Warbirds (2008)



Warebirds reviewsReviewed by The Foywonder

Staring Jamie Mann, Brian Krause, Tohoru Masmune, Lucy Faust, David Jensen,

Directed by Kevin Gendreau


Last year the Sci-Fi Channel gave us a movie set during World War 2 about American soldiers and pilots fighting gargoyles and Nazis behind enemy lines starring a cast member of the show "Charmed". This year they're giving us a WW2 creature feature about American soldiers and pilots battling prehistoric pterodons and Japanese soldiers on an island in the South Pacific, also starring a cast member of "Charmed". If the pattern continues then next year Holly Marie Combs should find herself starring in a Sci-Fi Channel original movie about American soldiers and nurses trying to save Pearl Harbor from an attack by dragons.

Warbirds tries to put a bit of a twist on things by introducing a heavy dose of girl power to the mix. That’s about the only twist it puts on tired material. This is just another movie about soldiers on an island battling a generic monster menace.

An all-female B-29 crew who sport military issued hair, make-up, and nail polish - at least that's my guess given the uncanny similarity of their appearances - are assigned a secret transport mission across the South Pacific; along for the ride is a handful of male soldiers under the command of Charmed's Brian Krause, giving a performance that screams "I’m collecting an easy paycheck.”

After something takes out one of their engines, they narrowly manage to put the plane down on a nameless atoll. They'll soon come to discover that this island is also the base of some Japanese soldiers and home to prehistoric pterodons that apparently didn't get the extinction memo.

At least I think they were supposed to be pterodons. Decent CGI, but they looked more like smaller versions of Q, The Winged Serpent than pterodactyls as we know'em. Had they called them dragons and allowed winged reptiles to spit fire most viewers would have never known the difference.

Heck, even the Japanese soldiers in this film didn't seem believably Japanese for the time. The Japanese commander at one point actually scolds his men for being too hasty to want to give their lives in battle? I kid you not.

In between griping and romance and plotting to escape the island, the ladies will occasionally take to the air, whether flying leftover Japanese Zeroes or their repaired B-29, allowing for some uninspired aerial dogfighting with the pteradons. Entirely too many cockpit headshots of the women pilots who, like all women on the telephone, simply cannot stop chattering amongst themselves over their radios, jabbering non-stop during their life or death air battles delivering stilted dialogue, damn near every line of which ends with someone saying "Over." It almost becomes comical after awhile - almost.

Writer-director Kevin Gendreau's seemed to be trying to capture the lingo of the era and even recreate some of the snappy banter heard in movies from the 1940's but neither he or his actors were up to the task; in part because everyone in Warbirds came across like they were just going through the motions, but also because nobody sounded authentic. It's not just the acting or dialogue that lacks authenticity, either; nobody even lights up a cigarette because, as we all know from having watched Saving Private Ryan, nobody smoked during the 1940s, least of all soldiers at war.

All in all, Warbirds is a nifty concept but not much of a movie. It's pretty mundane even by Sci-Fi Channel monster movie standards, not particularly bad, but very underwhelming and suffering from a serious lack of enthusiasm.

About the only surprise was my being wrong in my immediate prediction that the American and Japanese soldiers would be forced to work together in order to survive the pteradon onslaught. Not quite. Instead the Japanese soldiers end up being painted in a rather sympathetic light after it's discovered the B-29's secret cargo is the first A-bomb being delivered so it can be dropped on Japan. The movie kind of paints the US in a bad light over our atom bomb being a weapon of mass genocide. Harry S. Truman would disagree.

The most entertaining moment of Warbirds for me came not from the movie itself, but from a graphic that appeared on the bottom of the screen informing viewers that the Sci-Fi Channel is now available in HD. Yowzer! Now we'll all be able to view these great Xbox 360 cut scene computer effects in all their high definition glory. Call your cable company now!

2 out of 5

Discuss Warbirds in the Dread Central forums!




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Gus Bjork's picture

I read those comments on the IMDB. Man, if this keeps up the Feds are going to put me in a protected class.


Submitted by Gus Bjork on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 10:26pm.
Terminal's picture

Big respect to director Kevin for defending his work, which I think many directors should do in a polite manner, but the obvious anachronisms in the story are made apparent by the commercial alone. People smoked like chimney's in the forties.


Submitted by Terminal on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 8:06pm.
Foywonder's picture

Oh, and to answer your question earlier about the artwork, I got it straight from the website for production company Voltage Pictures.

And if you think I was being overly negative by saying I found the film routine and underwhelming then I strongly suggest you never look at the IMDB user comments for it.


Submitted by Foywonder on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 6:42pm.
Foywonder's picture

EdvardMünchhausen, just out of curiosity, what reviews of mine have you read that you disagree with so much and have led you to believe I'm a humorless hater with a preference for films with a high gore factor? I really, really, really, wanna know because nothing could be farther from the truth.


Submitted by Foywonder on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 6:28pm.

Okay, cheers for that. We obviously just feel differently about some of these films.


Submitted by EdvardMünchhausen on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 5:00pm.
Messiahman's picture

Sorry Edvard, but I've been reading Foy's reviews for years, have spoken to him in person, in fact, and I don't think you could be more wrong. Foy regularly subjects himself (and pays admission) to the types of films that many people run from and more often than not finds something to enjoy in them. Your assertion that he's hard on films that go light on gore is particularly absurd and untrue. Fact is, Foy has a well documented love for low-budget, high-fun-factor films -- one look at www.foywonder.com will give you ample proof of this. He clearly has a sense of humor about many of these films, which is well-warranted.


Submitted by Messiahman on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 4:18pm.

Nein, bin ich nicht "Kevin".

I've read a number of reviews from Mr. Foy, and don't agree with your assessment. He has always seemed to me to be another amateur online critic who enjoys bashing some films (usually those light on gore, it seems to me) more than he enjoys watching them, whether out of some envy or merely some perverse need. Certainly, it's all a matter of subjective taste and perception, but I have yet to agree with him on any review, negative or positive, so I don't know why I even bother reading his work anymore. This one just particularly irked me.


Submitted by EdvardMünchhausen on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 2:33pm.
Gus Bjork's picture

Kevin?

Just in case you are not familiar with Foy he is about the strongest advocate of movies that are 'dumb fun' that you'll probably find online. The deal is too many of these movies are way more dumb than fun.

As I've stated a few times I really enjoyed Warbirds (you're Kevin right? C'mon? Be honest :) but I also agree with everything Foy said in the review too. I think it's one of those glass half empty or glass half full things.

I didn't realize that with smoking and the FCC. Interesting tidbit of knowledge. Thanks.


Submitted by Gus Bjork on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 2:06pm.

Oh, dear, I just noticed the biplanes on the artwork, and can only wonder at what the hell that's all about. The image looks nothing like the official artwork on the Sci Fi website -- wher did you get it?


Submitted by EdvardMünchhausen on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 1:56pm.

I take exception to several of your comments regarding this very fun, very entertaining film, especially given that it is a Sci Fi "Original". The mention of seemingly non-realistic issues involving hair, makeup, etc. in particular. I took that as homage to the movies of the period, which, frankly, is quite clever. Characters in those films could undergo any manner of horrible scenario and come out looking perfect, especially women -- it was expected of "movie stars" in the day.

The whole thing had that feel, with the exception of the questioning of the morality of the use of The Bomb. On the other hand, anyone who is familiar with history or books about the bomb (such as Richard Rhodes "The Making of the Atomic Bomb") would know that many Americans who were aware or even vaguely aware of the project questioned the morality of its use.

As for the dinos, they look very much to be some sort of Dimorphodon given the cranial shape and puffin-like "beak". As a WWII and dino enthusiast, I enjoyed the heck out of this family friendly (i.e., little to no gore), comic-book inspired thriller. FYI, smoking is restricted due to FCC and network guidelines, but it would have helped the "feel" of the film if they had lit up, especially after one of those particularly bad situations. I think you need to lighten up a little and just enjoy some things for the dumb kind of fun they are.


Submitted by EdvardMünchhausen on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 1:53pm.
Gus Bjork's picture

Are those bi-planes on the box cover? What the hell...?

Although the advertising said Pterodons did it ever say that in the actual movie? Could they have been some sort of non-dinosaur creature, dragon monster that could for some reason fly as fast as a Japanese Zero (i.e. 350 miles an hour)?

Overall though I thought it was a fun movie.


Submitted by Gus Bjork on Mon, 04/21/2008 - 10:10am.

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