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“Red Tails” can’t hold its altitude with HBO predecessor

When I think about Lucasfilms “Red Tails,” I think about the Nike Air Jordans Concords.

The original “The Tuskegee Airmen” was released on HBO in 1995. So too was the original Concords, or Air Jordans XI. And unparalleled to the original release of both, their releases (which ironically was a month apart) have come with off-the-wall fanfare.

Studying “Red Tails” further, the George Lucas led endeavor used  an actor from the ’95 film (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and the writers also got consultation from a member of the Tuskegee program. Much to my relief, the film was directed by an African American (Anthony Hemingway, known for directing “The Wire”) and the screenplay was co-written by African Americans, one most notably is Aaron McGruder, the creator of The Boondocks comic strip.

Movie poster for Lucasfilms "Red Tails."

When I first saw the trailer for “Red Tails” some time ago, I immediately thought: ‘I’ve seen this before.’ My second thought: ‘I’m not going to see it.’

I’m not too fond of remakes, re-boots and in case of shoes, re-treading as I like to call it. “Red Tails” is no question a re-boot of HBO’s “The Tuskegee Airmen.” I was very close to not going but with all of this whooping and screaming from Lucas himself to black entertainers about how important is is for the movie to be successful for the sake of black movies in Hollywood (and my own personal reason as an aspiring screenwriter) I bought into it and spent money on a ticket.

“Red Tails” opened with a problem for me. The superimpose text about what essentially summed up to blacks aren’t able to man fighter jets because of inferior brains would have been better suited and would have had a more powerful meaning if said by a white official who wanted the Tuskegee program to fail.

Secondly, there wasn’t any character development. We saw glimpses of who the characters are, like Easy’s drinking problem and Joe’s egotistical temper, but we have no idea as to why. That could have easily been remedied with at least flashbacks.

“Red Tails” suffers from lack of story cohesion.  Joe’s love affair with Sofia has nothing to do with the theme nor does it change him and Ray’s P.O.W. escape is a side story that takes away from the flow of a plot that is very predictable.

Hemingway and Lucas decided to set the majority of the film in the air, to focus on the air attacks which were visually stunning but took away from us learning more about the pilots.

Lucas made it know that he plans both a prequel and sequel and it’s evident. The movie picks up in the middle of the Airmen’s story, completely ignoring the question of how we’ve gotten to this point in time.

The beauty of “The Tuskegee Airmen” is that it gave us the pilots’ entire story, from their training to them earning their ‘red tails’ in less time (106 minutes of running time) than it took “Red Tails” to give us half that (121 minutes).

Banking on a prequel wasn’t a wise decision for Lucas and company. If moviegoers go in with no prior knowledge of the Tuskegee Airmen, they’ll leave with hardly any answers.

“The Tuskegee Airmen” gave us more heart. “The Tuskegee Airmen” presented us with more of the struggle. “The Tuskegee Airmen” gave us a completeness that “Red Tails” just failed to do.

      

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