The 1997 science fiction classic, Starship Troopers, is a futuristic thrill ride filled with larger-than-life characters and heart-pounding situations. What separates this cinematic masterpiece, however, is the source material.
The directorial prowess of Paul Verhoeven and the military advising of the legendary Dale Dye (who also plays “General”) combined to create what has become one of the most watched, influential, and beloved military movies of all time. Here’s what makes it so freakin’ motivating.
The Federation’s mobile infantry division is basically the Marine Corps of the future. There’s an uncanny parallel between the two services’ leadership values, extreme enforcement of standards, and emphasis on combat readiness.
6. Volunteer spirit.
The Federation’s military service is an all-volunteer organization that believes in attrition. In the book, there is no pursuit or punishment for those who do not show up to ship out for basic training.
Those who feel this new way of life is not for them can simply sign form 1248 and take a stroll down washout lane.
5. Hands-on instructional style.
Senior drill instructors may demand total dedication and effort from their recruits, but they also instruct, inform, and cultivate an atmosphere of learning.
4. Gender equality.
There are no males or females in the mobile infantry: only troopers. Everything is equal. This includes opportunities for leadership, responsibilities, occupations, and even billeting and rain rooms. (showers)
3. Inter-service relations and fraternization policies.
Services work together in harmony to accomplish the mission. Whether you’re an officer or enlisted, there is a standing open-door policy for venting concerns.
2. Community outreach.
The mobile infantry may be an armed force with a primary mission of fighting the human race’s enemies, but they also take the time to make an impact on the community and set a positive example for the youth.
The Star Wars train is still rolling along and the toy shelves are filled with those freaking adorably annoying porgs (as a true Star Wars fan, I personally hope that they don’t become the new Jar-Jar).
A while back, we touched on the downside of being a Stormtrooper and why they have it worst. Now, let’s look at why the rebels are a very close second.
In the The Force Awakens, Finn left the previously mentioned terrible First Order and joined the Resistance, a successor to the Rebellion in all but name. The poor guy doesn’t even know that he just traded one terrible assignment for another.
At least Stormtroopers had a few things going for them, such as armor, reliable gear, force of numbers…
The rebels out “fighting the good fight” had next to nothing in nearly everything.
Here’s why it sucks to be a rebel:
1. Very little funding…
Good will can take you a long way against an evil empire, but you still need financing.
Those blasters aren’t just going to buy themselves. Historically, rebellions (in our galaxy) have been financed via a combination of three sources: Other governments, wealthy sympathizers, or outright stealing what they needed.
There aren’t really many options for the Rebel Alliance as far as governments or sympathizers go. When the Galactic Empire called themselves the Galactic Empire, they meant it. Nearly every government in the galaxy fell underneath Emperor Palpatine’s control.
You can’t just turn to the Hutt-controlled space in the Outer Rim for financing because scum and villainy just don’t care about noble causes. The rebels did have an extremely wealthy donor in Bail Organa (Princess Leia’s adoptive father)…but he and his wealth were destroyed on Alderaan.
So, if you estimate the Earth’s total combined wealth at $241 trillion in 2014 and multiply that by the god-knows-how-many planets under the Empire’s control, do you think it’s possible to steal enough stuff to stand a reasonable chance against an enemy that rich?
2. …which means little gear and training.
The Stormtroopers had acclimatizing suits that were designed to stop blaster shots. The rebels wore…blue shirts and vests. The Stormtroopers had a blaster rifle that works as a machine gun, rifle, and sniper rifle. The rebels stole a few of the same. The Empire had massive fleets of TIE fighters and pilots at their disposal. The Rebels had outdated X-Wings with only a handful of pilots.
And it keeps going on.
3. They’re painted as the villain – because some are.
The problem with being the Rebel Alliance was that it was loosely-formed from many rebels doing their own thing. This was most prominent during the events of Rogue One, where the rebels struggled to keep Saw Gerrera from giving the wrong impression of what the rebellion means.
It’s not too clear how the average citizen of the Galactic Empire feels about the rebellion. The closest we get in the films is when Luke talked about joining the Imperial flight program, and no one reacted as if the Imperials were the bad guys.
Albeit, their opinions did change after the destruction of Alderaan.
4. Little to no chain of command.
Sure, the pilots get fancy pep talks and are often given commands, but that barely constitutes good advice, let alone a real military order.
Take the Battle of Hoth, for instance. One of the three major rebel bases was under attack and needed to be evacuated. The duty of making sure everyone made it out alive fell entirely on the shoulders of a princess who hadn’t demonstrated any military capabilities until that point.
There were actual generals there, and yet her plan to fly weaponless transport ships full of high ranking officers directly at the enemies didn’t raise a red flag to anyone.
Even still, most rebels just acted on their own free will rather than having some actual military decorum. What would you expect from a chain of command that was literally made up of six officer ranks?
Which leads us to…
5. Rank makes no sense.
Case in point: Han Solo. A man who laughed at the Rebellion eventually gave in and helped his new friend. He flew in at the last minute, shot out Darth Vader’s TIE fighter, and earned a medal from the Princess. Got it. It makes some sense to why he’d become Captain Solo by the time of the Battle of Hoth.
We can forgive the battlefield commission/promotion to Captain, even if he wasn’t nearly as much help as Skywalker. The real concern is how he got promoted to General before the Battle of Endor. He didn’t really do anything but fly around space before being captured on Cloud City and imprisoned in carbonite.
When he was released and reunited with the Rebel forces, he was automatically granted the rank of General.
In the U.S. military, POWs are promoted with their contemporaries while captured and we stretch things in Star Wars to assume it worked the same way. But seriously? Did enough captains get promoted to general in the span of a year to warrant Han being promoted that quickly?
6. No recognition.
All of that can be explained away as the fighting spirit of the rebellion. Sure, they terrible gear, inexperienced leaders, and wacky organization, but at least you could hold true to the knowledge that they were doing what was right. Too bad the “Empire” turned into the “First Order.”
But your contemporaries will remember you? Right?
Nope. All of that glory went to some civilian contractor (Luke), a seriously unqualified General (Han), and the inexperienced (though highly motivated) adopted daughter of the guy who pays the bills (Leia).
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the U.S. Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.
In honor of the 20th anniversary of The Matrix, Dolby Cinema™ and AMC Theaters will be showing the film on the big screen for one week only. Starting Friday, Aug. 30, you can follow the white rabbit and — if you so choose — you can do it with sound so powerful, your seat will literally shake.
Dolby Vision™ has colors more vivid than any other theater I’ve experienced. In fact, the Dolby trailer at the beginning of the screening was one of the most surprising moments of the viewing experience. I won’t spoil it here, but I was pretty impressed.
Meanwhile, Dolby Atmos® sound “fills the room and flows all around you” — literally. There are speakers on the ceiling.
First of all, I absolutely recommend seeing The Matrix again in theaters. If you saw it twenty years ago or you’re already a fan, I think you’ll enjoy the nostalgia of it (and if you haven’t seen it since then, my bet is you’ll catch so much more than you did the first time).
If you somehow haven’t seen it yet, the film totally holds up. Some lines are so perfect, they make the screenwriter in me giddy. I went home and re-read the script. It’s great.
The whole scene with The Oracle is perfection. I love a good prophecy story, even if it’s just about a vase.
As for seeing it in Dolby Cinema™, here’s what I’ll say. It’s intense. You can literally feel the sound waves hit you in your seat. The punches, the technology, the gunfights — you can feel them. It’s great sound design, but if you’re like me and you have sensitive hearing, then be warned and definitely don’t sit up front (although, there are speakers all throughout the theater, so I don’t know where you’re most safe?).
Actual footage of me watching ‘The Matrix’ in Dolby…
I expect that most people aren’t as sensitive to light and sound as I am, though, so if you’re already a Matrix fan, or just an avid movie goer, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.
I’d also guess that, short of plugging us all into the actual matrix, this is how the Wachowskis would want someone to see their epic cyberpunk film — plus it’s a good time to freshen up your memory before ‘Matrix 4’ is released.
WATM’s Ryan Curtis hits the streets with stuntman Jim Wilkey, a Vietnam War vet whose Hollywood credits include “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” “Rush Hour,” “Inception,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” and several others. Jim’s experience in the Navy working with a wide range of equipment gave him the knowledge to get started as a stuntman.
Now, watch as Jim gives our man Ryan a crash course in basic stunt driving skills.
Do you have what it takes to be one of the few, the proud, the danceable? In this classic from a few years back, Marines bust a move when their favorite jam, Carly Rae Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe,’ comes on:
The military is filled with sports fans, and few days are as important to sports followers as the Super Bowl. So the U.S. military goes to great lengths to ensure that troops around the world are granted the opportunity to watch the big game (as long as they aren’t currently wrapped up in a mission…probably).
Here are 14 photos that show how troops around the world watch the ultimate football game each year:
1. Sports fans around the world watch the game on the Armed Forces Network, a U.S. military satellite channel. Some of these watching parties even allow minor uniform alterations, such as the wear of sports jerseys.
2. The watch parties are held wherever a TV and suitable seating can be set up, including chow halls…
Sailors watch Super Bowl 50 (fun fact: this was the year the Super Bowl decided to take a break from using roman numerals because the stand-alone “L” raised some confusion) between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos in USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) mess decks. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Rodriguez Santiago)
3. …theaters or briefing rooms…
Deployed troops watch the “big game” during a Super Bowl 50 viewing party at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 8, 2016. The Airmen, soldiers, and civilians enjoyed the game and got to meet Miami Dolphins cheerleaders and former players during the event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)
4. …and even ranges.
5. The luckiest viewers get to watch in sports bars on base.
6. The game-watching parties are usually supplemented with other activities.
7. For obvious reasons, football games are a common choice.
8. But other games are commonly set up.
Pfc. Oscar Ramero plays pool at a Single Marine Program Recreation Center at Camp Pendleton, Feb. 7, 2016. The center hosted a Super Bowl party which included free food and games for noncommissioned officer ranks and below. Ramero, from New York, is a student with Assault Amphibian School Battalion, School of Infantry – West. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel)
9. Some bases will even get special visits from USO tours, like this NFL All-Star Cheerleaders line-up.
10. Concerts are fairly common as well.
11. Prize giveaways are big at watch parties, especially overseas.
12. Electronics, plane tickets, and other prizes are given out.
Prizes for the patrons of the Super Bowl 50 Madness party rest on a table Feb. 7, 2016, in the Ramstein Enlisted Club, at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Prizes included National Football League lawn chairs and money. Club members could also receive furniture, additional cash, LED televisions, and gaming consoles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)
13. Of course, no Super Bowl party is complete without snacks.
14. But it is the military, so not everyone gets a party or even a chance to watch the game. Some guys have to pull duty, like these paratroopers getting ready for an airborne operation on Super Bowl Sunday.
James Lipton, best known for his role in creating and producing Inside the Actors Studio died earlier today from bladder cancer at his home in Manhattan. His wife, Kedaki Turner, told TMZ, “There are so many James Lipton stories but I’m sure he would like to be remembered as someone who loved what he did and had tremendous respect for all the people he worked with.”
While Lipton was known for his conversational style with countless actors during the show’s run from 1994 through his retirement as host in 2018, less is known about his early life. Lipton was born in Detroit on Sept. 19, 1926 to Betty and Louis Lipton. His mother was a teacher and librarian and his father was a columnist and did graphic design for The Jewish Daily Forward. Following high school, Lipton enlisted in the Air Force during World War II.
In an interview with AOPA Pilot, Lipton said, “I always wanted to fly.” Unable to afford lessons he joined the military and qualified as an aviation candidate. When peace broke out—like any performer Lipton doesn’t want to reveal his age, but we’re guessing it was sometime after World War II—pilots were suddenly required to sign on for four years. “I didn’t want to spend the next four years doing that,” he said, so he mustered out and moved to New York to study law. Being in law school he couldn’t afford not to work, so to pay for law school he worked as an actor.
While his career may have had a slow start in the acting business, Lipton went from unknown to iconic with the launch of his project Inside the Actors Studio.
“James Lipton was a titan of the film and entertainment industry and had a profound influence on so many,” Frances Berwick, president of NBCU Lifestyle Networks and home to Bravo, said in a statement on Monday. “I had the pleasure of working with Jim for 20 years on Bravo’s first original series, his pride and joy Inside the Actors Studio. We all enjoyed and respected his fierce passion, contributions to the craft, comprehensive research and his ability to bring the most intimate interviews ever conducted with A-list actors across generations. Bravo and NBCUniversal send our deepest condolences to Jim’s wife, Kedakai, and all of his family.”
Inside the Actors studio was incredibly popular, with such A-list guests as Ben Affleck, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, James Cameron; after 22 seasons the list goes on and on. Lipton was always prepared for his interviews and humbled by the show’s continued success.
According to The Daily Mail, one of Lipton’s favorite moments in the show’s history was when a former student returned as a guest.
‘What I’ve waited for is that one of my graduated students has achieved so much that he walks out and sits down on that chair next to me,’ Lipton said.
‘It happened when Bradley Cooper walked out on that stage. We looked at each other and burst into tears. It was one of the greatest nights of my life.’
As Lipton toldTHR‘s Scott Feinberg in June 2016: “If you had put a gun to my head and said, ‘I will pull the trigger unless you predict that in 23 years, Inside the Actors Studio will be viewed in 94 million homes in America on Bravo and in 125 countries around the world, that it will have received 16 Emmy nominations, making it the fifth-most-nominated series in the history of television, that it will have received an Emmy Award for outstanding informational series and that you will have received the Critics’ Choice Award for best reality series host — predict it or die,’ I would have said, ‘Pull the trigger.'”
Look for the names of active military units and installations on race car windshields during Friday’s Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway. In a show of appreciation for the United States Armed Forces, NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will replace the “XFINITY” logo with those of the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Marine Raider Battalion, the USS New York (LPD-21) and other military units and installations from all five branches. (Yes, NASCAR remembered the Coast Guard.)
NASCAR: An American Salute is an expression of respect and gratitude for those who have served and continue to defend the United States. Last month, NASCAR together with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams honored 40 fallen service members with 600 Miles of Remembrance, a similar tribute during Memorial Day Weekend. Unlike many other major sporting events and leagues who “honor” the Armed Forces and those who serve, NASCAR is not being paid by the U.S. military to do so.
“NASCAR’s long-standing tradition of honoring the U.S. Armed Forces will never waver – it is woven into the fabric of our sport,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR’s chief operating officer. “We have a unique opportunity to pay tribute to the military units and bases integral to preserving our country’s freedom.”
Several teams have direct connections to the units displayed on their race cars. Driver Brendan Gaughan’s windshield will read “23RD STS,” representing the U.S. Air Force’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron from Hurlburt Field in Florida. Gaughan is one of a handful of civilians recognized as an Honorary Member of the Combat Control Association.
Elliott Sadler’s windshield will recognize Fort Campbell for JR Motorsports employee Lee Langley, who served for six years at the Army base as an infantry team leader in the 101st Airborne. Ty Dillon and Brandon Jones both work with Hope 4 Warriors and will honor 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, respectively, from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Justin Allgaier will honor the U.S. Air Force 469th Flight Training Squadron at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas. One of Allgaier friends is Major Robert Harms, one of the pilots serving in that unit.
“I always look forward to getting a chance to pay homage those who serve our country at Daytona each year,” Allgaier said. “This year there’s a personal tie for me as I get to display the squadron of one of my friends. We love that we’re able to support our military, but a sticker or event will never be enough to give them all the credit they deserve.”
John Wayne never was able to join the military — when the draft first started in 1939, the then-unknown actor had a 3-A deferment because he was the sole supporter of four children — but that didn’t stop him from hopping in an armored personnel carrier and mounting an invasion with the 5th Armored Cavalry Troop. He had a cigar clenched in his teeth.
He was about to lead the U.S. Army in an invasion of Harvard University.
In January, 1974, the Duke invaded Harvard Square with some of the Army’s finest in response to a letter he received from the campus satirical newspaper, The Harvard Lampoon. In the letter, the paper said,
“You’re not so tough, the halls of academia may not be the halls of Montezuma and maybe ivy doesn’t smell like sagebrush, but we know a thing or two about guts.”
The paper then challenged the conservative Wayne to come to Harvard, a place The Harvard Lampoon described as, “the most intellectual, the most traditionally radical, in short, the most hostile territory on Earth.” They were challenging the actor to come to Harvard and debate against the students who called him, “the biggest fraud in history.”
The letter was purely goading, but John Wayne wasn’t about to let that bother him — he took the opportunity to visit in style.
He mounted the procession from the halls of The Harvard Lampoon’s on-campus castle, then drove to the door of the Harvard Square Theater through policemen, television crews, ‘Poonies dressed in tuxedos, students, and even some Native American protesters. There was even a marching band in his honor. In the heart of liberal Harvard, the conservative actor was met by thousands of admirers.
After signing autographs for a while, he took the stage. The first thing representatives of The Harvard Lampoon did was present Wayne with a trophy — made of just two brass balls. It was created just for him and awarded simply for coming to Harvard.
“I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to be at a Jane Fonda rally,” he joked.
The Duke graciously accepted the award, noting that their previous guest was porn starlet Linda Lovelace and that seeing his invitation in a unmarked brown envelope was akin to being asked to lunch with the Borgias, a reference to the historical family’s propensity for murdering their guests.
With the pleasantries out of the way, Harvard’s debate with John Wayne, a spokesman for the right, began. Taking questions from the audience, the Duke sat on a chair on the stage. The New York Times described the debate as one with “little antagonism, the questions often whimsical and the actor frequently drew loud applause.”
John Wayne was a conservative in his political views, but he answered the students’ questions thoughtfully and honestly, often with a wry smile. Asked what he thinks of women’s lib, he said:
“I think they have a right to work anywhere they want to [long pause] as long as they have dinner ready when we want it.”
The only question he seemed to rebuff was one asked about his testifying against fellow Hollywood personalities during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, which led to some being placed on the infamous Hollywood blacklist. The actor said he could not hear the question, even when it was repeated.
“Is your toupee made of mole hair?” One student asked. “No,” the Duke replied. “That’s real hair. It’s not my hair, but it’s real hair.”
Today, John Wayne and Harvard doesn’t seem like a controversial mixture. In 1974, however, the students at Harvard were very much anti-establishment and John Wayne was a symbol of everything they mistrusted about their country, its history, and its government — especially while the Vietnam War and the draft remained a very recent memory.
By 1974, Wayne’s career was threatened by his well-known politics, so it’s not really an exaggeration to say the actor was on his way into hostile territory. The Lampoon ended up doing what amounted to a celebrity roast with Wayne and he took it with a smile, even adding some funny jabs of his own:
“Has President Nixon ever given you any suggestions for your movies?” a student asked. “No, they’ve all been successful,” came the reply.
John Wayne never lost his sense of humor over politics — a lesson we should all take to heart today, liberal and conservative alike. What could have been a moment of sharp political divisiveness was settled with good humor and in the end, thunderous applause.
It happens every single time a veteran sits down to watch a movie with friends and family. The civilians grab a bag of popcorn while the veteran starts biting their lower lip. The civilians start to enjoy themselves and the veteran starts offhandedly remarking on how “that’s not how it actually happens.”
Before you know it, the veteran hits pause and proceeds to give a full-length presentation on why the film is a disaster because they put the flag on the wrong side of the soldier’s uniform.
Most of what makes a military film bad isn’t intentional, of course. No one wants to spend millions on making a bad movie. But when done right, as so many have been before, troops and veterans will keep it on their top ten film list. So, Mr. Hollywood Producer, when you set out to make the next military blockbuster, use the following advice about the five biggest military movie mistakes.
Hire a good military adviser (and listen to them)
This may come as a shock to some veterans, but there are people on film sets whose entire job is to point out what would and wouldn’t happen in the real military. They’re called military advisers. The great military films are made or broken by how much the cast and crew decide listen to said adviser.
On a magnificent film set, like Saving Private Ryan, for example, everyone from Steven Spielberg to the background extras listened to every single word Dale Dye spoke. A good adviser knows they’re not on set to interrupt the creative team’s ideas. If they speak up to say something is wrong, it’s for a good reason.
Writing that reflects reality
When there’s something fundamentally wrong with a film, it can often be traced back to the writer. One of the first things they tell up-and-coming screenwriters is, “you can make a bad movie from a good script, but you can’t make a good movie from a bad script.” And the best writers are those who can make is something feel authentic and realistic, no matter how extraordinary the setting.
Military films are no exception. The fact is, no two troops are the exactly same. This goes for every character in the film. Every character, lead or background, should be fully dimensional and the audience should have a reason to care if they get unexpectedly shot in Act 2B.
Don’t expect a three-act character arc in the matter of one deployment
While we’re still poking fun at writers, let’s talk about the all-too-common problem of trying to turn real stories into scripts by shoehorning their actions into the Aristotelian structure. For those unfamiliar, this is your basic story of a random nobody becoming a legendary hero. Luke Skywalker did it — but it took him three movies, the loss of his mentor, and multiple failures to finally become a Jedi master.
Don’t expect to apply that same structure to a biopic that begins with a troop being a nobody at basic training and ends with them becoming a battlefield legend. In fact, some of the greatest war films rely on something simple, like “we need to go get this guy” to carry the story. A good story doesn’t need to be humongous in scope to be compelling.
Use authentic wardrobe
Despite how it may seem, there is no law that states that you must mess up uniforms if you’re to use them in a film. In fact, there’s actually a Supreme Court ruling that states you can use real uniforms in the arts — so there’s no excuse.
Use a military adviser and give them a say in the wardrobe department. Or, if you want to keep it simple, hire at least one veteran from whichever branch as part of the wardrobe team.
Retell the big scenes with smaller moments
It’s called a “set piece.” It’s the huge, elaborate moment that costs a boat-load of cash to capture. It’s what fits perfectly in the trailers. These are the scenes that action sensations, like The Fast and the Furious films, are known for. And yet, they often leave us feeling like something’s missing when done in military films — the personal touch
And that’s what really makes military movies different — sure, there are explosions in war, but it’s an intensely personal moment for the troops fighting. The gigantic scenes will sell much better if they focus on the fear in someone’s eyes more than flying a telephoto lens over the battlefield.
So check out these military myths that Hollywood has taught us to believe are true:
1. Michael Bay explosions
Michael Bay is widely known for his amazing camera moves and is hands down one of the best action directors out there. He has mastered the ability to move audiences through the battle space while providing them with an intense adrenaline rush…
…but he needs to work explosions because they look like fireworks.
Here’s a real man’s explosion:
Okay, so this one is a nuke explosion — but you get the point. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)
2. Cleaning bathrooms with toothbrushes
After speaking to a few Annapolis graduates and other military veterans, no one can recall seeing a Midshipman cleaning the bathroom using a toothbrush. It could have happened a long time ago, but not in the last few decades.
3. Taking off on your own
War is very dangerous. Leaving your squad to go run down the enemy by yourself through a sea of maze-like structures for a little extra payback is highly improbable.
Hollywood does its best to try and capture the essence of what it means to be in the military and transcribes it for a civilian audience in ninety-minute chunks. Sometimes, they fall flat on their face. But, on occasion, there are outstanding moments when they knock it out of the park.
Most big-budget military films often put the focus on the Army or the Marines, leaving the Navy on the sidelines. When sailors do get an opportunity to shine on the silver screen, the glory often goes to the SEALs — or it’s Top Gun. But everyone’s already seen Top Gun and most sailors would roll their eyes if we mentioned it in this list.
In no particular order, here are six awesome films about sailors that you should put on your must-watch list:
As was the case with many of the great war films set in the 1990s after the collapse of Soviet Union, Crimson Tide showcases the “what-if” of the Russian Federation squaring off against the United States in another Bay of Pigs incident.
Denzel Washington stars as the mild-tempered XO to Gene Hackman’s temperamental Captain. The two are at odds with one another on how to prevent World War Three. Fun Fact: Though uncredited, Quentin Tarantino wrote much of the pop-culturey dialogue.
Annapolis is an indie drama that follows Jake Huard (played by James Franco) as he attends the Naval Academy. It’s the story of a poor nobody trying to make it as one of the elite. It kind of toes the line between being a Marine film and a Navy film because it’s never made clear which route he’ll take, but it’s still steeped in Navy traditions.
It tanked at the box office, but eventually found its footing with a home release. The fact that it shows pledges getting hazed upset the Department of the Navy so bad that they called for its boycott. It’s still a great film, in my opinion.
This 1945 musical came out right before the Japanese signed the surrender and put an end to the Second World War. The film follows Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra as two sailors on liberty in golden-age Hollywood. In this musical comedy, the sailors come across a lost, innocent kid who wants to one day join the Navy himself. Then, the sailors proceed to hit on his aunt.
It’s nice to see that nothing’s changed in the way sailors think since then.
‘Master and Commander’
Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this film is heavily focused on what it means to complete the mission and the importance of safeguarding the welfare of the troops underneath. Russell Crowe’s crew aboard the HMS Surprise are locked in seemingly eternal combat with French privateers.
It was nominated for ten Academy Awards the year it came out, including Best Picture and Best Director, but would lose all but two (Cinematography and Sound Editing) to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Still one of the best military comedies is Down Periscope. It stars Kelsey Grammer, who plays one of the worst commanders in the Navy and who’s given an even worse crew of submariners who all manage to fail upwards.
It’s packed full of 90s comedians in their prime. It also stars William H. Macy, Rob Schneider, and even a young Patton Oswald.
‘The Hunt for Red October’
What else can be said about The Hunt for Red October? It’s a cinematic masterpiece. If you haven’t seen this one yet, you should honestly clear your evening schedule and watch it today.
Set during the conclusion of the Cold War, Sean Connery plays a Soviet submarine captain and Alec Baldwin is a CIA analyst. Both struggle to find peace while their respective forces do everything in their powers to avoid it. Technically, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of All Fears, and Shadow Recruit are all sequels to this masterpiece, but none come close.
If you can think of any that we missed (and there are a lot), feel free to let us know! We’d love to hear it.