David Banner’s Critical Review of ‘Red Tails’

The opinionated entertainer shares his thoughts on the film and it’s lasting impact on Black filmmaking

David Banner

The Development of the Movie

Much has been said (and should be said) about the role of George Lucas in making this film, but be very clear, this is a Black movie. In the promoting and reporting on Red Tails, the major theme has been the mostly Black cast, and the lack of a White actor in a major capacity in this film. This alone should be applauded, but what gets lost in the discussion is the fact that the director, the co-writers (including Boondocks creator Aaron McGruder) and the music director (New Orleans’ own Terrence Blanchard) are also Black. Furthermore, while developing the idea for the movie in the late ’80s, Thomas Carter, Lucas’ first choice for director, is Black and it was reported that Samuel L. Jackson was at one time in discussions to direct and star in the film. 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.

The Impact of the Movie

The box office reports are in for opening weekend and it’s official, Red Tails can be declared a box office success, coming in second place over the weekend with over $19 million in ticket sales. The box office receipts point to several realities:

First, and arguably most important, these numbers show that a big budget, dignified movie with a mostly Black cast can make money. The inability of this type of movie to draw dollars was the primary reason given to Lucas as to why no major studio in Hollywood would back the movie.

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.

Lastly, the efforts of Lucas himself are particularly instructive. Nearly a quarter century of rejection by every major studio in Hollywood was not enough to deter Lucas from his goal of providing “real heroes” for American teenagers—presumably Black teenagers. In addition to his telling a quality Black story, Lucas also seemed determined to put Blacks in positions critical to creating and telling the story (director, writer, composer, etc.) His dedication to this story—and indirectly to the redefining of Black images—was confirmed when it became clear that if he wanted this story told, he would have to fund it himself. In the face of such an obstacle, Lucas literally “put his money where his mouth is,” by funding the project with money out of his own pocket (to the tune of $96 million) to not only get the movie made but distributed as well. This act alone speaks to his sincerity and determination in bringing this type of story to the big screen.

With Red Tails 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.

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  • rhenewal

    Thank you for mentioning the horrible font. I think it predisposed me to be very critical of the movie. I found it looked both cheap and juvenile. Also, I agree with the majority of your review.

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  • V. Turner

    Intresting comment about the font. Didn’t bother me at all. Kind of made me think of the moment someone suggested to “Paint the tails Red!”. They were in a war zone, no fancy paint shop around, can see a guy with brush and paint in hand. Think font is appropriate.

    Think the movie was great, the story telling and compression (of so much in so little film time) was almost like watching a comic book. I don’t say that to be negative. Kind of like seeing a D.C. Enemy Ace, G.I. Combat, Sgt. Rock, with great Joe Kubert cover come to life. No matter the box office results we have a great film in the historical record that documents if only in a very brief amount of filmtime many aspects of our courageous black airmen. To satisfy everyone a mini series on the order of Band of Brothers would be required. There are hundreds of stories of WWII tankers, and soldiers that remain untold. Hats off to Mr. Lucas for the strength of conviction to see this through on his dime.

  • Clever Gemz

    I have yet to se the Movie but I have been following Lucas’ interviews. Many of the critiques that you shared here are actually some of the same ones he has mentioned himself. But the main one is the Character development. George Lucas Actually Has a Prequel written and ready to go based on the success of this movie. This actually takes place in the middle of the story. He has more to tell and develop we just have to continue to support his vision.

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  • KStephens

    I agree with Mr. Banner’s critique. I liked the film but I was disappointed by the writing. I thought it simplistic and the film is rife with cliches. I admire Mr. Lucas’ determination to make this movie, and his desire to show black teenagers heroes who look like them. Someone should have told him and the writers that black teens, or any teens for that matter, respond to honesty, whether it be in language or deed. Unfortunately the one-dimensional characters and hokey dialogue won’t do much to garner their respect. I hope he can secure better writers for his future installations.

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  • Liveurlife Thisyear

    I am very glad to hear about the box office success of this movie.Congratulations to George Lucas. David Banner being a BLACK PASSIONATE MAN has been been informing people about this movie.Maybe this type of success will motivate African-Americans of means to find their BLACKNESS and unite to produce more “fo self and about self.”

  • Dre

    I think, to a degree, that it was a good thing that the movie was simplistic. This is a heavy story and I don’t think we can expect it to be told in one shot. I do hope that the prequel does come to fruition. And I do hope that future WWII flicks include the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. I can’t recall one WWII flick that features anyone but white men. But what this movie does, is introduce the story of the Tuskegee Airmen to an audience that has probably never heard of these men. And hopefully it will inspire us, that do know of them, to learn more about them and share their story to future generations. I took my 9 year old son and 3 teen nephews to see it.

  • brotherap

    “First and foremost, this is a movie that MUST be supported”

    With all due respect, the above quote of David Banner is and always will be a degrading death sentence to black movies and black actors. It’s like saying “Ugly Ass Suzy is the only girl without a date to the prom, we MUST support Suzy and find her a date”. It is degrading to the validity of the story to be told and to the potential of black actors to find work, and stops short of begging. We, African Americans, must strategize to produce our films within our own truthfully manageable budgets, with formulas for marketing that defy the proposition intentionally embedded in the minds of the global consumers that black heroes, black stories, black actors, are not marketable. The very idea is simply a variation of what advertising agencies used to say while denying advertising dollars to black radio stations, “your music is not strong enough to make an impact on the market”. We all know that to be a lie. Now what we must do as independent producers is develop a strategy that undermines any thought of the inferiority of our product, through our experiences, or any other genre that we choose to write and produce. Kudos to Lucas, he at least got one part of the formula right, but the producers of the movie “The Devil Inside” got the formula right too, whether you like the genre or not. They produced a film for a million dollars which will have a profit ratio of at least 100-to-1 before the end of 90 days. Figuring out the formula is key and what we blacks must do is figure out what pieces go where in the formula. Much of it is psychological, baby!…..Peace brotherap

    • Sybil

      I resent David Banner’s comments. My father was in WWII, and was
      shot and wounded. How about sending Mr. Banner and his Rap group,
      into a war zone to put on a show. Yeah’, I thought not David.

      I commend Mr. Lucas, for using his money, and making this movie happen.
      We must remember Ignorance is Bliss. Peace!

  • jayebee

    My husband and I saw the movie today. Although war is not a topic I enjoy watching in a movie (or in real life!), I really wanted to see this one because of the story itself. While we did enjoy the movie and would recommend it to others, it really left me hungry for more of the story. I think I will look for some books on the subject to really learn more about this important part of our American history. I will also look forward to the prequel and sequel in the future.

  • wuzyoungoncetoo

    Please stop referring to Red Tails as the “long overdue” telling of the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. Not only does the film fail to actually tell that story in any meaningful way, it was beat to the punch by another film…oddly titled “The Tuskegee Airmen”…that told that story far better, over 16 years ago. Lucas even recycled Cuba Gooding Jr. From that earlier telling.

  • Hidalgo Roughknuckles

    The movie was an insult to real, in-depth, thought out movies on the related subject. It being a George Lucas film and being so terribly done, leads me to believe that this was just a cheap attempt to be perceived as African American conscious while exploiting a mainly D-list cast of actors to pull quick money from black movie goers. It’s funny so many people mentioned the credits because the credits were something that my girlfriend and I mentioned as being oddly cheap and poorly done. That should have been the precursor to the remainder of this terrible movie. I walked out within 45 minutes even though I spent $20 for tickets. Yeah yeah the storyline is important, doesn’t mean I have to pretend the movie was any good.

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