Writers of entertaining stories often strive for a balance between realism and dramatic flair for very good reasons. A story that is wholly realistic can make it easy for the audience to suspend disbelief, but can keep the author from introducing a new and exciting twist on their genre of choice. On the other hand, a story that goes for flair over substance can be hard to take seriously if the audience knows what to look for.
So, what happens when a good movie falls into the trappings of style? Let’s take a look at some war films and see what comes up!
4. Luke Skywalker Charges The Machine Gun Nest.
In the opening act of The Empire Strikes Back, the Galactic Empire threw a bucketload of armor and infantry at the Rebel base on Hoth. Our heroes in the Rebel Alliance were not able to hold off the encroaching AT-ATs and AT-STs with their ground defenses, but their shield generator and ion cannon became the one-two punch that allowed them to rule the skies.
For a while, everything went smoothly. Some transports got away, the soldiers put up a fight, and a Commander by the name of Luke Skywalker led a flight of snowspeeders over the trenches… and directly into the sights of the entire Imperial division.
What should have been an orderly retreat quickly collapsed.
With total command of the air, the Rebels could have attacked the Imperial armor from any angle imaginable, but their actual course allowed the opposition to beat them at range. While Rogue Squadron managed to take down two AT-ATs, their entire flight was almost destroyed in the battle. As a result, the shield generator was destroyed, which left the Rebels with no other choice but to abandon their positions.
The Rebels may not have been able to hold out forever, but every moment counts when one is in a battle for the fate of the galaxy.
3. The Rohirrim Hold Their Fire.
In the final act of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, the Battle of Helm’s Deep brought the struggle between Saruman and Rohan to a close. The warriors of Rohan found refuge in the aforementioned fortress and dug in for a siege. They were soon aided by hundreds of elven archers, which gave the combined force a fighting chance.
At nightfall, the Uruk-Hai arrived in force and the battle was joined, but not before a lone human archer hit one of the enemy square in the neck.
After that, Aragorn ordered his side to hold their fire… for absolutely no reason.
Okay, the reason was movie, but we should look at it from the ground level.
The Rohirrim and Elves were outmanned by a factor of twelve-to-one, but all they needed to do was buy time for Gandalf and Éomer. So, why did they not press every advantage that they had at their disposal? The Elves may not have been able to hit anything, but the Rohirrim could have dealt some damage while the enemy stomped around and beat their chest.
Again, every second counts when one must survive the night.
2. Everything In Independence Day.
Okay, Independence Day isn’t exactly known for being subtle, but it is still fun to nitpick.
Once the “Harvesters” arrived on Earth, the governments of the world reacted in the only way they knew how. Some attempted to establish communications, others prepared for war, and even more waited for the outcome. Soon after their arrival, the aliens opened fire and everything went to hell.
When the war began, every single government floundered in the face of the unstoppable alien onslaught. The U.S. government responded by throwing a bunch of fighter aircraft at one of the alien starships when a cruise missile would have sufficed. After that, they launched nuclear weapons at the aliens as they hovered over Houston, but that didn’t matter either.
President Whitmore and General Grey may have blasted the Secretary of Defense for keeping secrets about the aliens, but the damage was already done. To make matters worse, the U.S. held an alien fighter at Area 51 for almost fifty years, but did not seem to get anywhere with it.
What would have happened if our protagonists were actually competent? The world may never know.
1. The Starship Troopers Fight A Ground War.
After an “engineered” meteor strike on Buenos Aires, the fascistic Federation struck back at the Arachnids with a frontal assault on Klendathu. When the human strike force arrived, they discovered that the bugs had anti-air cover, but managed to land the Mobile Infantry on the surface. While the initial landings went smoothly, the detachments were completely overwhelmed when they left their transports.
As usual in these kinds of situations, the retreat became a complete and utter rout.
Why didn’t the Federation strike the planet from orbit?
The only real danger to the human effort came from the plasma bugs that shot at the ships in orbit. Other than that, the rest of the Arachnid forces relied on swarm tactics that required them to get close to our protagonists. It was obvious that the humans held a massive tactical advantage, so how did they screw it all up?
They equipped their front lines with small arms and shoddy armor, but left them with no tanks, artillery, or air support. Once the soldiers hit the planet, they charged at the enemy in a human wave and were slaughtered in over-the-top and hammy style. In space, the Federation ships did not seem to disperse in any way, which gave the bugs time to target and destroy them with very little effort.
Robocop would have been proud, but I would not like to know more.
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