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.