4 reasons why it's impossible to make movies about the military
No Hollywood war movie is perfect. No matter how long the production studio takes to develop the project or how long the crew is on set filming the movie, there're always going to be some avoidable mistakes.
However, we have seen war movies flourish in the eyes of veteran audiences on several occasions. Even within those epic films, there are still areas that aren't perfect because of a few important reasons.
Some military movies are better off burning their production budget.
4. Blocking for the camera
"Blocking for the camera" is a film term that means, basically, how the actors move within the scene in relation to the camera's position.
So, do you remember what Sgt. Horvath said before spearheading forward onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in Saving Private Ryan?
"I want to see plenty of feet between men. Five men is a juicy opportunity. One man is a waste of ammo."
One of the most significant issues veterans have with war movies is how bunched up characters get in firefights or while maneuvering in on the enemy. Having a handful of troops crammed within a few meters of one another is a bad thing, but it's commonly done due to a movie's shooting schedule.
What direct Steven Speilberg nailed during the D-Day landing in Saving Private Ryan was showcasing the importance of proper dispersion. Unfortunately, other war films have failed to follow Sgt. Horvath's advice — which sucks.
Sgt. Horvath and Capt. Miller mentally prepare for the worst. (Image from Dreamworks' Saving Private Ryan)
3. Overly verbose dialogue
Hollywood commonly hires screenwriters with proven, successful track records to give a voice to their films. Which, for the most part, is the right thing to do. You wouldn't hire a dentist to fix your back pain.
But, here's the issue: Unless you've actually lived the life or were immersed in military culture for some amount of time, you won't truly understand how we talk to one another. Many films want to continually remind the audience that the character is either a veteran or on active duty by using dialogue as exposition.
Good dialogue in a war film wins veterans' hearts and minds, but we rarely see anyone nail it.
2. Misinformed actors
Actors do the best job they can to bring their characters to life and we respect them for that.
Unfortunately, we've seen, time and time again, production companies hire veterans as "military consultants" to train the actors to get it right. It is their job to turn actors into operators. That's great in theory, but the so-called veteran often isn't an actual operator themselves. Some Navy sailors have never been on a ship and most Marines have never been in combat, but they'll wear the title of 'consultant' all the same.
Some consultants, like Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye, are legit because they've seen the frontlines and survived it. Despite the expression, being a Marine doesn't make you a rifleman. However, being a 0311 Marine does.
Marine veteran Capt. Dye stands with actors Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, and Mark Moses on the set of Platoon, deep in the Philippines jungle (Image from BTS Orion Pictures' Platoon)
Also Read: 5 epic military movie mistakes
Here's the kicker: Movies cost millions of dollars to produce, which most of it goes to the people who are the "above the line" talent. However, all of the standard military information producers need to satisfy veteran moviegoers is available on Google, because that information is public domain. It's how we learn to don our uniforms if we forget something.
Screwing up the details of an on-screen uniform is the most prominent pet-peeve veterans have. It happens all the time.
What's wrong with this photo?
Hint: What rank is he supposed to be? (Image from Universal's Jarhead)
You can look up Marine Corps rank insignia on your phone. No excuses.