World War II has given us a lot of interesting films over the years, from Tora! Tora! Tora! to Saving Private Ryan to Letters from Iwo Jima, the war has proved a very interesting topic for Hollywood. There have been some great films about Vietnam as well; Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket come to mind. But what about World War I? World War I has given us the 1927 film Wings (the first Academy Award winner of Best Picture) and 2006 movie Flyboys.
Well it’s pretty apparent why World War I movies have never lead war films genre, simply put they’re boring. Just like Wings and Flyboys, Nikolai Müllerschön’s The Red Baron can now join the list of overly boring and drawn out World War I films about fighter pilots. Hit the jump for my review.
The Red Baron is a biopic about the acclaimed German fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen (Matthias Schweighöfer) AKA The Red Baron. The movie chronicles his life during World War I, including his budding relationship with one of the nurses Käte Otersdorf (Lena Headey) and his rise to the legend he’s know as today. Joseph Fiennes even has a bit role as a Canadian pilot that the Baron shot down, who appears frequently throughout the film.
I’ll skip the fact that this is a movie set in Germany about a famous German pilot, yet they all speak English, and say that the main problem with the movie that it’s boring. The aerial dog fights lack any sort of zing, and while they are often times relatively interesting to look at, they still lack any excitement or drive. Simply put, that’s the whole movie. The romance aspects of the movie are somewhat boring and the dialogue is fairly standard and almost predictable. The acting performances are underwhelming, and I never feel like rooting for any character, including Schweighöfer’s Baron. He does a good job of being likable but never the driving force the movie wanted me to think the Red Baron was.
The movie does a terrible job of developing any characters other than the Red Baron, and fails to make us feel anything for the country as a whole. About 40 minutes into the movie there is a fight scene where we see a mass of German planes get shot down. It’s supposed to be a kind of sentimental moment but the movie lingers on the moment too long for me to care.
By the end, the movie tries hard to push the “anti-war” message that is nearly a staple in the genre. Instead of going with the more radical approach that Kubrick used in Full Metal Jacket and show how intense war is simply as the message, they decide to shove it blatantly down your throat, with the love interest going on about how terrible war is and how she doesn’t want the Baron to fight anymore.
Even the fight scenes, which should’ve been the movies high point, ended up being just a disappointment. Instead of using real stunt flying for the dog fights, they choose to use CGI. Not even good CGI either. The movie’s best aspects are in the costume design and score, which seem to fit the time period and style very well, but then again, what period pieces have ever been lacking in that area?
The DVD extras are also underwhelming, with the standard Making Of and an interesting clip entitled “Legends of The Red Baron”, which is actually fairly engaging. When it come down to it all, The Red Baron is just a forgettable war movie that will be out of sight and out of mind after the initial DVD sales dwindle down. If you’d like a more entertaining Red Baron, I’d suggest going to your local frozen pizza aisle, where the Baron makes delicious Italian creations rather than long and boring movies.