All Quiet on the Netflix Front

By David Glenn Cox

They say great minds think alike. I discontinued Netflix this month before learning 200,000 of my friends and neighbors did likewise. The largest disengagement from Netflix in a decade. For me at least, it was the realization that on average I was only watching one or two movies a month. Generally,  only pleased with one maybe.

I began to think back to the days when Netflix sent DVDs through the mail. I don’t remember not being able to find movies I liked. But I accept that I’m picky. I require a plot and a story that somewhat make sense. But more than anything Netflix offered what my late wife called “Comfort TV.” Programs we’ve seen many times before and they give us comfort and make us feel good and reminds of times long ago.

First on my list is The Andy Griffith Show. The one’s with Barney Fife of course. Deleted and replaced by someone else’s comfort TV. Star Trek the original series and Twilight Zone were reclaimed by Paramount for their own streaming service. The Trailer Park Boys is on Netflix I really enjoyed those a decade or so before.

It was Christmas time, and I went to Netflix and their special Christmas movie was “White Christmas.” My mother loved that film but that more than fifty years ago. A story about WW2 veterans how relevant. It is a wonderful period piece but is beyond dated. “On nearly everyone’s Christmas movie list is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Nowhere to be seen on Netflix. Lots of cheesy movies you’ve never heard of with Christmas themes.

But for me, strike one was “Don’t Look Up.” A futuristic dystopia with plot holes that you could drive a Tractor trailer through. They land on a new planet and the leaders cell phone works! Good thing they landed on a new planet with preinstalled cell phone towers. Never mind the earth is destroyed. It’s only a couple two or three billion people dead, but we made it!

My mother was an antique dealer and she used to gift me with classic books. One was “All Quiet on The Western Front.” The book is about Paul, a German school boy lured into the army with patriotic rhetoric about glory and nationalism. The book was the most profound anti-war novel ever written. It was one of the first books the Nazis ever banned.

The book takes place during WW1. But the story is about Paul and his school friends. About their metamorphosis from school boys to combat veterans. Paul laments his lost youth and the waste all around him.

Katt is their best friend. He’s a gregarious Sargent. Katt is a scrounger an older expert teacher for the boys to try and stay alive. Katt teaches them everything, which shells to dive to the ground for and which not to hit the ground. Katt is their surrogate family. He is their father and their brother.

A motion picture hit the theaters in 1930 and was the closet representation to the book written by Erich Maria Remarque. Another version in 1979 with Richard Thomas was watchable but drifted from the impetus of the novel. The book is about Paul and his horrific change in his view of the world at eighteen. The movies are about the horrors of WW1. Not the same thing.

The Netflix incarnation is a masterpiece of modern movie making. Who needs a story about a sensitive child thrown into a horrible circumstances. Special effects son! Special effects sell everything. Watch this! Explosions! Machine guns and Tanks!

Whose Katt? He’s a side character of little consequence. What about Paul and his friends? Never mind let’s go to German headquarters and show the negotiations in the railroad car in Compiegne. Let’s show what the German generals were doing. Paul never met a general in the book.  The movie had the same title as the book but few similarities after that. The star of the film was special effects any similarities to the novel is purely coincidental.

If you’ve never read the book, the Netflix film is a bang, bang shoot em up war film. Showing the horrors of war on the body while ignoring effects on the mind. See how dark the film is? That represents one dimensional seriousness.

Technology makes it so simple to illustrate gore while literacy is so difficult to get across. Difficult by people who don’t think you’ll get it. Or think that they know better how to tell a story. We need something Boffo at the box office! Lots of explosions (but bad) lots of CGI!

But as I watched; I thought about how dangerous it is to remake a classic and there by diminish it for future generations. A tawdry easily forgotten war movie versus the greatest antiwar novel ever written. Those watching the film will be unlikely to read the novel now. There is no CGI or explosions only ink on a page. Describing true gore through the eyes of a boy in the teeth of the greatest war machine of its time.

“It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.” -Erich Maria Remarque

As I watched, I began to feel like Paul. After all he endured after writing the novel all other war novels are judged by an have none equal it. Yet after another world war. A cold war, Vietnam, Iraq. Afghanistan, and they still don’t get it! It is a story about what war does to those who survive it.

“We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see.” – Erich Maria Marque

You can be antiwar in this country provided you don’t get too specific about it. Sure, war is bad in a sort of non-specific way. If it was a long time ago and we don’t know any of the victims personally, war is bad.

An expose of war scenes tied together with the name of a famous novel everyone has heard of, and few have ever actually read. But you might not like the book. Fortunately, Netflix has improved it for you. Jazzed it up some! What does Eric Maria Remarque know? He just lived through it.

“We are not youth any longer. We don’t want to take the world by storm. We are fleeing. We fly from ourselves. From our life. We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces.” ― Erich Maria Remarque

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