Aviation movies have always been my favorite; to get the proper sensation of flight you have to participate by seeing them on the wide screen. I come from a four generation aviation family (I’m the third) and certainly was pointed in the direction of the family business. However, what cemented it for me, was sitting in the front row of a deserted theater at the age of eight watching The Blue Max. A TV just can’t convey the thrill of flight. I am also a big proponent of actual flight. It can be done inside of a budget, although I will admit with antique aircraft it is getting harder.
Some of the best actual flying scenes I’ve seen, come from surprising sources. Movies like Top Gun and Howard Hughes Hell’s Angels are famous for their action scenes.
Some less known, that I was impressed with, included High Road to China and Mother Load. Mother Load? Yes, it has an opening scene of a Cessna doing acrobatics in the Mountains of North West America that was riveting. The crash scene of a DHC-2 Beaver was well done too. But again, you need the impact of a wide screen.
CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is certainly a part of Hollywood, and here to stay. Some is good, some not so much. I’ve worked on various productions that employed some measure of CGI. What I thought was most effective was mixing actual flight with the GGI.
With that in mind I sat down to watch Red Tails; a Hollywood version of the story behind the Tuskegee Airman. The Tuskegee Airmen where an all African American aviation group that flew combat in WWII. I was a bit concerned by the obvious use of CGI from the trailer; but decided to give it a look-see. I am glad I did.
The initial scene worried me; however the GCI/actual flight mix was much better in the rest of the film. I went with a fellow airline pilot and the bottom line…it was great entertainment. Again, I recommend seeing it in the theater.
As a side note my fellow airline pilot and writer, Mark Berry, glanced over at me during a scene with a knowing look. It was very close to a chapter in my 3rd novel that he had read (not yet published). Even down to the bad guy’s yellow markings on his ME-109. But history is history, a very famous WWII Luftwaffe Fighter Pilot painted a yellow nose and tail on his fighter. Any guesses who?