by Tony Medley
I didn’t go to Annapolis and
didn’t serve in the Navy. But I did serve in the armed forces and, from my
experience, this is about as accurate a picture of life in the armed
forces as an Annapolis plebe as you would get from "Mary Poppins."
According to Director Justin Lin and Screenwriter Dave Collard, about all
a plebe has to do during his first year is to flirt with upperclasswomen
and train to fight in the annual Brigade Boxing Championship.
So let’s talk about the boxing,
because that’s what this really is, a boxing movie. It is so factually and
procedurally inaccurate that it could just as easily been entitled “UCLA,”
for all the relevance it has to life at the Naval Academy. The boxing
scenes put the coup de grace on what is a horrible movie in the first
place. They were choreographed by Nick Powell, whose boxing scenes were
the only black marks marring “Cinderella Man.” Every time Powell has one
of his “fighters” touch his opponent the sound is like an atomic bomb has
exploded. To call the fighting scenes unrealistic is far too tame. They
are ludicrous. All the fights sound like firefights sound in Iraq with
bombs exploding all over the place. But those aren’t bombs, they are left
jabs. The unrealistic sounds make the fighting scenes laughable.
Just to show how little Lin
cared about accuracy, when he shows the Brigade Championships, the boxers
are not wearing head guards. In fact, in all Annapolis boxing matches the
boxers are required to wear head guards, as they are in all amateur boxing
matches. This is just an example of the vacuity and laziness with which
this deplorable movie was made. If you don’t have the interest in getting
such a simple little detail correct, why make the movie?
The entire movie is loony. Lin
apparently tried to combine “An Officer and a Gentleman” (1982) with “From
Here to Eternity” (1953) and wound up with “Alice in Wonderland” (1951).
Lin’s Navy certainly isn’t anything like my Air Force. There is no
discipline. At his Annapolis, there’s nothing wrong with romantic
fraternization between plebes and upperclassmen. Instead of trying to
build character and discipline and respect, Lin’s upperclassmen are intent
on being cruel and vituperative.
Jake Hubbard (James Franco) is
an uncooperative, misfit loner who says he wants to make it at the
Academy, but actions speak louder than words and Jake is just a 14-carat
selfish loser, not the heroic protagonist Lin tries to paint. His superior
officer, Cole (Tyrese Gibson), seems to have but one goal in life, and
that’s to keep Jake from making it. At Lin’s Annapolis, plebes are free to
move in and out of their dorm rooms if they don’t like their roommates.
Jake is introduced to us as an
experienced amateur boxer, but he accepts his girl friend, upperclassman
Ali (Jordana Brewster), as his manager and she tells him how to throw a
right hook and is in his corner telling him how to fight his fights. Yeah,
The Navy reviewed the script.
According to Judy Campbell of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Public Affairs
office, with whom I spoke the day after I viewed the film,
movie did not receive official support because the advance scripts we
reviewed did not realistically portray the Naval Academy or how we develop
and train future Navy and Marine Corps officers. Early in the project,
the Naval Academy offered suggestions for ways the script could
realistically portray Academy life. We provided research, facilitated
visits to the Academy, afforded contact with Midshipmen, and provided
extensive script notes to the producers. Our objective was to help the
filmmakers develop a script that could receive official support.
Ultimately, the filmmakers made the decision to shoot the film elsewhere
and forego further contact with the Naval Academy.”
By turning down this generous
offer of support, Lin and his cohorts showed that they really didn’t want
to make a film that realistically portrays life at Annapolis. They had
their own ulterior motive, which was apparently to make a dull, factually
inaccurate, pointless, unentertaining movie. In this they were enormously
The story is ridiculous; the
characters are ludicrous; the script is trite; the location
(Philadelphia’s Girard College, not the real Annapolis) is uninspiring.
January 24, 2006