War Is Hell (at the Box Office)
Snide Remarks #567
"War Is Hell (at the Box Office)"
by Eric D. Snider
Published on December 17, 2007
A huge number of war-related films have come out in 2007, and the public's response has been resounding: We do not wish to see war-related films.
Actually, I should be more specific. It is only films about Iraq and the War on Terror that the public does not want to see. The public is more than happy to see films about wars involving giant space robots that turn into cars. "In fact, we'd like more of those movies!" is an exact quote from the public.
But when it comes to movies about Iraq, Afghanistan, and terrorism, the bombs have been bursting in theaters. "In the Valley of Elah," "Lions for Lambs," "A Mighty Heart," "No End in Sight," and "Rendition" all tanked, none of them grossing more than $14 million. "The Kingdom" did better ($48 million), but it was oriented more toward solving crimes and blowing things up than ruminating on the war. It even had tanks, which meant there was a slight chance one of them could turn into a giant space robot.
The conservative commentators who dominate talk radio and the cable news networks have offered a very simple explanation for all these war movies flopping: The American public is tired of liberal Hollywood pushing its anti-war, anti-Bush agenda. But there are two problems with that explanation. One, not all of the movies are actually anti-war and anti-Bush; two, even if they were, at this point so are most Americans. You'd think they'd be flocking to see movies that express opinions they agree with.
It's all very frustrating for filmmakers, and so I started thinking. I'm very interested in becoming a Hollywood tycoon. How can I make a movie about the war in Iraq that millions of moviegoers would pay to see? Here's what I decided my movie will need.
1. A happy ending. The problem with all the Iraq movies is that they're such downers. "It's going so poorly!" "It's destroying our young men and women!" "It's a never-ending quagmire that has diminished America's standing in the eyes of the world and will ultimately cost us trillions of dollars while essential programs here at home remain underfunded!" Blah blah blah. My Iraq movie will have troops restoring law and order to the streets of Baghdad, and it will end with Osama bin Laden exploding after a live grenade is shoved down his throat by a soldier wearing an Uncle Sam costume. The soldier will be played by Jack Bauer.
2. No politics. Holy crap, nothing bores an audience faster than longwinded conversations about politics. In my Iraq movie, there will be no scenes set in Washington, D.C. A couple of politicians will show up in Baghdad to see what's going on, but they will immediately be taken out by snipers. It doesn't even matter whose side the snipers are on. The important thing is that there will be no discussion of exit strategies, moral imperatives, or hearts and minds.
3. Giant space robots that turn into cars. This is easy. I'll have our military's tanks turn into giant robots, and the insurgents' guns will also turn into robots, and then the robots will punch each other and deliver a lot of clever one-liners on the order of "I've got you between Iraq and a hard place!" It is conceivable that one of the robots will be a lady robot with enormous breasts and the voice of Angelina Jolie, but only if we can integrate it seamlessly into the story without seeming forced.
4. Oh, and pirates.
5. A simplified version of the issues. Another problem with the Iraq situation is that it's kind of hard to follow. For one thing, did you know that there are two kinds of Muslims? There totally are! After all these years of hearing on talk radio that we're just supposed to hate and/or fear "Muslims" in general, now it turns out there are different kinds! And who are these "insurgents" we keep hearing about, and what made them hate us so much? Ugh, so many questions, and the answers are complicated, often involving foreign words. So in my movie, it will be simplified: Our guys will shoot anyone who speaks Arabic.
I anticipate this film grossing $300 million domestic, more if I succeed in getting Michael Bay to "direct" it (Directors Guild of America bylaws stipulate the quotation marks when referring to Michael Bay's work). I'm pretty sure Nickelback is already on board for the soundtrack, and I've got Ian McKellen to provide the voice of one of the giant robots. Watch for it in summer 2009 -- unless the war is over by then, but I'm not too concerned about that.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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