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World Trade Center, I’ve Seen It Already

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It's not a coincidence that Oliver Stone's film World Trade Center was released on the anniversary of Fat Man's atomic destruction over and throughout Nagasaki. Both involved the death of thousands of innocent civilians. And that's about where the reasonable comparison ends.

Both events have caused countless repercussions that rippled out long after the kinetic energy had dissipated through sound, heat and fury. One ended a long world war where millions had died, the other was the deadly salvo in the War Against Terror that finally could not be ignored.

One significant difference between the two events, as it appears to me, is that there has never been a successful blockbuster film made about dropping the atomic bombs. Yesterday World Trade Center premiered with a media blitz.

I will not see WTC. I have no need. I've seen the real thing. And is it one of those films you have to watch just so you can say you've seen it? I'm not absolutely thrilled there's a soundtrack.

This arrogantly assumes I'm comfortable with my understanding of what happened. And I recognize that point, and counter with this one. The movie industry is one, not of portraying reality, but of exaggeration. It's a big screen and there are big emotions, and they have to be writ large for a mass audience.

Movies are designed to tug the emotions, and the producers and writers have decided what emotions need button-pushing. When done correctly "bigger than life" works and can make viewers wish that their lives could reach such heroics. Real actions are changed, hyped, and backgrounded with powerful orchestral maneuvers in the darkened theater.

When we're talking about reality, I'd rather that decision be mine and remain mine. When I don't have a close attachment to the subject such as Wyatt Earp or Billy the Kid, I can thrill at the exaggeration that is Young Guns. Billy the Kid was a legend anyway from the day he put on cowboy boots.

Much of what I've read and heard about 9-11, it can be argued, results from a similar journalistic effort to yank on the heart strings. But immediately after? It was news first and foremost. It was terror and real fear and real anger and real sadness, all rolled into one (except on TV where the image is king). Certainly the ethos was never lacquered on to the same extent. And what I saw cannot be replicated.

With a film like World Trade Center we are also considering real people. I don't want to think of Nicholas Cage when I think of an actual policeman who died. I don't want that Raising Arizona, Con-Air, Rock, Leaving Las Vegas visage to come up instead of the face of John McLoughlin.

I don't want to think of Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix faking their way through the lives of June Carter and Johnny. I want to think of what they actually accomplished and what they lived through. What good is a copy?

I realize, from my discussions with others when I relate my reasons for not seeing films like Walk The Line, United 93, Ray (both of which received multiple-Oscar nominations) or World Trade Center, that I am in the tiny minority. However, the idea is not alien. Consider: Millions of people find themselves disillusioned when they see a film adaption of a book they've read.

If you read a book, your mind creates every single facet of your understanding of the environment where the characters act. A film will not and cannot reflect that.

Truth is, fiction changed is still only a differently shaped fiction. Reality changed is a lie, even if well-lit and well-intentioned.

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About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • Aaman

    Where would we be without Captain Ahab? Where would we be without fictive realities that remake the world, and in doing so, catharsizw it, a retelling makes the Trojan War less immediate yet as compelling.

    Did we not need Apocalypse Now to understand the horrors of Vietnam?

    Will our children not need retellings of the War on terror, whatever it’s forms and events?

    Would you rather they watch Fahrenheit 9/11?

  • Aaman

    BTW, Hiroshima was a good film about the Bomb, as was Rhapsody in August(Kurosawa) and most compellingly, Black Rain in 1995. Of course, Hollywood wouldn’t make a Hiroshima film yet, unless you count Dr Strangelove.

    Incidentally, by not noting these films made by the Japanese, you prove your own point by its’ negation – the Japanese made the films about the atom bombs because they were most affected by them, and had they not, their children might not have visual memory of the event.

  • DK Brewer

    I will not see WTC. I have no need. I’ve seen the real thing.

    That’s my attitude about this, United 93 and other 9/11 related pieces of “entertainment.” It’s just too soon and unseemly for me. A big CGI disaster flick of Katrina would also not have any appeal.

    And to your comments about the various bio-pics and other “inspired by actual events” type movies, I think it depends on the film, the timeframe and how events are portrayed. Walk the Line is as much a “he said, she said” type movie where it’s almost impossible to hone into a singular truth. Everyone involved experienced events differently, and probably have their own ways of remembering those events years later.

    The “copy” as you call these type movies is first and foremost, a work of entertainment, and viewed in that light, it can introduce new fans to Cash, and present those they represent in a more accessible way. I think it’s up to the viewer to remember to distinguish reality from a stylized, altered “for dramatic purposes” account.

  • DrPat

    Truth is, fiction changed is still only a differently shaped fiction. Reality changed is a lie, even if well-lit and well-intentioned.

    Temple, you are the master of the well-stated truth. I hadn’t really verbalized why I felt so uneasy about these “rush to portray” films, but you’ve put your finger on it – I knew people who died (and people who survived) the WTC’s collapse on 9/11. I have NO desire to see any of them “portrayed” by an extra in order to make money, fame or political points for Oliver Stone and the studio.

  • Temple Stark

    DrP, I thought you were dead. Or at least blog-dead. I have Paper Frigate blogrolled but hadn’t checked back, I guess since June 18.

    On this, DKb and DrP, it’s not even that it’s specifically 9-11, though I guess by proximity it serves the point best. I am / we are still living the direct repercussions. I wonder how this film will play in New York?

    i did just think of Blackhawk Down. … Hmmm?

    Dr.P — I usually try and “reward” those who make it to the end of one of my articles, with something that attempts to encapsulate all that went before it. Oh and I like words. Thanks.

    Aaman, I’m sure there are other venues to learn about history then blockbusters. I’m not a film buff. To the best of my recollection there hadn’t been any films about the bomb, though I was thinking of serious “replay-the-day, put-up-the-tent-for-the-event” takes, rather than Dr. Strangelove, serious in its own way. I also wondered about but wasn’t going to research the history of film for foreign films on the subject.

  • sandra

    I caved in and saw World Trade Center tonight. I was touched by it, but something just didn’t seem to be right. It really did seem too close to the event and I give Oliver Stone credit for doing something different. It was a good film, but I can’t pin down why I wasn’t completely “blown away” by it.

  • Mayank Austen Soofi

    I feel if the feature is well made, has some sincerity of purpose, possess an element of well-meaning intention, retains a respect towards the tragedy, it will be worth watching.

  • Temple Stark

    Sandra, glad to get the perspective of someone who saw it. Yesterday’s terror threats will likely make people less welcoming of the artiface of the movie.

    Mayank, All those things do make the film more likely to be good, but don’t address why i have no desire to see the film and others like it.