Tuesday, 25 February 2014

History Is Bunk!

It’s been a slow week or so. I have done little in the way of gaming; the solitaire C&C: Ancients battle of Raphia has not moved since last Sunday. Mostly this is down to me being too tired after work to bother much in the evenings. After my sit-ups and cross-trainers sessions, my body is as tired as my mind and I am asleep within minutes of hitting the pit.

And the weekend was spent cleaning and clearing out the rubbish that has accumulated in the flat over the last two years; mostly cardboard boxes for stuff I have bought and might have had to return. They soon mount up. So Saturday was lost to that exercise, and to driving to the rather distant recycle dump in Warrington to drop it all off.

Sunday, however, saw me in the mood to do a little model-making; in this instance a SMER 1/28 Klik-Kit of a Skoda Favorit. I have had two of those wagons over the years, with differing levels of enjoyment. I bought the model years ago, but just found it again in the clear out and decided it was time to make it. It took less than an hour to click the major components together, and the painting and final assembly can wait ‘til later.

The rest of Sunday I sadly wasted catching up on a film I had promised myself to watch, but not got around to for years; Flyboys.  Now I am a keen WW1 aviation historian, and what with the breadth of modern research and the current standard of GCI, I expected great things for this film, which was supposedly based on the exploits of the Lafayette Escadrille in the early years of the First World War.

What I got was a film with a plot and script so dire that a 1930’s audience would have thought it clichéd, and dreadfully unhistorical and inaccurate combat scenes. For Odin’s Sake, Hollywood. With GCI it’s just as easy to get it right as to get it wrong, so what the hell was the reason for making all the German aircraft Fokker DRI’s? And red ones at that - except for the sneering baddy of course, who flew a black one. The only reason that springs to mind was that the director thought his audience so stupid that he believed they would only be able to recognise the “bad guys” if their planes had three wings and were painted red. This mismatch grated, and set the tone for the rest of the “history” in the film.

I would hate to have been the historical adviser on that film; they must have had a hell of a time with that director, or perhaps they were just as clueless. Every clash involved massive squadron-sized formations, and the air over the Lines was full of Gothas and Handley Pages and Zeppelins! Okay, so some of the little details were right, such as uniforms, flying gear, etc… But what’s the point of making sure those tiny details are fine, when the major part of the supposedly historical film is banal rubbish?

The guns fired wispy smoking bullets that made a little swishing noise as they passed. Anyone who has been shot at knows that bullets crack when they go past, but obviously the little swishing sounds matched the smoky trails better. And those smoky bullet trails? Tracer existed back then and was widely used. By 1916 all sides had tracers that could be followed out to 500 yards or so. The only rounds that left smoky trails were incendiaries, which were not widely used except against those specific targets that required it, such as balloons and zeppelins.

The rotary engines did not rotate. Ok, some of the footage featured actual modern replicas with radial engines, but the CGI aircraft could have included it. Deflection shooting? Not in this film, baby! The sights were always spot on the target when the triggers were pushed or pulled. And the scene were the hero carefully managed to time his swerve to ensure that a stricken Triplane, falling from above, plunged down to strike the Triplane sitting on his tail, was derisory. Another hoot was generated when the hero deliberately pulled up from a head-on attack and, with incredible skill, ripped off his opponent's top wing with his undercarriage, which remained remarkably intact afterwards!

Next week I intend to catch up on The Red Baron, a German-made film which preceded Flyboys by a couple of years. It can hardly be worse.... can it?


CelticCurmudgeon said...

Dear Chrissie,

One sad truth - once you think you've watched the worst film on a subject, Hollywood comes along and shows just how wrong you can be. For that reason, I am very cautious about watching any so-called history based film. Some are pretty good, like Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, most are not. From films like the ones you describe, to one of my favorites, The Alamo with John Wayne, film makers just seem incapable of getting it right.

Anyway, give yourself a little leeway. Build more models. Paint a little. Play the occasional board game. Life is way too short not to be enjoyed when you can.

Best regards,


Poacher said...


Thank you, Jerry, for helping me get it in perspective.

But we can live in hope, can't we? ;-)

Powerful scripts, direction and performances can make a historically-dodgy film great; for example Apocalypse Now. It's rare I cannot find a single saving grace in a film. Even the dreadful Cromwell is worth watching just for Alec Guinness' role of Charles I.

But Flyboys? No. My copy is now in a charity shop. I'd rather watch paint dry. :-)