Battle fatigue: has the Iraq film surge already fizzled?

As the media gratefully takes a pass on Iraq, the election or anything else of depressing substance for the golden opportunity for endless inanity presented by the new OJ case, the success of the upcoming spate of War on Terror related movies seems in doubt. After all, don’t people go to the movies to escape the troubles of the world rather than be confronted with them? And when the news itself doesn’t even want to think of all that bad stuff, what chance does “In The Valley of Elah” (which I think is a crock, but that’s not my point) have against, say, “Good Luck Chuck?”

And indeed, some pundits and critics have already buried the trend before the first films have barely been released.

Asks David Carr in “The New York Times:” “Are audiences ready for the steady stream of movies and documentaries that bring a faraway war very close? … historically, audiences enter the theater in pursuit of counter-programming as an antidote to reality.”

Also unconvinced isTodd McCarthy, lead critic for “Variety." After catching Brian De Palma's "Redacted," Nick Broomfield's "Battle for Haditha,” Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah,"  James C. Strouse's "Grace Is Gone" at the Toronto film festival, he concludes, “I think I know exactly where they're coming from and that I'm not going to learn anything new from them… Just  the war sucks, Bush sucks, America is down the tubes.Does anyone in Hollywood think anything different than this? According to polls, more than 60% of Americans also agree.” The anti-war films, he adds, are an inverted instance of the gung-ho war movies of seven decades ago: “Just as, during World War II, Hollywood pictures had a unified aim, to rally viewers around the war effort and present an image of the Allies prevailing, today they are also identical in nature, except in the opposite direction.”

But didn’t those war movies do pretty well commercially? And if they hadn’t be sure the ever-bottom-line-minded studios would have stopped making them. Then maybe films reflecting an anti-war mood might draw an audience also. According to  the IMDB, the preliminary box office reports on “Elah” look pretty good. (“a solid $150,000 in nine theaters, averaging $17,000 per theater.” )
Since all they’re getting from the news is fluff and from the administration spin and lies, maybe the 60+%  of the  people who think the war might be a bad idea will show up for films that offer them an escape from make-believe and back into reality.

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