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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

ELMS: ‘Red Tails’ a tale worth telling

It’s no secret that I am not a movie buff. It’s not that I dislike film, but watching movies isn’t something I would call a hobby of mine. I’ve never seen “Star Wars,” “The Notebook” or “The Matrix,” and I don’t pay any attention to the Oscars because it is very likely that I won’t recognize even half of the nominated titles. For me to be motivated to see a movie, I need to hear some really, really good things about it first.

Knowing all this, it might come as a surprise that the movie I’m currently itching to see is “Red Tails,” produced by George Lucas and directed by Anthony Hemingway.

The film currently holds a low rating of 36 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and Roger Ebert only gave it two and a half stars. Most reviews I’ve read commend Lucas’ effort to address an important and often overlooked part of American history but criticize the film for its corny dialogue, overdone action and constant clichés.

But just because this film doesn’t live up to critics’ standards doesn’t change my mind about seeing it. This might be a first for me.

In case you don’t know, “Red Tails” is an action movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, the first group of black soldiers trained as fighter pilots during World War II, a time when segregation and racism were entrenched in American culture. The film tells the stories of the brave men who fought to protect their country, knowing they would be met with racial animosity when they returned home, no matter how successful they were as soldiers.

Lucas has been working on the film for 23 years (yes, that’s longer than I’ve been alive) and financed the $58 million project himself. Why? Because “Red Tails” features an almost entirely African-American cast.

According to Lucas in an interview on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” major studios apparently did not want anything to do with the film because they did not think a predominantly African-American cast would bring in enough dough at the box office.

“It’s because it’s an all-black movie,” Lucas said. “There’s no major white roles in it at all. It’s one of the first all-black action pictures ever made.”

One might think that someone with as much cinematic clout as the man who created “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” could persuade Hollywood to finance an action-packed film such as this one. However, studios were not confident that there was a foreign market for it, which Lucas said is responsible for 60 percent of the revenue of a Hollywood film.

For me, Lucas’ struggle to get “Red Tails” off the ground is enough to prompt me to see it. Think about it. How many movies have you seen that feature an all-black cast other than one of Tyler Perry’s comedies? It’s a short list, isn’t it? Big-name studios point to financial issues, but then what does that say about us, the people who dictate the entertainment market?

Not only that, but the history behind the film is inspiring. It might be muddled by cheesy dialogue and under-developed characters, but the story’s message is clear. I hadn’t even heard of the Tuskegee Airmen before last week, and I’ve taken my fair share of history courses over the years. The movie’s concept itself made me stop and think about what our society and our education system values as important parts of our nation’s history.

Lucas said, “I wanted to make it inspirational for teenage boys. I wanted to show that they have heroes, that they’re real American heroes. They’re patriots. They helped make the country what it is today.”

Even if critics aren’t raving about the cinematic quality of “Red Tails,” I think it is important to give credit to a movie that has prompted long overdue discussions about the American entertainment industry.

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