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There is considerable consensus among the reviews about this film. Reviewers have explicitly and implicitly deemed this action-packed film a failure. Though visually captivating, with convincing flight simulations and comic-like action, this film lacks the meat or substance one would expect to find in a script about such important historical figures. The dialogue is very simple, and the script does not effectively establish character depth or any context for the battles the Tuskegee Airmen faced on the ground as result of the social climate and the racial tension existent during the time. The general consensus is that this film does a disservice to the many Tuskegee Airmen and their allies, who all so fervently wanted to serve beneath the flag. However, the efforts to bring this African American story to the big screen by Lucas are widely viewed as commendable. Despite the broadly negative perception of this film, the little support that the film does have, interestingly, seems to come from African American reviews. The tone of these reviews seem much more supportive and uplifting rather than highly critical, and the writers seem more often to encourage the viewing of the film, recognizing it as a historical tribute rather than dissecting and discrediting it for what it lacks. Still, one of the daughters of famed Airman Lee Buddy Archer reports on the ineffectiveness of the film in delving into the personal and familial lives of the decorated negro pilots, feeling as if the film barely scratched the surface of their deeper stories, which arguably makes the production of a film such as this one so profound!

Archer, Ina Diane. "Red Tails Review." Film Comment March/April 2012.
As the daughter of a renowned Tuskegee Airmen, Archer is disappointed with the film. Though the movie displayed in-air action to the fullest extent and highlighted some of the undertakings of the "Gruesome Twosome," thought to be based on Lt. Col. Lee Buddy Archer, her father, and Lt. Col. Wendell O. Pruitt, the characters lacked depth and context. Archer argues that the two hours allocated this movie was insufficient for telling a full story. Criticizing Lucas, Archer believes that the story of struggles at home, complications with romance, family life, and racism were vital components to the story of the Red Tails. In addition, Archer points out the lack of representation of black women in the movie and, really, women at all! "Why confine this side of the story to prequels and sequels? Whether it runs for two hours or for ‘6 Smashing Reels!' their story deserves a fuller depiction."
Banner, David. "David Banner's Critical Review of Red Tails." Black Enterprise 23 January 2012: 1-2.
Banner, an ex-rapper now refined into the world of acting, discusses the impactful nature of Red Tails and movies similar. He also praises the investment Lucas made in the film, which dates back to the 80's: "The point is that at every turn in the development and production of Red Tails, George Lucas sought Black talent to tell an authentic and dignified Black story. For that he should be applauded." Banner says the movie did everything that movie execs said it wasn't supposed to, and more: "Numbers show that a big budget, dignified movie with a mostly Black cast can make money. . . . "Secondly, the success of a movie like Red Tails shows that a wide variety of images of the Black community can be embraced on film. Historically, depictions of our community have consistently reinforced servant, buffoon, criminal and deviant themes. Red Tails shows that a heroic, distinguished and uplifting representation of our community is marketable." Banner believes Lucas has found a formula to dispel the doubts of the Hollywood studios that were uneasy with carrying this film: "Lucas has also taught a lesson to the Black filmmaking community. This lesson is, the selfless and dogmatic commitment to redefining Black images and telling quality, uplifting Black stories, is a blueprint that every Black filmmaker should study and emulate." Given the tone of the article, Banner is in full support and admiration of this film, although he does have a few jabbing critiques: "The story of the Tuskegee Airmen themselves -- their triumphs, their tragedies, their battles in combat and their battles at home -- are too great a story to be condensed into a two-hour time frame. It is for this reason that Lucas himself is on record as saying that he plans to produce both a sequel (covering the experiences of the pilots after returning home) and a prequel (documenting their flight training at Tuskegee University) if Red Tails proves to be successful. In the end, the movie itself, though simplistic and at times 'corny,' was inspiring."
Curtis, Bryan. "George Lucas Is Ready to Roll the Credits." New York Times 17 January 2012.
Curtis says that Lucas is ready to call it quits and explains that the famed director has great hopes for Red Tails as his final blockbuster. "I'm retiring," Lucas said. "I'm moving away from the business, from the company, from all this kind of stuff." After his retirement, Lucas looks to create personal 70s-style films, says Curtis. However the success of Red Tails may determine whether Lucas's career stretches any further, as he claims the success might stimulate the makings of sequels and prequels "that Spike Lee's gonna make!"
Demby, Gene. "George Lucas: Hollywood Didn't Want To Fund 'Red Tails' Because Of Its Black Cast." 11 January 2012.
Demby describes Lucas's visit to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. "This has been held up for release since 1942 since it was shot; I've been trying to get it released ever since," Lucas quipped to Stewart. Demby describes the difficulty Lucas had with getting the film studios to pick up the film, which eventually culminated in his delving into personal funds for production and distribution. Finally, Demby records Lucas's reservations with the film from the Daily Show interview. "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]," he said. "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 Perrys out there."
Ebert, Roger. "Red Tails." Chicago Sun Times 18 January 2012.
Ebert describes Red Tails as Star Wars brought down to Earth, with airplanes rather than spaceships: "The emphasis here is on action, and this is not so much a social or historical document as a war thriller." Ebert attributes the creation and form of the film, with frequent aerial battle and limited dialogue, to Lucas's fascination with the Oscar-winning Wings, which depicts World War 1 aerial battles. He argues that the execution of skill and excitement within the scenes of aerial combat showcase the courage and skill of the Tuskegee airmen. Still, it seems that Ebert believes the film is underachieving, failing to "establish the atmosphere of the Jim Crow south that surrounded most of the airmen in their childhoods or "the dramatic scenes on the ground in Europe." The question remains as to whether or not Lucas's intention for this movie was to create a blockbuster or a statement about our American history. Lucas deemed the movie "as close as you'll get to Star Wars Episode VII." Though the film was not as historically accurate as some other representations of the Tuskegee airmen, like the 1995 film that aired on HBO, Ebert considers it entertaining and enjoyable, and worth a watch.
Ferris, Kevin. "Back Channels: Despite Critics, a Message; 'Red Tails' Shows Bravery and Patriotism of African American Airmen in WWII." Philadelphia Inquirer 29 January 2012: C2.
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.
Fine, Marshall. "Movie Review: Red Tails." Huffington Post 20 January 2012.
Fine disagrees with notion proposed by Lucas that Hollywood is not on board for the promotion of the movie Red Tails because it's about black people, but, instead, he thinks "people will avoid it because it simply is not a very good film." "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." Fine says that the characters who constitute the black fighter squadron fit "the hoariest of stereotypes." "They don't get blasted out of the sky any too soon—certainly not before your patience for this grindingly slow film runs out. Red Tails doesn't crash and burn -- mostly because it barely gets off the ground."
"George Lucas says Hollywood won't support black films." BBC News 12 January 2012.
This article documents an interview between Lucas and popular TV personality Jon Stewart. Lucas, without holding back, describes his troubles with the production of the movie, placing heat on Hollywood for unwillingness to push the film. "There's no major white roles in it at all," Lucas says to provide insight into Hollywood's impassiveness in bringing the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen to the big screen. Lucas compares the treatment of his film to the treatment of a Tyler Perry film, claiming that major film studios stay away because of the fear of the lack of a foreign market. Thus, Lucas describes how this movie became a personal expense. He also hints that a prequel and sequel to the action-packed film is likely if the film achieves its anticipated success.
Gibbs, Adrienne Samuels. "Red Tails: Making Movie History." Ebony 20 January 2012: 114.
Gibbs calls Red Tails a "certifiable big deal," commending director Anthony Hemingway for doing what he does best by creating "a cast of actors who embody the real-life characters without overtaking the story with their own celebrity." He also describes how the film enlisted the help of big names like Oprah and Tyler Perry for marketing and how film distributors refrained from carrying the film of the Black pilots who assisted in the destroying of Adolf Hitler's regime "while also fighting the institutional racism promoted by the U.S. Armed Forces." An interesting quote that Gibbs captures from Lucas goes: "I worked hard to make a film about heroes, not victims." Speaking on behalf of Ebony, Gibbs displays their heavy support of the film.
Gleiberman, Owen. "Red Tails." Entertainment Weekly 18 January 2012.,,20483133_20556657,00.html
Gleiberman calls Red Tails "a lavishly square historical drama." The movie was a "sky-war pageant" with nothing of substance happening on the ground contributing towards a full and satiating story of the airmen. Gleiberman continues with criticism of the individual characters of the film, finding the defiance and bravado of characters played by David Oyelowo and Terrence Howard: "But just about everyone else in the cast achieves one or two eager dimensions rather than three."
Holden, Stephen. "Pilots Who Fought to Soar Above Racism." New York Times 19 January 19 2012.
Lucas deems his movie patriotic and jingoistic and inspirational for teenage boys, but Holden does not share the same thoughts. "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," reports Holden. The simple characters, the blunt racism, and the simple plot are all negatives in this article. Holden takes a sarcastic final snub at the movie by making one final comment. "The mostly happy ending is as satisfying as a snack of milk and cookies after a ninth grade softball game."
Holden, Stephen. "Red Tails: George Lucas's Tale of Tuskegee Airmen." New York Times 20 January 2012.
Holden thinks that Lucas's efforts to bring this movie to the big screen "could be seen as significant morale boosters for African-American men whose World War II service still remains woefully under recognized." The film showcases a lot of exciting and intense aerial battle through computer-generated graphics, although "a fleet of Flying Fortresses are not especially realistic." The movie is straight to the point when it comes to racism, "which extends from the top down" through the ranks. It is necessary to convey the real-life struggle and the battles away from the airfields that the Red Tail pilots had to face. "The mostly happy ending is as satisfying as a snack of milk and cookies after a ninth grade softball game."
John-Hall, Annette. "'Red Tails' is worthwhile but misses opportunities to teach viewers about the Tuskegee Airmen." Philadelphia Inquirer 24 January 2012: B1.
"You won't see Red Tails and start a movement," says Mike Dennis of Reelblack, an African American film production and promotion company. "But if it gets one kid to open a book and read more about the Tuskegee Airmen, it will have done its job."
Lineberry, Denise. "The Tuskegee Airmen: Unsung Heroes Sing." Researcher News [NASA Langley Research Center] 20 January 2012.
"When the Tuskegee Airmen were fighting for their country, segregation was the law. As members of the military, they had to fight harder to prove their talents and to become respected. A poster titled, 'Unsung Heroes' was on display in the Cinebistro alongside tables of books filled with articles, photos and information about the Tidewater Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. On the poster was a quote: 'The ultimate judge of a person's character is their ability to exceed expectations when little recognition or praise is given'."
Lumenick, Lou. "'Tail' blazers." New York Post 19 January 2012.
Lumenick thinks that Red Tails "would probably be acclaimed as a minor masterpiece if it was directed by Quentin Tarantino. But because so many blame its producer, George Lucas, for desecrating their childhoods with the 'Star Wars' prequels (not an issue for me), you're going to hear people dump on this." Lumenick disagrees with the sweeping majority of critics, claiming Red Tails to be "one of the best January-releases of the past 30 years, a well-acted, well-directed (by TV veteran Anthony Hemingway) popcorn movie with great aerial battles and solid dramatic scenes that hold your attention for two good hours." "Red Tails isn't a perfect movie. Some of the dialogue is awkward, especially early on (but it's not like 'Star Wars' prequels, which seem to have been translated into Sanskrit and then back into English). And you'd think Lucas, the founder of Industrial Light and Magic, would have more state-of-the-art special effects than the sometimes cheesy ones on view here." Overall, Red Tails is a welcome change from Hollywood's historic January dumping ground, and a lot more fun to sit through than some of Spielberg's other pretentious pieces as of late.
Mazmanian, Adam. "Heroes of the Sky; Tuskegee Airmen Story Told in John Wayne Style." Washington Times 23 January 2012: C10.
"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."
Milloy, Courtland. "'Red Tails':A Disservice to the Airmen." Washington Post 30 January 2012: B1.
"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."
Morgenstern, Joe. "Red Tails." Wall Street Journal 20 January 2012.
Morgenstern says that no story from World War II deserves a great movie more than the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. "The end result is not a great movie, but a deeply misconceived one that tells the story with a comic-book sensibility and a videogame approach to the visual effects." "One could argue that the target audience -- black teenagers, Mr. Lucas has said -- might be most receptive to a film that conveys history through contemporary entertainment. But this isn't contemporary entertainment, it's antiquated kitsch reprocessed by the producer's nostalgia for the movies of his boyhood. The story has been stripped of historical context -- don't black teenagers and everyone else deserve hard facts? -- and internal logic." In spite of the trial and tribulation Lucas had gone through in the production of this movie, Morgenstern argues that it is a "collection of clichés" with "whiz-bang wondrousness," with no connection to authenticity.
Morris, Wesley. "Red Tails." Boston Globe 20 January 2012.
Morris appreciates the depiction of black heroism in Red Tails and concedes to the need for more of this representation. He also recognizes that the receipt of the film by black luminaries sharply contrasted with the views of the Hollywood executives, who would not provide the film a marketing push, and from many other critics of the film. However, Morris has many gripes with the movie, its plot, and the characters. Morris believes that the extensiveness of the POV fight scenes give the film a classic Lucas touch, "but most of the flight scenes bog down the movie. If we get one shot of brown faces with the black flight masks, we must get a thousand, and few of these actors are brilliant enough to act their way past that." Morris continues to say that the movie in nature is more political than military. His distaste for the movie is reflected further by his description of one of the lead actors, Terrence Howard: "It'd be dishonest to say that he's better here than he was as a rapping pimp. For any actor, down and dirty is more fun than pressed and starched. But pressed and starched is all this movie can afford to be." Morris blames the outcome of this movie on its treatment as a blockbuster: "The move is so desperate to be palatable, to appeal to everybody that it doesn't taste like anything."
Phillips, Michael. "Heroism loses to Hollywood in 'Red Tails' — 2 stars." Chicago Tribune 19 January 2012.
Phillips calls the film a "rickety cliché" of the fierce heroics of the Tuskegee Airmen stationed at Ramitellli Airfield, rating the movie with two out of five stars. He argues that the heroics depicted lose to the Hollywood quality and feeling of the film. "It sets out to ingratiate without provocation or complexity"; "It avoids the aggravating Hollywood strategy of telling an African-American story by way of a mass-marketable white protagonist, a la the Civil War drama, Glory." The entertaining air battles place emphasis on "the killing part," steering away from the intent of the film to tell the stories of "the characters doing the shooting." Phillps credits Lucas for his "larger-than-life treatment" of the stories of the Tuskegee Airmen but is displeased overall: "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." "The actors do all they can. But Lucas and company did not get the script right with this one."
Puig, Claudia. "'Red Tails' only soars in the air." USA Today 19 January 2012.
Puig believes that the attempt to honor Tuskegee Airmen "ends up giving them short shrift with a clichéd and leaden story. The tribute to an important chapter in history would have benefited by delving deeper beneath the surface of what these intrepid men faced from the military's then-entrenched racism." Interestingly, Puig believes that one of the mollifying qualities of the movie is the performance of the lesser known cast rather than the big names, praising the roles of Nate Parker and David Oyelowo. "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."
Silverman, Alan. "'Red Tails' Tells Story of Black WWII Pilots." Voices of America 18 January 2012.
Silverman calls Red Tails "a dramatized version of their story, but the combat exploits it depicts are based on true events." He reveals the involvement of a handful of surviving Tuskegee airmen in writing his piece, documenting an interview with Dr. Roscoe Brown in which he says "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." Silverman reveals that one star from the film, David Oyelowo, knew little about the history of the Tuskegee airmen: "I had no idea that they were everyday people. You hear about the 'Tuskegee Airmen, the 'Red Tails,' and they seemed like a very select, legendary group. But we meet them when they were human and flesh and blood before they became legendary."

See Also

Curtis, Bryan. "George Lucas Is Ready to Roll the Credits." New York Times Magazine 22 January 2012: 43-46, 54-55.

Parker, Lonnae O'Neal. "Lucas's 'Red Tails' is a tough balancing act." Washington Post 22 January 2012: T3.

Wilkinson, Stephan. Aviation History Magazine. March 2012.