The Associated Press has flatly declared a winner in the Iraq war. That might be a little premature. But we know who lost the Iraq war: Hollywood.
The latest movie in the black hole of phenomenal losses of money and effort is Stop-Loss, the epic story of how one soldier fought the system which forced him unjustly to go back to the violent and criminal Iraq war.
Stop-Loss was made using actual soldiers and only a script outline, and so only cost $25 million, a pittance by today’s spectacular production costs. And its full theatre run in the United States earned less than $11 million, and 42 per cent of that was on the opening weekend. Foreign earnings added, get this, $128,905. (NOTE: All box office figures in this entry courtesy of the excellent and thorough BoxOfficeMojo.com.)
The sad truth is worse than the Stop-Loss statistics, though. Hollywood has produced a long string of long-faced, mealy-mouthed, anti-Iraq, anti-American films and documentaries. And studio executives figure simplistically and stupidly that
No one wants to see Iraq war movies. No matter what we put out there in terms of great cast or trailers, people were completely turned off.
That quote is from a piece in Deadline Hollywood Daily commenting on the horrible response to Stop-Loss. It’s America’s fault says the reporter’s source, unidentified except as a Paramount studio person. Hollywood studios keep churning out war movies about Iraq, but people just don’t want to see them.
Now that would seem to make Hollywood types, starting with the studio person, look pretty stupid. Hollywood keeps churning out movies on the theme, even though the industry knows they will lose money, and perhaps even turn movie-goers off on movies in general.
But surely Hollywood can’t be that stupid, can it? And the answer, it turns out, is No, Hollywood is not that dumb. It is even dumber.
Hollywood, in fact, has not turned out Iraq movie after movie. It has churned out one movie many times, the film In the Valley of Elah being a great example of the genre: The GIs are mentally emptied by the evil war and the scheming government is trying to confuse and obstruct the tragic, grieving parents who only are trying to discover The Truth. Elah made $6.78 million in its full box office run. It played for two full weeks in Thailand, where it grossed exactly $51,098, one of the worst two-week runs by any movie from any country since the birth of the Thai cineplex.
While Elah was rising to the top of spectacular failures along with other scum, here is what some contemporary movies made:
- Alvin and the Chipmunks earned $437,262 in Thailand alone on the way to an income of $217 million;
- I Am Legend $256 million;
- American Gangster, with its self-serving plot and silly tricked-up Thailand sets $130 million, including $282,398 in Thailand.
And then there is Redacted. It is described by Hollywood publicists as
A montage of stories about U.S. soldiers fighting in the Iraq conflict
Directed by Brian De Palma with a big budget, Redacted was actually one of the all-time anti-American screeds, so bad that it not only sank lower than the previous gold standard for all-time worst movies, it surpassed it spectacularly. This film showed how US soldiers and Marines are sadistic rapists and killers, and trained that way by their superiors up to the government. It was so bad it was shunned by audiences worldwide.
The previous worst-ever movie was the cowboy disaster Heaven’s Gate, which made just $3.5 million back in 1980. But Redacted grossed $65,388, total. In Holland, it made $931, no typo. It was so bad that not a single distributor on the entire Asian continent would screen it.
There is a huge problem with the Hollywood narrative that no one wants to watch the war movies. It’s called Vantage Point, and while it is not set in Iraq, it is set in the theme of the worldwide war against terrorism. It has an heroic hero and a noble US president and of course it got lousy reviews, with the BBC giving probably the most favourable synopsis of the lot:
Vantage Point is an average thriller built on a neat gimmick.
Vantage Point grossed $1.1 million in a 24-day run in Thailand! It has earned $72.2 million in the USA, and $78.5 million in all other countries. It cost $40 million to make.
Another movie that did well was The Kingdom with Jamie Foxx. It had heroism in an anti-terrorism operation in Saudi Arabia. It was without silly patriotism, but also without silly conspiracies. It cost $70 million to make, and earned $86.6 million at the box offices of America and all other countries — $898,516 in a truly impressive 50-day run in Bangkok and up-country cinemas in Thailand late last year.
So the Hollywood meme is wrong and obviously wrong at that. Iraq and anti-terror movies can sell, and we know that because they have sold. You don’t have to be a studio executive to know that, but it seems you do have to be a Hollywood executive not to know it.
Americans and — here is another incredible part — most of the supposedly anti-American, Bush-hating world will not flock to movies that show a conniving US government forcing its weak-willed armed forces to commit unspeakable crimes against innocent people caught up in the Iraq and anti-terrorism wars.
But they will — and we know this because they have — reward smart movies that show some of the positive attributes of the US, some of the heroic achievements of its soldiers, some of the vision or determination of its leaders.
Hollywood has been stuck in a rut with one anti-American movie after another, or some might say the same anti-American movie over and over. And they all have lost money. It’s not the Iraq war that movie goers shun, it’s the losers of Hollywood.