If there’s one thing missing from Inglourious Basterds, it’s that there just isn’t enough Nazi killing.
Yeah, there’s some scalping, and, yeah, there’s some whittling, and, yeah, there’s a cameo appearance by Ted Williams, who hits one right out of the park. But’s there’s just a complete and utter shortage of Nazi killing. Which, when it comes down to it, that’s what Inglourious Basterds was supposed to be about.
The film, the latest from Quentin Tarantino, is surprisingly tame, focusing less on the Nazi-hunting, nearly all-Jewish-American band of brothers known as the Basterds than you would imagine. This is doubly surprising given that the lead Basterd himself — Lt. Aldo Raine — is played by Brad Pitt. I mean, what’s the point of having the more feminine half of the beast known as Brangelina if you aren’t going to have him on screen for at least three-quarters of the film’s run time, instead of, oh say, a sixth.
And I guess we should have seen it coming given that Tarantino has the gift of gab — but Inglourious Basterds is a rather talky affair. In fact, more time is spent talking about World War II-era cinema than hunting down Hitler’s henchmen. And that’s a shame, because killing Nazis is fun. Or at least Nazis of the 16-bit variety.
Just this week, I downloaded the old PC classic Wolfenstein 3D for my iPhone. For those of you who don’t know, Wolfenstein 3D is the first first-person shooter to really take off. The game is simple: you walk down the maze-like corridors of a Nazi stronghold, collect treasure and ammo, and gun down any goosestepper that gets in the way. Despite the low-level graphics, Wolfenstein 3D is still a pretty fun game, and there’s a rightful place for it in video game history, even if as a first-person shooter it pales in comparison to later works like Doom, Quake, GoldenEye, or Halo. And just so you know, I’ve killed my fair share of Nazis this week. Heck, my fingertips are even a little numb from it. But that’s the price you pay for helping your fellow programs, so help me, Tron.
Not surprisingly, Wolfenstein 3D is such a gamer favorite that it’s been given a reboot. Last week, a revamped version — titled simply Wolfenstein — was released, timed to hit the streets around the same time as Inglourious Basterds no doubt. And near as I can tell, the gist of the game is pretty much the same — killing Nazis.
Now, all of this Nazi killing may bother some folks — I’m talking about fretful parents and talk show psychologists and the like. Some may say that Wolfenstein and Inglourious Basterds send the wrong message to children. And that may be true. After all, as much as some of us hate to admit it, Nazis are people too.
See, we’re a civilized society, and we value freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. Those rights extend to you, me, even the Nazis. Not that we have to let them exercise their rights on the City Paper comment boards — at least not anymore. But they’re free to talk amongst themselves, drink some coffee, and get all verklempt when they talk about the thousand-year reich that never was and never will be.
But they’re out there. We can’t forget that. Bigotry surrounds us, especially here in the Palmetto State, where our current attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, Henry McMaster, was recently a member of an all-white country club, the same club that in the ’80s reportedly denied a membership to the commanding general of Fort Jackson, Robert Solomon, because he was Jewish. Yes, in a polite and civil society, we tolerate a lot. And sometimes racist and anti-Semitic assholes are bit too much. But if I made a vow to stay away from them, then there are some family members — and long-time family friends — that I would never see again.
Here’s the thing: even though anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide and the racist reichheads are once again rearing their heads stateside, last week Americans shelled out nearly $40 million to see a movie that was about one thing and one thing only — killing Nazis. Meanwhile, a video game about the same nearly reached the top of the charts.
I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a comforting thought.