After Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” released in 1998, it seems movies about World War II had a hard time standing in the shadow of that aforementioned masterpiece. Only Spielberg himself could technically rival it, albeit on HBO when he produced “Band of Brothers” and later “The Pacific.” All other big-screen movies about World War II, however, have simply paled in compelling comparison.
But if any think tank sessions have been done about this once lucrative film market, it was likely surmised that it’s not always about the throes of battle. So many tangential stories still exist about World War II that can be done with fresh perspectives and with the act of fighting from the sidelines. Even with the new drama “Emperor”, a complex story utilizing Gen. Douglas MacArthur is seen unfolding during the immediate end time of World War II rather than during all the epic battles.
And if Tommy Lee Jones missed out for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Thaddeus Stevens in “Lincoln”, then he may still be in for Best Actor playing the above MacArthur. No matter that he doesn’t really look that much like the famously tactical and brutally honest General, Jones must have known that World War II is still an award-worthy movie market. In fact, it seems most of Hollywood still knows it if you go by the casting of another upcoming World War II movie that promises to be epic in scope.
You may have been reading lately about George Clooney’s next movie project called “The Monuments Men.” It tells the tale of international museum heads visiting the battle rubble of Germany to rescue rare pieces of art the Nazis had stolen prior to the start of World War II. Considering it’s not a movie about soldiers, it attracted enough of a great cast, including many actors already Oscar nominated or with an Oscar on their shelves. Some of these include Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, and even Jean Dujardin as just starters.
The above is obviously being set up as a top Oscar contender for next year. Clooney may have also created an all-new genre in the World War II category where non-soldiers are the focus of these outlying stories that still depict serious situations. In that regard, there may be many more similar accounts out there that are all true, even if they don’t necessarily have to be.
Why World War II continues to be a popular movie subject may deserve a documentary eventually on the evolution of war films. Because it was such a nationally united war and had so many diffuse things happening, there may never be an end to rich portrayals of stories yet to be told. It’s a far cry from our wars in Korea and Vietnam, the former of which still hasn’t had a definitive and modern interpretation on film.
Even Vietnam and the recent Middle East conflicts have cooled down cinematically, mainly because they’re such ugly and brutal wars. World War II, despite many of the forgotten horrific battles, still has an air of romance and mystery behind the era.
You can also say that Hollywood’s foray back into World War II movies is perhaps an envious message to Steven Spielberg. If so, it would be the first subtle message saying he can’t get away with dominating every genre he masters.