So Red Tails has not landed safely into theaters. I haven’t even touched on the actors, but suffice it to say that there was very little in the way of admirable authority coming from either Howard or Gooding Jr. (and his pipe). I wanted to remain as open-minded as possible, which seemed like a difficult task, given the years of post-production and January release date, but alas, pretty dogfights was not enough for me to be able to stand by the film. It is certainly not insulting in anyway, but it certainly becomes laughable in spots and irritatingly plain in others. There is nothing very on point about its message that seems relevant and as an action film it is still subpar. For me, Red Tails has been grounded from further takeoff.
Strangely not working to the film’s benefit, Red Tails was scripted by John Ridley (Three Kings) and, curiously, Aaron McGruder. McGruder is a cartoonist best known for creating The Boondocks, which is focused around African American culture and providing satirical insights and social commentary about racial and political issues. This brings me back to why I think the film plays almost like a comic book. Rather than seeming intelligent, the dialogue (among other script-based areas) is broad, very stilted, almost rooted in a pulpy 1930s serial, except it all falls completely flat. If the film had a more stylized tone or look, this may have passed, yet there is no evidence of that. Red Tails plays everything very straight and as a result everything feels routine to the point of irritation.
Something that’s interesting to note about Saving Private Ryan: Steven Spielberg, a Jew, included a Jewish character in the story, named Mellish. For some reason, he made Mellish one of the least likable characters in the movie, and ultimately had him lose to (of all people) a Nazi in face to face combat. I have no idea why Spielberg chose to do this, but, whatever his reason, it shows a certain contemplative humility that either white guilt or black narcissism just won’t allow into films like Red Tails. If the makers of black cinema want to see a wider interest in their films, they need to start putting their characters in a realistic light.