The Red Baron
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Monterey Video.
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The Red Baron, of course, follows the titular, legendary, German fighter pilot of World War I. The film is impressive to look at and offers some interesting historical information (only if you go in without previous knowledge of the Baron’s life), but suffers from a lack of engaging characters as well as a conflicting grand scope and limited running time. Thus, the overall effect of the piece is disappointingly lackluster, despite a terrific cast including Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love) and Til Schweiger (Inglourious Basterds).
The Baron, Manfred von Richthofen, is at first arrogant and detestable no doubt due to his noble upbringing, and though he grows throughout, you’ll find yourself barely invested in the film, even during the climactic battle sequences. Moreover, we barely get to know the many other pilots whose deaths result in significant inner turmoil for the Baron, which is curious since they are in fact on screen for much of the picture. And how does that work? At an hour and 46 minutes, frankly, the film is barely long enough to touch upon the fundamental historical points much less develop the characters outside of their placement in historical events.
Still, the visual effects are terrific. The film’s effects artists resurrect 1916 Berlin as well as the entrenched battlefields that typified the ground warfare of WWI. And of course, the aerial combat too is impressively realized with a superb eye for detail. The only problem with the aerial combat is that it’s so detailed I found it to be somehow overly coherent and too easy to follow all the action. The result is that the combat feels sort of lifeless and unrealistic.
Yeah, The Red Baron certainly looks great, but that’s really the most that can be said for it.
Special features include a standard Making-of featurette and the disappointingly short historical featurette, “Legends of the Red Baron.”
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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