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Films >> Red Tails (2012) >>

1) My career in public service was made possible by the path heroes like the Tuskegee Airmen trail-blazed. (President Obama, qtd in Seelye)

2) I wanted to make it inspirational for [African American] teenage boys. I wanted to show that they have heroes that are real American heroes that are patriots that helped make this country what it is today. (George Lucas)

3) We were the local rock stars of the Black community. (a Tuskegee Airman)

4) This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot, I've been trying to get released ever since. . . . It's because it's an all-black movie. There's no major white roles in it at all. . . . I showed it to all of them [studios] and they said no. We don't know how to market a movie like this. (George Lucas on Stewart)

5) The mostly happy ending is as satisfying as a snack of milk and cookies after a ninth grade softball game. (Stephen Holden)

6) The film is paced at just the right pitch to maintain excitement without becoming frenetic. But it's only half of a good movie. As soon as those dogfighting planes land, the story trips up by skimming the surface of history. (Claudia Puig)

7) I realize that by accident I've now put the black film community at risk [with Red Tails, whose $58 million budget far exceeds typical all-black productions]. I'm saying, if this doesn't work, there's a good chance you'll stay where you are for quite a while. It'll be harder for you guys to break out of that [lower-budget] mold. But if I can break through with this movie, then hopefully there will be someone else out there saying let's make a prequel and sequel, and soon you have more Tyler Perry’s out there. (George Lucas on Stewart)

8) The ultimate judge of a person’s character is their ability to exceed expectations when little recognition or praise is given. (movie poster qtd in Lineberry)

9) The movie is so desperate to be palatable, to appeal to everybody, that it doesn't taste like anything. (Wesley Morris)

10) Since we've been trying to do this [film] for 65 years, we're really gratified that at last it has happened. And because of 'Red Tails' people will know about us that didn't know before. (Dr. Roscoe Brown qtd in Wilkinson)

11) One longs for more scenes between the ensemble on the ground, but the emphasis on aerial (and digital) technology leaves the characters without context. There’s a particularly troubling absence of black women (but for a painting on Lightning’s plane) who go unmentioned -- no gal back home? no sisters, no Mamas? -- nor do we ever see the African Americans who followed the squadron’s adventures. (Ina Diane Archer)

12) This is as close as you'll get to ["Star Wars"] Episode VII. (George Lucas on Stewart)

13) Whether you show your support for the long overdue story of the Tuskegee Airmen, for the mostly Black cast, or for the tremendous efforts of Lucas himself in bringing this story to light, once again this is a movie that needs to be supported. (David Banner)

14) Back then, nobody realized the significance of what we were doing. Now, they seem to think we could walk on water. (Grant Williams qtd in Lineberry)

15) Lucas, in a playful mood, said a huge opening weekend would persuade the studios to finance a second “Red Tails” movie -- a prequel-- “that Spike Lee’s gonna make!” From the crowd, Lee yelled, “When do we start?” Lucas continued, “And we can get somebody else -- Lee Daniels -- to do the sequel! (Bryan Curtis)

16) I worked hard to make a film about heroes, not victims. (George Lucas qtd in Gibbs)

17) The records established by those pilots have never been exceeded. And I don't think they ever will be. (Grant Williams qtd in Lineberry)

18) To say that this live-action comic book lives up to Mr. Lucas's description is not a wholehearted endorsement. Are teenage boys as naïve today as they were 60 or more years ago? And much of the dialogue is groaningly clunky. But so it was back then. (Stephen Holden)

19) If you go to Red Tails to learn anything (even heavily fictionalized things) about the origin of the Tuskegee Airmen, or the workaday racism they had to endure, you will be disappointed. (Michael Phillips)

20) We had a perfect score. Three missions, two bombs per plane. We didn't guess at anything, we were good. (Grant Williams qtd in Wilkinson)

21) For the first time, the story of the integration of the U.S. armed forces gets what screenwriter (and "Boondocks" creator) Aaron McGruder has called, "the John Wayne treatment." The movie doesn't dwell on the obstacles the pilots had to overcome to receive their training or get selected for important combat missions. It is part of the story, but the movie does not run wild with the tragic irony of black men defending a country that discriminates against them at home. The focus is squarely on the pilots, their support staff and commanders. (Adam Mazmanian)

22) The movie "Red Tails" could not possibly have been "inspired by" the Tuskegee Airmen, as billed, for it is little more than a black comedy about guys who clown and connive their way through World War II, supposedly as combat pilots. Disheveled, undisciplined, crude and uncouth, they are the exact opposite of the real men who served in the all-black fighter group in the 1940s. In this movie -- which has raked in millions of dollars at the box office and even got a thumbs up from President Obama -- the squad leader finds courage in a bottle of booze while his wingman's lust for an Italian woman leads to insubordination. During dogfights with the German Luftwaffe, the black pilots behave like kids in a video arcade. (Courtland Milloy)

23) Lucas focuses on the truly spectacular air battle sequences at the expense of characterization and backstory. The composited characters are flat, especially the white soldiers who recite wooden expository dialogue. (Ina Diane Archer)

24) Red Tails is no Glory, the 1989 film about the Civil War's all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. That was a serious treatment of wars waged against the rebel enemy and the myriad struggles within the Union ranks. Red Tails is more a throwback to the war movies of the era it depicts. A diverse group of Americans -- from city and countryside, officers and enlisted, hot shots, and thoughtful -- are thrown together in wartime. It's about their struggles on the ground, their adventures in the air, the bonds that are forged, the soldiers that are lost. It's about duty, honor, courage, and sacrifice, with plenty of examples of each along the way. (Kevin Ferris)

25) You won't see Red Tails and start a movement. But if it gets one kid to open a book and read more about the Tuskegee Airmen, it will have done its job. (Mike Dennis qtd in John-Hall)

26) This is it -- yet another example of what I call "castor oil" movies that black filmgoers are commanded to go see as sense of duty and obligation. (Sergio)

27) The question that loomed largest over the 332nd Fighter Group was whether they were intelligent enough to fly. The doubts, deeply rooted in racism, persist to this day. Of 14,130 Air Force pilots in 2009, just 270 identified themselves as black -- fewer than 2 percent -- according to the Air Force Personnel Center. So it was particularly egregious to have those black pilots clowning in the cockpit, engaged in dogfights that weren't just fiction but science fiction. Rather than showing how the black pilots actually fared in combat, the film shows them magically flying propeller-driven planes fast enough to catch German jets that were 100 miles per hour faster. They could turn on a dime, too, as if piloting Han Solo's Millennium Falcon at warp speed in one of Lucas's "Star Wars" episodes. Unbelievable. (Courtland Milloy)

28) Sometimes it's all a black filmgoer can do to keep from throwing popcorn at the screen. You're not seen. Or you are seen, but you're stupid or violent. Or maybe there's not an angry bone in your body and instead you're a saintly prop for complicated white characters to work out their kinks. (Lonnae O'Neal Parker)

29) But my first memory in life was three years old: my dad took me to see "Star Wars" and it's not just the first movie I remember, it's my first memory. If you ever watch "Boondocks," a lot of times it does become more of an action comedy than just a pure comedy. I've always had a passion for that, and it was a big deal to get the call. In terms of the tone, coming from the comic book world, that's what I wanted to see. That part of me weighed over the cynical satirist. When it came to these guys, you had the opportunity to tell a clean story with over-the-top heroes and a simple "Star Wars" good vs. bad thing. The more comic book-y the better. (Aaron McGruder qtd in Larnick)

30) I am writing regarding the new movie Red Tails. This movie was 23 years in the making. George Lucas (Star Wars) wrote the movie with the Tuskegee Airmen. When he started writing the movie there were 42 men alive, now there are only 7. He said their stories were so compelling he did not want to leave anything out. There are 3 movies. This is the first all black film. He is using his own money, because the big companies will not finance an all black film. If the movie does not do well the first weekend, we will never see the other two! The movie comes out Jan 20 Friday! Please make a date with someone and see it the first weekend! Please forward this email to everyone you know, so we can support this movie! (blog post qtd by Sergio)

31) The big challenge with George knowing so much about the history and having a very personal relationship with these pilots for so long, was I think he just got overwhelmed trying to do right by these guys. I came in with fresh eyes and ears, as someone who still loves the first movies and I wanted to do anything I could to get George back into that place of capturing that charm. I feel there's a charm to "Red Tails" that I haven't experienced in a long time at the movies. I'm hoping that kids go to this movie without that grown-up cynicism. If you're my age, just enjoy the ride and have the experience that we had when we first saw "Star Wars" and "Empire Strikes Back" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark." That would be 100% the goal. I feel like the history is easy to put out there, there's already a familiarity with it, or at least the broad strokes of racism and segregation. Some people are going to like this tonal choice and some people are going to say, "Oh it should've been heavier and it should've been more dramatic." But there's a version of this that doesn't have to be "Saving Private Ryan." We can be "Star Wars," as crazy as it is. (Aaron McGruder qtd in Larnick)

32) Red Tails is mostly a lengthy pastiche of clichés from World War II combat movies. It doesn't matter that the characters are African-American: one size cliché fits all. (Marshall Fine)

33) During a recent screening of the movie sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists, I sat with Morris and several other Tuskegee Airmen. The men were pleased that the history of the black pilots, gunners and mechanics was getting so much attention, and they were grateful to Lucas for using $93 million of his own money to help bankroll the film. Nevertheless, they saw little of themselves on the screen. Davis would not have tolerated the fist fights, aerial stunts, drunkenness and insubordination. For my money, Lucas could have depicted the pilots as they were -- as distinctive as the squad led by Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan," or the group of soldiers in the television series "Band of Brothers" and "The Pacific." He could have at least made them appear credible as pilots. (Courtland Milloy)