The dust has finally settled — literally and figuratively — and the big name/big budget/big director 9/11 movie "World Trade Center" has opened to a paltry $18.7 million. All of those complaints about the film only being made for profit can cease since the $63 million-budgeted film was beat out by "Step Up," a cliché dance movie with a first-time director.
It wasn't too soon for America to see this movie — it's that we just didn't want to.
The previous 9/11 movie this year, "United 93," dodged criticisms about being made "too soon" and for profit by having a limited-screen opening and a director known for his loyalty to facts and his documentary-like style on the classic "Bloody Sunday."
However, "World Trade Center" went the opposite direction with Oliver Stone, a man known for his bloated film style and a big name actor, Nicholas Cage. While Cage turns in the performance of a lifetime, Stone mars it with blatant symbolism (like a reverse coffin shot near the end) and the type of Hollywood cheese that's fine in a cliché survival story but not in a 9/11 film.
It's a different approach than "United 93," and it yields a different movie. The former film knocks you off your feet, the latter simply goes for the easy tears. The former gives you an idea of what it feels like to be there, the latter moves everything up to a big shiny pedestal out of reach to the audience. The former innovates and deviates from the norm, the latter is simply more of the same.
Maybe this is why no one showed up. They saw the trailers, knew that the film would tug at the heart strings and tell a story that needed to be told, but in the end would leave them just as quickly as the emotions from a made-for-Lifetime Channel telepic.
A film on 9/11 needs to stick, not just show. It needs to provoke discussion beyond jokes about Jesus holding a water bottle, one of the more lamentable images from "World Trade Center." It needs to challenge us.
Forgive me for being demanding, but I want a movie about how three planes changed the world to do the same for cinema. Walking out of the experiences depicted in "World Trade Center" should be harrowing and memorable, but it isn't.
That is why no one walked into it, either.