood film establishment where apparently racial discrimination still lies under its surface. In order to finally see this project through, Lucas has invested upwards of $60 million dollars of his own money, and he has to be given props for creating an entertaining movie that not only fits onto the 1940’s film shelf, but also fills a gap in that era’s history.

On an extra Nerd note, George Lucas caught a ton of flack from a lot of different corners that claimed the Star Wars character of Jar Jar Binks was an offensive black racial stereotype. Hopefully, after over 20 years of effort and spending a literal fortune to get the film Red Tails made, we can finally put to bed the notion that Mr. Lucas is in any way, shape, or form a racist. Jar Jar is a fictional alien creature, and love him or hate him, there was no hidden agenda behind his creation.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.