Sunday Discussion: The Return of the World War II Movie

November 9, 2008


In just a few hours I'm heading down to catch the AFI Fest Closing Night screening of Defiance. Although this screening is well in advance of the film's actual theatrical release, to me it marks the beginning of Hollywood's interest in yet again exploring World War II. Like westerns, a handful of films set during World War II pop up almost every year, but the upcoming selection of WWII films is coming from a diverse selection of Hollywood's finest filmmakers and features some of the best on-screen talent. As excited as I am to dive right into it all, I'm not sure the rest of America is. Others might believe that we haven't yet seen the return of the World War II movie, but with this line-up, it's pretty hard to disagree.

We've already seen a handful of WWII movies this year, including Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, Vicente Amorim's Good, Ole Christian Madsen's Flame & Citron and Mark Herman's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but those are hardly the beginning. In addition to Edward Zwick's Defiance hitting theaters in December, we've also got Bryan Singer's Valkyrie, which has slowly been gaining buzz and is officially one of the first very high profile WWII films. Even Baz Luhrmann's Australia is a WWII film, set during the time when the Japanese bombed Australia. From there, we move into an ambitious line-up of in-production or soon-to-be-produced films, which will all hopefully end up getting made before too long.

The next big WWII movie with the most buzz is, of course, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, currently shooting in Germany and due out sometime late next year. In addition to that, George Lucas' Red Tails is heading into production soon, while the next two are only in the development stage, but with hope they'll soon be given the greenlight: Jerry Bruckheimer's Killing Rommel and Roger Avary's Return to Castle Wolfenstein. And we can't forget Marvel's The First Avenger: Captain America as well as X-Men Origins: Magneto, if that film ever gets made. As you can probably tell, a lot of these are very high profile WWII films, which we haven't seen many of coming out of Hollywood of as of late.

This isn't the first time I've talked about WWII movies being on the rise. I actually predicted way back in early 2007 that this would be a big year based on two films: Valkyrie and Inglourious Basterds. Confirmation of my prediction that the WWII movie is returning hinges on the box office success of nearly all of the aforementioned films. Right now I'm not sure Defiance or Valkyrie will be that big, but I could be wrong. Inglourious Basterds, on the other hand, is the one film that I think could be big enough to reignite America's interest all over again. The last time that happened was back in 1998 with Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but looking at the list above, it seems like Hollywood is already predicting the same.

The reason why I'm so invested in this topic is because I love war movies. It might have all originally stemmed from first seeing Saving Private Ryan, but I have since always been fascinated by every last one. To me, knowing that Bryan Singer, the man behind the X-Men series, is bringing us a thriller set in WWII starring Tom Cruise, or that Quentin Tarantino is finally telling his epicly violent WWII story with Brad Pitt, or that the man behind The Last Samurai (a guilty pleasure of mine) is showing us what it would be like if James Bond were a WWII soldier, is all incredibly exciting to me. And if the success of all of these movies means we'll get to see even more great directors taking on even more war stories, I'm all for it.

Find more posts: Discuss, Editorial, Opinions



Nazis shall be defeated.

Vegeta on Nov 9, 2008


I'll probably see most of these, and not because I'm a war buff. I'm just a curious ole biddy that likes a good strory and I didn't went to miss out on some great performances. I've already seen "Miracle at St. Anna" and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" The violence really gets to be too much for me, all the body parts getting blown off and grown men screaming in agony. Sigh, it's going to be a rough go.

tzarinna on Nov 9, 2008


"didn't want" I need an edit button.

tzarinna on Nov 9, 2008


I think its a really good move for hollywood to throw some real life war movies in with all the awesome but fake comic book/graphic novel adaptions.

Scott McHenry on Nov 9, 2008


Don't forget "Sgt. Rock" and the "Dirty Dozen" remake....I expect if Inglourious Basterds is a massive hit which I assume it will be, we're going to be flooded with these WW2 projects....not to mention all the horror films that are using Nazi and WW2 themes..."Iron Sky" seems to be the best example of what we can hope for, that teaser trailer blew me away...

Christopher Marc on Nov 9, 2008


Hey Alex, what the crap do you mean The Last Samurai was a guilty pleasure of yours? GUILTY? That movie was awesome, period. Never have I been in a theater FULL of people literally cheering (when they defeat the ninja assassins) and opening crying (both when Katsumoto and his son dies). Who didn't like that movie? Oh, and "what it would be like if James Bond were a WWII soldier." I'm guessing that's supposed to be a joke but was that really the best description you could come up with?

Joshua m on Nov 9, 2008


I don't think the "WWII" movie is returning. Look over the past 10 years and every so often a bunch of them come along just not in the manner that they did in the 50s and 60s. This is just the latest batch.

BahHumbug on Nov 9, 2008


the last samurai was a classic tom cruise flick that should be added to tom cruise. hope valkyrie does well.

Darrin on Nov 9, 2008


HUGE war movie fan here, seen just about all of them (the good, the bad, and the awful). There will always be new batches of World War II flicks that come out simply because World War II is a modern tale of good versus evil (to simplify it to its most basic level). It's something that wasn't seen prior or since the war. It's a gold mine for epic movie material and there's still plenty of room to create future classic war flicks that people will flock to the theaters to see.

Chris H. on Nov 9, 2008


What ever it is. am not complaining. eagerly waiting for Inglorious B and Valkyrie.

Dexter on Nov 10, 2008


Did they ever go away? There are so many stories and angles to chose from this period that it will probably never end. I think the Nazi soldier stereotype is played out to death though. Maybe they could do a story on a modern war from the viewpoint of a child, say in Rwanda, where they forced kids to kill their own friends with machetes as it was too expensive to use bullets. Emotionally and mentally I think this would leave people on the floor in a mess, because it wasn't 70 years ago, it was last month and is still going on. War still sells good these days, so it's never going away

Crapola on Nov 10, 2008


You also forgot to mention The Reader...Kate Winslet playing a Nazi opposite Ralph Fiennes? I smell Oscar greatness.

Homero on Nov 10, 2008


First Avenger: Captain America will be great because it looks like Marvel will be going the route of a serious war movie. It has the potential to be one of the greatest superhero movies ever, right up there with Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2, and X2.

Daas on Nov 10, 2008


I think ALex is trying to sabotage THE READER #12 :), stilll bitter about THE ROAD???

Ryan on Nov 11, 2008


And they'll all star goddam Sam Worthington.....

ANZAC Cookie on Oct 30, 2009


----Bogus issue. FACT IS ---having made BILLIONS upon BILLIONS outsourcing labor, and unflinchingly catering to the franchise slum denial needs of history's ---MOST--- awesomely genocidal regime ---ACROSS the Pacific -Hollywood uses ad nausem, anachronistic PC retreads -uh, we mean 'tributes' as moral cover ---for ITSELF ---even on this, the once again 'mysteriously overlooked' 20th Annivrsary of the Tiennamen Square Massacre and the the 60th Anniversary of the epic, urgently relevant ---indeed, STILL unfolding --------KOREAN WAR. -case closed-

tiger tim on Apr 3, 2010

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