Late this last year, I wrote on how much the World War II movie genre seemed to be tuckering out after two decades of some of the greatest World War II movies ever made. George Clooney’s “The Monuments Men” was a terrific untold war story, yet didn’t seem to hit if off with an entire mainstream crowd. That’s because the combination of artwork stolen by the Nazis with World War II perhaps sounds like a dull mix to those not familiar with the story’s details. And with the movie being delayed so it could be re-edited by Clooney (as director), it might have given people the impression it was better as a Blu-ray rent than a big screen experience.
Since Brad Pitt is a friend of Clooney’s, it almost seems like a corollary that Pitt would follow in the footsteps of Clooney in making a movie about World War II. It’s possible Pitt’s upcoming “Fury” (about a tank unit at the end of the war) was filmed at the same time as “Monuments Men” with the assumption the star power of each would mean Oscar potential. They’re also quite similar in being deemed character studies with action.
Yes, we’ve seen that before in World War II movies, particularly in the true template of the modern war movie: “Saving Private Ryan.” Since that film was made, every other film about World War II has seemed derivative and several notches below what Spielberg was able to accomplish. It also created a certain look and feel for movies about World War II that’s been endlessly copied and continued by Spielberg (and Tom Hanks) through HBO’s “Band of Brothers”, “The Pacific”, and other WWII themes to come.
But since HBO seems to be the new bastion for nearly everything that was once great about big screen movies, will future successful World War II movies be produced for cable only? Or, it could be possible that “Fury” becomes a near classic and takes the World War II movie to new places, especially in tales yet to be told.
Finding New World War II Angles to Keep Things Fresh
As unfortunate as it is, those who go to see war movies expect to see bloody war scenes that no longer hold back thanks to the Spielberg philosophy. I remember seeing “Saving Private Ryan” and saw a few kids watching the film almost like a popcorn summer movie and reacting to the violence like you would in a “Transformers” movie. If audiences have the freedom to do that, it was a strange mix within obvious World War II veterans sitting in the room watching with silent emotion.
Despite the need for war movies to be as graphic as the MPAA allows, the stories that transpired during World War II seem to have a bottomless well. Even today, new tales pop up that would make compelling films for the big screen. The Tiger tank units during the Battle of the Bulge are one such story in “Fury” never before told on screen. It provides a device for some devastating war scenes without having to show foot soldiers being ripped to shreds. In “Fury” it’s almost akin to submarine battle where the use of ammunition can be more drawn out and tactical, yet also devastating in quick succession.
Brad Pitt probably also needed to do this to get away from the character he played in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.” His performance of Lt. Aldo Raine was one that might be looked at as the weakest element of a film that brought a renaissance to the old buddy WWII films of the 1960s. Pitt’s Raine was too strange of a character to take very seriously, though his Wardaddy character in “Fury” appears to be a polar opposite. We’ll finally see Pitt acting serious and commanding in a World War II movie rather than with tongue in cheek.
Most of all, it adds a new angle in the fact that some units in World War II were up against overwhelming odds on beating the Nazis. This tank crew depicted in “Fury” only had five men and had to use the utmost in fortitude to survive, just like we saw with the devastation of D-Day in “Saving Private Ryan.” Along the way, we can also stop and carve out some interesting character studies on how these soldiers were able to cope and go into a victorious frame of mind.
Until we get a movie detailing how George Washington’s army did the same thing against the British during the Revolutionary War, the World War II movie might have a new kick to garner new respect for other war units.