Where have all the war movies gone?
Stop-Loss failed to make much money this weekend and I'm sure we'll hear, once again, how Iraq movies don't do well and how America is sick of war movies. Of course, this isn't really true. The problem isn't that America doesn't want to see Iraq war movies, it's that Hollywood doesn't make Iraq war movies.
Stop-Loss, like Rendition, Lions for Lambs, and even non-iraq films like Flags of our Fathers and Charlie Wilson's War are bureaucracy movies. Most of them have more in common with films like All the President's Men and Network than the golden era war films. The older war films were essentially updated Westerns. The new war films are more like off-Broadway morality plays. Most of them are lectures, written by non-experts, about a subject that most everyone has heard enough about. To act like Americans don't realize what our soldiers are sacrificing for us is ridiculous (and is, ironically, probably only true in Hollywood). While Hollywood thinks Stop-Loss is a rule that is somehow stunning and needs to be discussed, it's probably a fact of life for most people in America's Heartland. Hollywood is making films that lecture the people who actually are living with these issues.
On top of all this, Stop-Loss was made by MTV films, starred Ryan Phillipe, and had a marketing campaign that relied heavily on Snow Patrol music and shirtless men. It's almost like they were trying to get guys not to want to see them film.
In the end, I ended up seeing "21" this weekend. I knew it wasn't going to be great and that I'd probably forget most of it as soon as the lights came up in the theater, but I also knew that I would be entertained. And that's the key. Even if Stop-Loss was effective, the best case scenario is that I'd leave the theater depressed about a situation that I really have no way of changing and is, outside of a vote for Barack Obama, completely out of my control. If I'm already so bored on the weekend that I am willing to choose between Stop-Loss, 21, and Superhero Movie, then odds are that I don't need something that makes me even more depressed.