In 1995, HBO produced a film called The Tuskegee Airmen chronicling the heroic story of the first squadron of African-American fighter pilots during WWII. The HBO version stars Laurence Fishburne, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, John Lithgow, and Cuba Gooding Jr. I don’t mention this film because of its obscurity, or to thereby prove my film knowledge by pointing it out. I offer this film as favorable alternative to wasting two hours of time on the irrecoverable nosedive that is Red Tails. I’ll say it again, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen is beyond heroic and deserves multiple competent cinematic revisits. These were men who fervently, and with their very lives, defended a country that made policy of oppressing and mistreating them. Not only that, but they also proved to be one of the most effective and successful fighter battalions of the entire war. The larger themes of honor, duty, and sacrifice so inherent and alive in their story are reduced to After School Special platitudes in the George Lucas-produced and Anthony Hemingway-directed Red Tails. Instead of genuine traits, all of the characters occupy loosely-fitting archetypes mined from the most trite of “guys on a mission” tropes. That guy is the hot-headed glory hound, that guy is the goofy one, that guy has a drinking problem, that guy is in love, that guy looks like Denzel Washington. Okay, that last one is actually specific to Red Tails but it no less proves to be that actor’s only marketable skill.