"Red Tails" is a Lucasfilm production that's loosely based on the Tuskegee Airmen, a band of African-American pilots who fought in World War II. While watching the new film, it was hard not to notice that "Red Tails" is quite similar to another Lucasfilm production about a band of pilots who fought for the Rebel Alliance. Which raises the question: Just how similar is "Red Tails" to the original "Star Wars"?
In an interview with Cuba Gooding Jr. (read the full interview here), he recounted a dinner that he had with the voice of Darth Vader, James Earl Jones. Gooding remembers, "[James Earl Jones] whispers, 'It's 'Star Wars' for black people.' ... And he's absolutely right! You feel like you're shooting the Death Star, and the Stormtroopers are shooting you."
Is Jones overstating the similarities? You be the judge.
1. The movie begins with a written introduction that is almost identical to the color and font used for, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." in "Star Wars."
2. The Red Tails use the call signs "Red," followed by a number, when communicating with one another while in the air. (This is long before they actually paint the tails of their planes red and call themselves the "Red Tails.") So, as the pilots are engaged in battle, they're barking things like, "Red Two, there's one on your back." In "Star Wars," the X-Wing fighter pilots use the same call sign. As an example: Wedge Antilles is Red Two and Luke Skywalker is Red Five.
3. A pilot nicknamed "Junior" wants to be called "Ray Gun" because he is a big Flash Gordon fan. George Lucas is also a big Flash Gordon fan and only made "Star Wars" because he could not secure the rights to Flash Gordon.
4. At one point, a young pilot named Maurice says, "I don't want to learn how to play cards. I want to learn how to dogfight." Maurice says these words with the same earnest passion that Luke Skywalker does when he tells Ben Kenobi, "I want to come with you to Alderaan. There's nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and be a Jedi."
5. In battle, a leader of the Red Tails tells a pilot to, "cut the chatter." This same exact line is spoken by Red Leader to Red Two in "Star Wars."
6. In "Star Wars," one of Luke Skywalker's childhood friends is named Deak. An actor named Jay Benedict portrayed Deak in 'Star Wars," but those scenes did not make it into the final film. In "Red Tails," a young pilot is named "Deke" (with a different spelling.)
7. In "Red Tails," the Force doesn't exist, but the aforementioned Deke swears by the magical powers of a picture that he calls, "Black Jesus." The other pilots make fun of Deke for his faith in Black Jesus. After a dogfight in which Deke's aircraft sustained substantial damage, he's adamant that the only reason that he wasn't shot is because of Black Jesus. Another pilot interjects that it was "luck" that saved Deke, similar to Han Solo telling Luke Skywalker that luck aided Luke in deflecting blaster fire from a training remote aboard the Millennium Falcon.
8. The interior of the Officer's Club in "Red Tails" looks exactly like the interior of the Mos Eisley cantina in "Star Wars."
9. During the dogfights in "Red Tails," there are numerous instances of characters being tailed by German fighters, screaming, "I can't see him!" Which is reminiscent of Biggs screaming, "I can't see it!," before being bailed out by Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars."
10. Speaking of: In "Star Wars," Luke is being chased by a TIE fighter during the assault on the Death Star, screaming, "I can't shake him." Wedge eventually saves Luke. After, Wedge's X-Wing fighter flies through the exploding enemy TIE fighter that was just destroyed. In "Red Tails," a similar scenario unfolds as a pilot named Lightning destroys a German aircraft, then flies through the exploding aftermath.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter