In fact, the title of this post should really be “The Story of G.I. Joe,” since that’s the name of the 1945 film that inspired it. But, I didn’t want a cursory glance at the title to conjure images of the popular toy franchise (or recent action flicks) of which this film has no association whatever. There are a few reasons why I wanted to share this movie with you. The secondary reason is that among the many WWII films that came out around the time of, and shortly after the war, this one stands apart as offering a more sober look at what many of the ground troops endured. Rather than glorifying combat or individual heroics, the focus here is on the hardship and daily toils of an infantryman in 1943. A couple of historically significant battles are featured as well.
Another thing, and probably the main impetus behind this blog post, has to do with borrowing of artistic elements. Most critics and creators of content understand that art (almost invariably) borrows from art. How truly original is any work of art really, be it film, video games, architecture or painting? Close scrutiny of just about any creation reveals that at least some elements of it were probably borrowed or inspired by someone or something else. Oftentimes there is cross-pollination among the various art mediums as well. And I think most would agree this is an acceptable and natural order of things. The challenging part is to navigate the gray areas such that consumers and critics can identify the critical difference between ‘borrowing’ …and outright theft of an artistic vision, subject or style.
Why bring this up? It’s something I’ve been wanting to write about for some time; and I’ve actually got much more to say than will end up in this post. But here seemed a good place to start. When I have time in the future I’d like to explore the subject in even greater depth, in the realm of film and video games.
In any case, I’d like to set the tone here by presenting “The Story of G.I. Joe,” directed by William Wellman, as something that likely inspired many later films. One in particular that comes to mind is the modern classic “Saving Private Ryan.” If you enjoyed that 1998 movie, and appreciate the process of filmmaking, it’s worth watching “The Story of G.I. Joe” just to notice the various sets and shots that appear to have inspired the latter film. If I am right in judging that some of these elements were borrowed then the manner in which they were used (I think) offers a good example of how to borrow an element and reuse it appropriately for a new (and original) artistic creation.
As a noteworthy aside, it’s worth pointing out that Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” went on to inspire many other films (even non-conflict films) with its creative use of visual post-processing/D.I.. And so the cycle continues.
When I find the time to explore this topic further, I’d like to look at examples in various mediums where borrowing and reuse were either taken right up to the invisible line, or crossed altogether. There are certain to be specific examples wherein someone else’s original work or idea was clearly stolen without license or due credit. And I happen to think for the sake of content creators and consumers this is no good. When this happens, the offender should either show they have properly licensed the work or idea, reveal that proper credit was given, apologize for any theft and make amends… or face public ridicule and shame.
More on all that later. (Perhaps).
See Also: Fessic’s list of Favorite Movies