Why are Iraq films failing?

Call me sentimental, but I still regard our armed forces with reverence and awe rather than with disgust and feelings of revulsion. I believe most Americans would agree. Perhaps this is why leftist-liberal propaganda films flop at the box office.

I'm talking about this clueless and insulting article at Time.com (to both audiences and the troops).

The author mentions how tough it is for far-leftist-liberal Hollywood, "to turn this war into edifying entertainment for the mass audience." How tough could it be?

...there's a slew of American movies on the subject: In the Valley of Elah, The Kingdom, Rendition, Lions for Lambs and Redacted--and soon, Badland, Grace Is Gone and Charlie Wilson's War. Most are worthy; some feature Oscar-winning actors and directors. And so far, all show how tough it is to turn this war into edifying entertainment for the mass audience. ~time.com

Obviously, it's pretty damn hard for liberals to make edifying war movies. But then we know they would have an easier time making movies about the glorious revolution of Hugo Chavez. (Minus the creation of AK-47 factories and the closing of media outlets who dissent from Chavez's dictatorship.) Their ideologically colored glasses won't allow them to see anything heroic, useful, or dramatic in this war (or our soldiers). And unfortunately they think that audiences are too stupid to realize that they should revel in the anti-american education the left is trying to give them.
But quality, or lack of it, was irrelevant to audiences. They avoided both films like summer school. ~time.com

Imagine that. Why won't American audiences take their medicine?
As a critic, I give the Iraq films now in release passing marks for good intentions and audiences an incomplete for poor attendance. ~time.com

What this film critic brings to light is the incredible disadvantage that Hollywood labors under. That is, the albatross of their own liberal anti-american politics. With films like Lions for Lambs and Redacted filmmakers seem to have reached the nadir of their preachy influence. Americans stubbornly refuse to convert to the 'New Patriotism' which looks a great deal like old fashioned treason and subversion but is now marketed by progressives as, "dissent," the new and highest form of patriotism.

For example, a host of liberals will accept nothing less than defeat in war for American troops. Murtha (and Obama) says that our criminals, uh, I mean, rapist cold-blooded murderers, er, American soldiers can't win this war. Harry Reid said the war was lost a long time ago.

All hail the new patriotism! Long may she waive.

Posted by Eric Simonson at November 20, 2007 11:00 PM
Comment #238850

Great post and a very relavent topic to me. I just emailed a co-worked about how I was enjoying a TV show despite the constant liberal message weaved into each episode. I grow tired of the smug lectures pushed on me during quality shows with 90% good writing. There is so much talent, and skill in story writing and it is a pain to see it always end, or include, the same thing, the same way.

These movies are creative statements. They are works of art. That just happen to have an agenda.

My thought on your post … if there were more balance in the movies about Iraq, then the movies that are tanking, failing, and not paying for themselves … would in fact pay for themselves.

Why? The success of this very blog is based on the principle of being able to have a dialog back and forth. To look at, read, and study what the other side is thinking. What they believe. This web page is a true dialog. True debate.

If there were heroic movies telling the truth about our war heros meshed together in the theaters with moviews that show the dark side of war, I believe, IMO, that both movies would benefit from moview goers. People like I read each time I link here. People that want to hear the other side even if they don’t agree with it.

Kind of simple. But hey, Hollywood ain’t about free speech anymore. It is agenda driven.

Posted by: Edge at November 20, 2007 11:50 PM
Comment #238852

Eric, did you pull this following from a history book about the founders of our country: “‘New Patriotism’ which looks a great deal like old fashioned treason and subversion but is now marketed by progressives as, “dissent,” the new and highest form of patriotism.”

Their new patriotism looked like old fashioned treason and subversion to the British, but, was marketed in the Colonies by progressives as patriotic dissent of the highest form. Are you suggesting that the left is akin to our founding fathers? Doesn’t seem consistent with the rest of your article. ;-)

BTW, love your tactic of taking the voice of one person and building a case against the entire Democratic and progressive movements as if they were monolithically in rhythm with this one movie critic’s words interpreted by you. It’s not original, or particularly clever, and definitely not logical, but, I am sure it will be well received in some circles.

Posted by: David R. Remer at November 21, 2007 12:24 AM
Comment #238857


I don’t like Hollywood trying to capitalize off the war either, but … that’ s the free market Eric. Are you really surprised that someone would try and make a movie about the war we’re currently in? As far as small audiences for these types of movies go - that’s apathy about this war, not some kind of political statement. This war is a turkey, and no one wants to think about it.

Posted by: Max at November 21, 2007 12:55 AM
Comment #238861

Since Vietnam, there have been some financially successful war movies: Apocalypse Now, Three Kings, Top Gun, Rambo, I’m sure people could name a few others. Generally speaking, it takes years for the public to put a war far enough behind to see a movie about it for entertainment.

I would like to see a movie based upon something that really happened. At one point, Blackhawk helicopters delivered $1.5 billion in cash to a Kurdish courier. No one got his name. No one could give a physical description. The courier drove away in a truck, and disappeared.

I mean, really, that’s just amazing. That courier instantly became one of the wealthiest people on the planet. Did he get away with it? “Go on, take the money and run.”

Posted by: phx8 at November 21, 2007 1:14 AM
Comment #238870

Eric, I think you’re full of it on this one.

Did you by any chance watch Transformers this summer? Bumblebee, a giant alien robot, is captured and tortured by an unaccountable government agency. Clearly, when he’s released, he’s on the verge of blasting everybody nearby with his weapons. It takes the hero of the story desperately appealing to him to calm him down.

Or maybe you saw Revenge of the Sith a while back, with Chancellor Palpatine using one emergency measure after another, fueled by the threat of war and divisive rhetoric to corrupt the Republic into his new empire, Democracy dying to thunderous applause.

Or maybe you saw Return of the King, where the Steward of Gondor, more interested in loyalty to his person and holding on to power than listening to good advice from well-intentioned advisors and friends, sent his son and others on a charge to their deaths (his son’s near-death, actually). The sequences is particularly haunting.

An Afghanistan or Iraq-like setting doubles in the upcoming Iron Man adaptation for what was once set in a Vietnam Prison Camp.

It goes on.

Societies, I think, tend to digest events more indirectly than directly. If you just look at the movies which are directly about the events there, well, you’re looking at events that haven’t really had time to coalesce in people’s minds. Remember, this is an ongoing war, so these dramas, often direct and didactic in their focus, don’t always appeal to audiences.

I think when America has put this war behind it as an active, ongoing event, that’s when you’ll see it directly addressed. For now, you might want to look in the indirect references to see the way the culture’s digesting current events.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 21, 2007 2:31 AM
Comment #238884


I think the main reason people are avoiding these movies is because it’s hard to imagine any movie about the Iraq War that isn’t depressing.

Cultural conservatives like to complain that Hollywood isn’t giving audiences what they want. If this is true, someone should be able to make a lot of money by making the right (Right) kind of movie. Come to think of it, Rupert Murdoch controls one of the major film studios. If you’re right, he should be able to make a bundle on a flag-waving movie about the war.

Posted by: Woody Mena at November 21, 2007 7:36 AM
Comment #238891

I have to wonder if Eric actually saw any of the movies he criticizes? I have seen 4 of them: In the Valley of Elah, The Kingdom, Rendition, and Lions for Lambs. The main reason these movies have not done all that well is simple: They aren’t very good movies, no matter what their viewpoint is.

As to their having an “agenda”, Elah and Kingdom are not anti-war propaganda films by any measure. In Kingdom for example, the film clearly shows terrorists as very bad, very evil killers, and the US folks sent to stop them as the good guys. I’d sure like someone to explain how that is anti-US troops. Elah on the other hand is simply about a dad trying to find out what happened to his son after he got back from Iraq. Turns out his son had some tough experiences in Iraq and it messed him up - hardly news that going to war can be a difficult experience. As long as young men have gone to war, they have come back with dark, disturbing experiences that have effected them for life.

As for the other 2, they were just bad movies, though there viewpoint was definitely a much more liberal position. Though in fairness, in Lions for Lambs, 2 characters are depicted as joining the military for very patriotic reasons - the desire to make a difference and help their country. The fact that one character strongly disagrees with their decision does not make it an anti-war movie. The 2 characters who join the military are not trashed are made fun of.

As to Americans not wanting to see movies from a liberal bent, ask Michael Moore how that is going. He seems to be doing pretty well being a strong liberal anti-war, anti-President Bush movie maker. :)

Posted by: Steve K at November 21, 2007 9:28 AM
Comment #238893


I think the main reason people are avoiding these movies is because it’s hard to imagine any movie about the Iraq War that isn’t depressing.


Though, I’m surprised nobody in Hollywood though yet about a sarcastic approach here. Sigh. I guess making the Dr Strangelove of Iraq War will take more time…


So, where are the first degree heroic war movies about Iraq!? They will sell like hell, wont they?

Posted by: Philippe houdoin at November 21, 2007 9:39 AM
Comment #238894

Here we go again…We trot out the same old tired horse the the left is anti -american and doin’t support the troops. That did work for a short time but now people see it for the B.S. that it is. And the albatross is now where it belongs around the neck of the 30 percent of the far right that still support this failed war.

Posted by: Jeff at November 21, 2007 9:44 AM
Comment #238915

Maybe someone will make a movie about how 4000 dead American soldiers are suddenly returned to life, and 28,000 others healed and made whole again, and then hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis come back to life, to be happily re-united with their families, and all those people who were denied the full years of their lives could rejoin their loved ones…

Just think how good that would feel for the people who supported the War in Iraq- you know- as if backing a war didn’t have any consequences, and everything could somehow be ok. The feel-good movie of the year!

Posted by: phx8 at November 21, 2007 12:45 PM
Comment #238928

phx8, what is wrong with making a movie that shows that despite the mistake of policy, that there is success and heroism each and every day. Day in and day out there are successes despite poor policy. What is the problem with showing heros rather than what is the current format to make soldiers either “victim” or “villan”. Saving Private Ryan did just this and was a hit. It hardly shows war in a positive light, but it did show our soldiers as heros for the most part.

These movies that have come out, and are coming out, are not anti-war in my opinion. But they do focus on the soldiers that were or are victims or villans themselves. But this is a very small percentage of the troops serving and the behavior they have demonstrated.

What is even more laughable on the business side of these movies they are not paying for themselves. That clerly demonstrates that moviegoers what something different. Perhaps Transformers 2: The Gulf Of Oman. Where Optimus Prime saves a nomadic tribe of Kurds with the help of the U.S. Marines.

Posted by: Edge at November 21, 2007 1:42 PM
Comment #238933

WWII was a just war this one is not.

Posted by: Jeff at November 21, 2007 2:00 PM
Comment #238934

The right needs to make their own movies. Bring back Rambo and have him defeat the nation of Iran singlehandedly. Prep the American people and show them how easy it will be to defeat the Iranians. Instead of Stallone, have Bush play the part.

Posted by: jlw at November 21, 2007 2:02 PM
Comment #238947

Edge wrote:
“phx8, what is wrong with making a movie that shows that despite the mistake of policy, that there is success and heroism each and every day.”

Perhaps you should see “Lions for Lambs”. Part of that movie very clearly depicts 2 very brave Special Forces guys trapped in a bad situation. Their bravery and commitment to duty is clearly depicted and quite moving.

Once again, it pays to actually see the movies before you criticize them.

Posted by: Steve K at November 21, 2007 4:18 PM
Comment #238958
Perhaps you should see “Lions for Lambs”. Part of that movie very clearly depicts 2 very brave Special Forces guys trapped in a bad situation. Their bravery and commitment to duty is clearly depicted and quite moving.

Agreed. This scene reminds me a similar one in Black Hawk Down. In both case, not being a just war/operation doesn’t forbid to display bravery.

IMHO these movies are failing because many Americans are already full of about Iraq War and what they’re looking for in theaters is anything to avoid a couple of hours see, hear and been told about this war.

And I could easily understand them.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at November 21, 2007 6:38 PM
Comment #238977

WWII was a just war, and this was not.

Interesting statement. If the rabid-left-media and the ACLU were around then, you and I and our families probably wouldn’t be here. Because Hitler never attacked us. Yet you say it was “just.” It WAS just, but “just” doesn’t mean a good thing. Putting a bullet in Manson’s forehead would be “just” but shooting a guy in the head isn’t a wonderful thing. Years from now they will make a movie about how hard our guys fought, and how stressful it was, and how they triumphed in spite of it all, and it will be a smash. Just like it would be if they produced it tomorrow.

Edge is right on. It’s not the war that movie-goers don’t want to see any more of (though admittedly, I’m sure many are tired of this war - myself included) it’s the constant victim or villain portrayal that drags everyone down and makes everyone feel like crap. You either think what a shame, or what a bastard. Never - what a guy! Or what a gal! It’s the pathological negativiity of the left that doesn’t sell. That’s the reason the left can’t succeed on talk radio, because NO ONE WANTS TO LISTEN TO THAT CRAP. People are sick of hearing how evil America is and how much the world allegedly hates us.

Posted by: Yukon Jake at November 21, 2007 9:32 PM
Comment #238983

No,Hitler did not attack us. Japan did. They were allied with Germany. Iraq was not allied with Al Queada.

So you miss the great old propaganda films cranked out by Hollywood? They were actually pretty enteraining. They were also paid for by the taxpayers. If you want to bring back that socialist,big government expansion into industry write your congressman.Do not worry. There are plenty of whores left in Hollywood.

Posted by: BillS at November 21, 2007 11:18 PM
Comment #238986


What a bunch of crap. Do you honestly believe they produce these films with a political agenda in mind. First and foremost movies are made with expectations of large returns at the box office. Profit, profit, and more profit. A few do very well, most don’t. Investors put small fortunes into these movies expecting returns. The thought of a vast Hollwyood inspired conspiracy to somehow brainwash the average dolt, at his expense, is hilarious. Have you ever stopped to think just who invests in these movies? I suspect you might find quite a few money hungry conservatives happy to make a quick buck at the expense of us stupid enough to fall for a fancy cover at the dvd rental store.

Movies are pumped out so fast these days to satisfy the dvd rental market that the degree of quality to produce blockbusters can not be maintained on a regular basis. I personally have not watched a lot of movies for the last few years simply because of a lack of quality and subject matter. Lets face it Eric, without the proper marketing and name brand stars most movies will fail at the box office level.

A few of the others are correct that Iraq is just plain depressing. It is a conflict that never should have been. By now most Americans realize it and have come to grips with that reality. There really is nothing to rally around here as we simply do not feel any great passion towards the endeavor in general. No passion for and no rallying point = box office losers.

Posted by: RickIL at November 21, 2007 11:40 PM
Comment #238989


I agree wholeheartedly. The fact is that much of hollywood is supported by all the enormously successful G rated family movies that rake in the dollars so that the agenda can continue.

Posted by: Eric 'climate denier' Simonson at November 21, 2007 11:56 PM
Comment #238991


I don’t think your analogy about the founding fathers is very apt here. The founding fathers sought self-government. Their ‘dissent’ was not against the idea of patriotism itself, nor against the idea that there should be a British state.

In contrast, the left’s 5th columnites do not seek freedom for themselves, or self-determination, but to enslave everyone alike to their oppressive political ideology.

Posted by: Eric 'climate denier' Simonson at November 22, 2007 12:11 AM
Comment #239040

Right on Eric the denier

Thats also why the left keeps UFOs under wraps and faked the moonlanding to collect more tax money.

Posted by: BillS at November 22, 2007 3:57 PM
Comment #239051

Steve, you are right of course. You can point to the one part of a long list of movies that do portray GIs in a postive light. I have seen the movie too. So quick saying I have not.

The point is not black or white, it is encompassing all the movies and their general use of GIs as victims or villans.

I won’t argue that GI heros are slipped in every once in awhile. They are just not the norm in any of these films.

Bring back Rambo? I think we’re above that line of reasoning in this discussion. No one here has stated that Rambo is a realistic portrait of modern war.

I much prefer Private Benjamin. Now there is a realistic portrayal of basic training for woman in the Army.

Posted by: Edge at November 23, 2007 12:17 AM
Comment #239082


“No one here has stated that Rambo is a realistic portrait of modern war.”

Has anyone here stated that any of the films Eric has listed are accurate portrayals of modern war?

More to the point is that these movies are made for the entertainment of an audience. They are not documentaries that claim to be the truth and nothing but.

“Lions for Lambs”, for instance, has gotten hammered by the critics, surely the fact that the audience isn’t being entertained is the reason it is failing at the box office, not some ideological baloney.

Posted by: Rocky at November 23, 2007 6:48 PM
Comment #239097

Rocky, you are right of course. If it is not entertaining then it won’t sell. I agree.

I watched CNN today and then listend to 93.9 FM here in Chicago. CNN had video of soldiers coming home to their families and loved ones. 93.9 FM had soldiers in Afganistan and Iraq leaving recorded Happy Holiday messages for their families.

If these movies are entertaining. And they portray the war in a negative light. And most of the news about troop behavior is positive. And we all look up to heros that sacrifice so much … then why not make more movies about how hard it is in war, but the heroism that comes from it? Seems like a logical, entertainment, and market based success formula.

So then this boils down to is Hollywood about agenda or about business?

I’d have to agree with above statements that make it clear that money made off of the “Bee Movie” and “Shrek 3” is used to promote someones’ agenda.

But you are right Rocky, “Lion for Lambs” was not fun to watch, left me begging for any semblence of balance, and I actually watched movie goers leave.

Posted by: Edge at November 24, 2007 1:04 AM
Comment #239104


“I’d have to agree with above statements that make it clear that money made off of the “Bee Movie” and “Shrek 3” is used to promote someones’ agenda.”

For this statement to be true, we have to assume that Hollywood studios are not in competition with one another to make money.
Bee movie, and Shrek 3 were made and distributed by Paramount.
Lions for Lambs was produced by United Artists, a studio that was originally started by Charlie Chaplin (well known for his anti-war stance), and made by MGM.
As cutthroat as the movie business is, I would highly doubt that there is any collusion between studios to monetarily support any one ideological agenda.


“Lions for Lambs, Robert Redford’s first directing effort in seven years, is a well-acted but preachy and lop-sided drama that offers nothing new to say about the war on terror or its politics that hasn’t been said a million times in the last several years by various pundits and media outlets.”

I could say the same about virtually this entire thread.

My point is that somehow I just don’t picture a studio head in Hollywood saying “It’s preachy and lopsided, but I don’t care if it doesn’t make any money because it supports my political agenda”.

Posted by: Rocky at November 24, 2007 8:38 AM
Comment #239110

Yukon Jake-
I think Saving Private Ryan illustrates the problems with the thesis you and Eric are presenting. The movie was grim, incredibly violent and realistic in that violence. The war was considered just, but the mission was put under considerable criticism, and the moral questions came hard and heavy.

So what about this current crop of movies?

The truth is, they’re either got here too late, or too early. The sentiments and themes of the movies are being lived right now. It’s not that people disagree with these movies, or can’t handle the darkness of them. No, it’s that the pain is too close, and the experience not fresh for many. People go to movies for a fresh experience. Transformers had soldiers obviously returning from the theatre of battle shoved in the midst of a battle with giant alien robots. Not something you see everyday.

What it also had, though, which should give you pause, is considerable material reflecting a rather dim, dark view of current political policy. One of the good robots is captured and subject to torture. the heroes of the story are menaced by an unaccountable secret government agency. A President with a stereotypical Texan accent is lampooned.

Now, are the liberal filmmakers trying to hypnotize people into taking these positions? No, they wouldn’t be so bold. No, they’re playing to the audience.

Doubtlessly, we’ll see stories with Iraqi and Afghanistan war veterans involved, just the way WWII, Korean, and Vietnam War vets filtered into movies, books and television. And at some point, there will be a desire to look back at the Iraq War, and somebody will fulfill it.

The Republicans, especially Eric, want to see some sort of popular revolt against what they call defeatism. Unfortunately, polls still indicate that the popular revolt is against the war. The simple truth is that people are sick and tired of Iraq and the Middle East in real life, so they’re not going to go to the theatres to compound that misery on the subject.

Hopefully you were just being sarcastic when you talked about enormously successful movies being G-Rated. Most successful movies are PG-13 rated.

In contrast, the left’s 5th columnites do not seek freedom for themselves, or self-determination, but to enslave everyone alike to their oppressive political ideology.

Where’d you get this quote? Some bad movie? It’s got about the same plausibility.

Saving Private Ryan showed complex characters, not saints. The heroism (or the cowardice as it sometimes goes) emerges from the characters in response to the situation. Soldiers in movies work best when they are real characters, whether villains or heroes.

I doubt they’ll have the Transformers show up to help fight our wars. They’ll have their own to fight, wars of survival, wars of defense- that is, wars people believe Americans are at their best when they fight them.

Oh, by the way, they are bringing back Rambo! However, he’s nowhere near the Iraqi front.

At the end of the day, people just don’t like this war, and you can’t trick an audience into buying it as a resounding success.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at November 24, 2007 10:58 AM
Comment #239165

Rambo! Are we going to suffer through Stalone with a walker?

The real movie to look forward to is the 2009 release of G.I. Joe. He is no longer American. He is part of a global unit! I love it when we sell away our history to be politically correct in the world we live in. I guess if the “business” side of Hollywood felt that an American based character in this movie was bad for income … then …

Plus George Clooney might be cast as GI Joe.


“A European-based military unit known as Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity (G.I.J.O.E.), a hi-tech, international force of special operatives takes on an evil organization led by a notorious arms dealer”

Posted by: Edge at November 25, 2007 1:09 AM
Comment #239548
Lions for Lambs was produced by United Artists, a studio that was originally started by Charlie Chaplin (well known for his anti-war stance), and made by MGM.
It’s trivial, but I had to correct what appears to be an attempt to suggest that United Artists has an anti-war bias because of Charlie Chaplin. Charlie Chaplin had only a 20% stake in UA, which was started in 1919. However, he (and other founders of UA) campaigned vigorously for the sale of U.S. War Bonds during World War I, and he was also in support of World War II. True, he was known as a pacifist, but he was also a realist. I don’t think Chaplin or his legacy at UA had anything at all to do with the creation of Lions for Lambs.
Posted by: Leper at November 28, 2007 8:36 PM
Comment #239585


Chaplin was also well known for his stance against Hitler, and yes, as a side point it is trivial, as very few stars at the time did not support the war effort.

Posted by: Rocky at November 29, 2007 5:49 AM
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