Why Don’t We Get More World War I Movies?
By Brian Hadsell
via the TV Over Mind (TVOM) web site
So as I was sitting in the theater this last week, waiting for my movie to start up in full, the usual string of trailers for the usual kind of fall movies landed on something interesting: a particularly peculiar item that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Namely, it was the trailer for 1917, Bond director Sam Mendes’ upcoming movie about a World War I era race against time for one lowly soldier to save not only his brother, but entire legions of troops against a pending slaughter.,
The thing is, though, that it was sandwiched between the usual sort of World War II era movies that we’ve been forced to sit through pretty much since the war itself was still ongoing. In fact, looking ahead to the rest of the year, you have Midway, the Roland Emmerich-directed movie about the Battle of Midway, shot very much in his Bay-adjacent style as to suggest a markedly better version of Bay’s own Pearl Harbor (2001). There’s also the awards heavyweight A Hidden Life, Terrence Malick’s feature about a conscientious objector in Nazi-controlled Austria. There’s also Jojo Rabbit, Taika Waititi’s incendiary satire about a young boy whose imaginary friend is none other than Adolf Hitler. And if Google’s to be believed, we’ve got another half-dozen or so WWII-set movies coming out over the final three months of the year.
And yet there’s only one WWI movie, at least as far as I’m able to tell: only one 1917. The next best thing we have coming up is The Kingsman (2020), the rather unfortunate-looking, grimdark Kingsman (2014) prequel that simply seems to be using the time period as a narrative jumping off point to its post-war spy adventure, with essentially nothing OF that war in the meat of the film. And looking back, I can’t even tell you the last major release I saw set in the so-called War to End All Wars. I guess we had the documentary They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) that snuck into theaters last year like a thief in the night (I certainly wasn’t able to see that one in my local theater). I guess there was Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (2011) at the start of the decade, although you’ll be forgiven if, like everybody else, you forgot that that ho-hum war drama existed in the first place (Lord knows I did). Before that was Flyboys (2006), which apparently only exists for history teachers to show in class every so often. Oh, and I guess Lawrence of Arabia (1962) got a special rerelease as a Fathom Event a little while back, although to what degree we can count a nearly sixty-year-old movie is anybody’s guess.
The simple fact of the matter is that Hollywood is not very interested in World War I as a filmic backdrop, which seems really weird when you stop and think about it.