A War for Peace: Comparing Platoon and Apocalypse Now

Just the other day I was scrolling through Netflix looking for something to watch, when I stumbled upon the movie Platoon. We had just recently watched Apocalypse Now in class, which takes place in the same era as Platoon so I decided to watch it. Platoon, directed by Oliver Stone, is a film following a soldier through the jungles of Vietnam (“Platoon”). Apocalypse Now, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, is another film taking place in Vietnam only in this film the main character must track down a missing Colonel who has been acting out of orders (“Apocalypse Now”). From the beginning of Platoon I began realizing how similar the two movies were. Whether comparing the genre the similarities are very apparent. After viewing both films completely I deciphered that both films are similar in the aspects of genre.

As I mentioned in my introduction genre is an important aspect of Platoon. The genre of this film is “war” (“Platoon”). War is a narrowed genre though it combines broader genres such as action, drama, and occasionally documentary to accurately portray war in a realistic way. These aspects can be witnessed throughout the film although Platoon is not a documentary. An example in the film that best captures this genre is Sergeant Elias, played by William Dafoe, is running out of the jungle covered in blood being chased by the enemy. This classic scene represents the war genre because it captures the violence of war, as well as capturing the drama aspect when Sgt. Elias raises his arms to the sky just before falling on the ground dead. This displays the war genre by capturing the horrors of war while still sneaking in the dramatic aspect in the manner that Sgt. Elias died. This genre is also shown through the way the characters interact with one another. In the movie there are several scenes that take place in the base camp where the characters are often seen drinking and smoking in order to cope with the stress of war. For this reason they also often get into arguments and sometimes even fist fights from their drug and alcohol use. Lastly there is a scene when Charlie Sheen and his company invade a small village looking for enemy supplies. After yelling at villagers for a while with little to no corporation they shoot several of the villagers and burn the village down. The drama can be seen in the tension between the villagers and the soldiers that eventually leads to action when the soldiers open fire.

Apocalypse Now displays a very similar hybrid genre to Platoon. It too features a war genre that combines drama and action to also portray Vietnam accurately (“Apocalypse Now”). Although Apocalypse Now uses this genre in a different manner. In Apocalypse Now there is less actual gun fights and violence most of the drama that is seen throughout the film is the emotional toll the war and the mission has taken on the soldiers. For example when some Playboy Bunnies are brought to the main camp in order to cheer up the soldiers. A lot of them behave like animals some even jumping up on stage to try and grab some of the girls, which are immediately evacuated. This is a dramatic scene because it shows the effects of being isolated in the jungle with nothing, but other men. Another example of this genre is when the soldiers board a boat they believe is carrying supplies for the enemy. When one of the women will not stand up off a box one of the men shoot her only to find that she was hiding a puppy. This takes a large toll on the soldiers and their mental stability. This supports the war genre because of the violence in the scene as well as the drama of the high pressure situation.

As I mentioned in the above paragraphs describing the two movies genres I described the genre as “war,” but this is not necessarily a genre. The proper term would be hybrid genres, movies that combine multiple genres in one (Esteban). In the case of my two movies action and drama are combined effectively to show just how intense war is and the mental toll it takes on soldiers in Vietnam.

As I explained in my introduction both show a similar genre, which is war. As I explained earlier both movies feature high pressure drama scenes that usually lead to intense action scenes. For example the “puppy scene” in Apocalypse Now and the village scene in Platoon. War is also represented realistically in scenes such as the Playboy Bunny scene in Apocalypse Now and the fights at base camp in Platoon. Both scenes accurately portray the effects war can have on one’s mind from the large amounts of stress the soldiers undergo.

Although both movies genres are very similar there are some differences. Apocalypse Now there is a larger focus on drama and the effects of war on soldier’s mental health. For example there are far more scenes of the soldiers talking to each other. On the other hand there is a large focus on violence in Platoon like when Charlie Sheen is on guard duty and their camp is attacked.

Overall I believe the two movies are more similar than they are different. They share the war genre even though the two are slightly different in its focus. Regardless both movies are fantastic representations of the Vietnam War and how difficult surviving in the jungle was.

Works Cited

“Apocalypse Now.” British Film Institute. N.p.. Web. 16 Dec 2013. <http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b69562aa2&gt;.

Dauth, Brian. n. page. <http://sensesofcinema.com/2006/great-directors/coppola/&gt;.

Esteban, Jose. “Genres: Where to Draw the Line?” British Film Institute. Film Forever, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.

“Platoon.” British Film Institute. N.p.. Web. 16 Dec 2013. <http://explore.bfi.org.uk/4ce2b758d3f19&gt;.




Out of Class writing

Watching Inception after taking this film class really changed my perspective on the movie. Specifically I did not realize how artistic the film was until we learned about avant-garde cinema in class. Avant-garde or art cinema is characterized by a few things such as focusing on static objects rather than actors and jumping between scenes without providing an explanation. This can be seen in Inception through the confusing transitions between dreams and the focus on the top throughout the film.

Week 14: Chicago 10

After watching Chicago 10, directed by Brett Morgen, it is easy to see the role that media played in protesting the Vietnam war. The Vietnam war was the first publicized war in that it was all over the news pretty much everyone night. Allowing people to see just how horrific war could be ultimately driving the protests.This relates to the movie because the film is centered around eight protesters of the war in Vietnam and are being taken to court.

This weeks chapter was all about different types documentaries and how each one can be used effectively. The part of this chapter that is the most relevant to Chicago 10 is the section on “Talking Heads.” This is the most relevant to the film because the film features this style of documentary. In the film the real audio from the court case is used to voice the characters, which is similar to the talking head style.  The book describes this style as actual accounts from the people related to the event being documented. So it fits the movie perfectly.

The counterculture of Chicago 10 and Apocalypse Now are very similar. Both feature a counter culture of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. They both take place in similar times so they have similar counter cultures. Both feature images of people protesting the Vietnam war, which were generally hippies that often did drugs and listened to rock and roll as forms of protest.

Week 12: Avant-Garde Cinema

One theme that is very prominent in Todd Haynes’ Superstar is impossible feminine physical ideals. The movie revolves around this theme because through out the film Karen Carpenter resorts to anorexia in order to best meet the ideal feminine physical idea of the 1970’s. Even when she receives a compliment she immediately shoots and down and insults herself. She also takes everyone’s opinions to heart and this is what drags her into anorexia. For example when she is reading reviews and one of the critics calls her chubby she becomes very self conscious.

Superstar is a fantastic example of abstract film, which was discussed in this chapter. An abstract film is one in which the focus is on objects rather than real people. In the case of this film the focus is on dolls acting out the life of the Carpenters. Another style of film that was talked about in this weeks chapter was compilation. In compilation films existing film is reused for a different context. In the case of Superstar images from Holocaust documentaries are used to portray anorexia as deadly.

Karen Carpenter was destroyed by her celebrity because of the female body image of the time and all the people looking at her and criticizing her for not meeting this “ideal” look. Celebrity is still destroying young celebrities today because for the most part this impossible body image has not changed. Celebrities today are still criticized for gaining “too much” weight reinforcing this negative body image that have been destroying people for centuries.

Week 11: Zero Dark Thirty

Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty displayed many scenes of torture throughout the film. Personally I think this representation was very realistic. The movie depicted it disturbingly because that’s what torture actually looks like. Its not supposed to be something the average viewer can sit through because Bigelow wants the viewer to be disgusted by it. At the same time the viewer is not supposed to feel sympathy for the prisoner because they are a suspected terrorist.

This weeks reading on film authorship ties well into Zero Dark Thirty for a number of reasons. One relation is that in the reading it says that directors become somewhat of a brand name on movies ensuring that they will be good films because of the director. The similarity between this concept and this weeks film is that Bigelow had directed other hit movies taking place in the Middle East dealing with current issues such as The Hurt Locker. This is probably one of the reasons so many people saw the movie because they expected Bigelow to produce a quality film. 

After viewing Zero Dark Thirty I think that Bigelow was attempting to make a nuanced statement about how many American morals were denounced in the name of vengeance. One reason for this is the disturbing images of torture throughout the film. I do not think many people knew that the government was torturing prisoners since torture was generally frowned upon in US society. Secondly the two hour build up to the thirty minutes of action at the end shows a lack of emphasis on the main goal of vengeance. This is to make it look as though revenge was bittersweet in that so much was sacrificed to find one man.

Week 10: Weekend

Throughout Jean-Luc Godard’s French new wave film Weekend there is quite a bit of violence portrayed. The violence in the film is generally aimed at either people or animals. The violence on animals is usually depictions of animals being slaughtered. Where as the violence toward humans came in the form of car crashes and cannibalism. The idea here is that viewers will be more sympathetic for the animals because generally when people are killed in a movie it is usually because they were despicable or guilty of something and the animals were supposed to be seen as innocent.

Weekend is a good representation of social context for many reasons. In the early days of film there were certain standards that were met by almost every film. It was not until new wave French art cinema began to rise that this format was changed. Weekend is a good example of this new wave cinema because it makes efforts to draw the viewer out of the film fantasy world using unrealistic makeup, acting, and so on. Its scenes with dialogue about sex make the film accurate to social conversations in society.

Godard’s use of long cuts is to both alienate the audience and draw attention to the camera work and mise en scene. For example in the traffic jam scene that is several minutes long is done in one long take. It has no importance to the story and interrupts the story line of the film effectively drawing the viewer out of the film fantasy. The cinematography in this scene is fascinating as a camera rolls down a track following the main characters as the drive ahead in the traffic jam. The mise en scene of the scene is also interesting because the viewer is exposed to many different people stuck in the jam as well as children on the side of the road, zoo animals in cages on the back of a tuck, and even a large oil truck that seems to overpower a much smaller car.

Week 9: Far from Heaven

Throughout Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven the ideology of white supremacy is very evident. From the start of the film it is obvious that the white characters have more power. The Whitaker family has a maid named Sybil who is African American and their landscaper Raymond Deagan is also African American. As opposed to Mr. Whitaker who is a head honcho at his company. So White supremacy is already laid out the African Americans are given physical labor jobs such as a maid or a landscaper, while the White people hold high ranking office jobs that earn a larger salary.

This weeks topic of ideology was evident throughout the film Far from Heaven. Throughout the film viewers see racial profiling through the eyes of upper class white people. The ideology of the fifties is shown throughout the movie in this perspective to show viewers how different white people viewed race in the fifties. On one hand we have Cathy Whitaker who  is not actively racist and often socializes with African Americans. The other point of view we get is of Mrs. Whitaker’s friends who are actively racist and judge Cathy whenever they see her socializing with African Americans.

In the film Haynes shows how race and class intersect. Throughout the film we see two different worlds the upper class white world and the lower class black world. A good example of these two worlds is when Cathy meets Raymond at the art show. In this scene Raymond has entered the rich white world. He may be one of the better off African American men in the film, but because of his race the white people at the art show see him as below them. Another scene that shows this class is when Raymond takes Cathy to the primarily African American restaurant. In this scene we see rich white Cathy clashing with the poor African American patrons of the restaurant. They all skeptically stare at her because normally a rich white women would not enter an African American restaurant.