Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
April 29, 2006

Flight 93 Crashes In … New York?

Flight93

There are various points of contention over the new Universal movie, United Flight 93.

WAPO, for example, focuses on the extent to which Hollywood invented key parts of the story.  Slate wonders whether Flight 93, and this third dramatization of it, has been exploited as 9/11’s “feel good” moment.  The NYT, among others, questions the intensity of the film, especially the trailer.  For the BAG’s part, the concern is over the use (or, overuse) of Trade Center imagery.

I accept that the director and most people who were involved with the film had the best of intentions.  I also understand that the attack on the WTC — and the pictures of that attack — are intrinsic to (and a way to “brand”) a 9/11 story.  From the trailer and, especially, this main marketing graphic, however, it seems that the WTC is now being victimized in a commercial way.

If you watch the trailer (on the film’s website), there are three separate sequences showing the towers.  In the first, one tower is burning.  In the next, a tower is shown immediately preceding impact.  In the third, we see that tower immediately following impact.  Heightening the intensity (beyond being subjected to an actual crash) is the fact each view draws from a different source, and employs a different scale, angle or context.  Also amping the shock is the fact we are exposed to an impact after we’ve already seen a building burning.

It’s one thing to use New York as a partial reference for what occurred in Pennsylvania.  It’s another thing, however, to take this scale of liberty.

(Flight 93 Trailer – Quicktime format)





(image: united93movie.com)

  • http://almostinfamous.org/fuzzywords/ almostinfamous

    when i first saw this graphic and read the description of the movie a couple of weeks ago, there was a feeling of discontinuity. the movie, on the one hand seems to have done a (remarkably, according to some sources) good job of portraying the events on flight 93(downed in pennsylvania) but the marketing on the other is all about the twin towers and NYC.
    since the story of this particular plane remains shrouded in mystery (the actual target of the hijackers, whether or not it was shot down, whether or not the passengers managed to breach the cockpit, where are the black boxes and further into conspiracy-theory-land)
    the marketing dept may have had no choice but to ring the pavlovian twin towers bell because on the day, the only images shown on TV were those of the towers falling and not that of the pentagon (of which no live action shots have yet to be shown(another event which remains shrouded in mystery) which may have been more appropriate

  • http://predawnraids.blogspot.com JRH

    I understand why the marketers chose WTC instead of The White House, the Capitol building, or both. It’s the same reason Independence Day was excessively popular.
    WAPO: “Investigators said that point was a source of contention among the 9/11 plotters, with Osama bin Laden favoring a strike on the White House and others, including Mohamed Atta, favoring the Capitol.”
    Why was it so difficult to not arrange a fifth set of hijackers, or split the pool into five sections instead of four?
    “…the WTC is now being victimized in a commercial way.”
    According to WAPO, we’re going to be smothered with 9/11 dramatizations.
    (Mexico is looking more attractive than ever.)

  • itwasnt me

    Good pun, BAG.
    I feel more strongly than you do about this ad. It’s an idiotic image to use for Flight 93. They didn’t have the imagination or guts to do something more evocative. A rather cheap way to get the message out, nothing more. So afraid to lose a dime…
    They could have done something really original that might have become iconic for those who gave their lives on 93, which was a very special case apart from the New York attack.

  • http://almostinfamous.org/fuzzywords/ almostinfamous

    yeah right itwasntme, like anyone would watch a film that showed a film about to crash into an abandoned steel plant

  • Thor Likes Pizza

    I have absolutely no desire to see this film.
    Like Titanic or most remakes, I know how it ends.
    I am weary of hollywood history – ‘based’ on actual events!
    Already too much fiction in my life.

  • jessica

    the entire thing is marketing. from the posters to the actual movie. and all based on assumptions. has anyone checked out who financially backed this movie – i know universal? is the republicans really behind this. to “remind” us all of what happened…like we collectivlly forgot. elections are coming up soon…
    and how long was it before they actually made a titanic film after the event?
    we should wait to make a movie about this event when ALL the facts come in. and are not the lives of the ppl who jumped from the towers important too? besides all the ones who ran into the buildings.

  • PTate in MN

    It takes time to go from concept to film, probably about as long as the war in Iraq.
    I was in the Tate Modern in London last summer, in a gallery dedicated to political protest art. One powerful anti-war image, by Leon Golub, Vietnam II, showed huge American soldiers threatening villagers. It made me wonder where are the artists, the American artists? Where is the art that opposes Bushco and the War in Iraq. The artists have been as passive as the SCLM. They have all sold out to corporate America?
    And now we have Hollywood distorting what actually happened in order to tell a better story. Not unlike Bushco, I suppose, but the worst president in American history, a war that was unjustifiable and now a mess, a government that violates fundamental American values, and Hollywood want to sex up flight 93!?!!

  • http://www.bonewhistlegraphics.com johnsnakecusak

    These are excellent questions PTate, when you ask where are the artist’s voices on the Bush Admins crimes against the world and the American People? And have they sold out to corporate America?
    I believe the answer lies not so much in what artists are producing, but what artwork establishment America is showing.
    The starving artist has almost no route to maintain himself and any family other than winning grants or gaining exposure through sources that are nearly universally “establishment”.
    Political art is frowned upon as catering more to the “message- not the medium”, and tends to be dismissed as “propaganda art” by the powers that be.
    So its not only “corporate” pressures, its pretty much “establishment” forces across the board.

  • CosmoReaxer

    Glad to see this post. I’ve seen the movie now and I highly recommend it, but the poster art is a disservice. Well said, BAG.

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    Saw the film last night. It’s about people, not institutions or ideologies. It’s about people we don’t know suddenly confronted with problems for which there is no solution and no way out. No heroes, no martyrs. People.
    I walked out with a much better picture of what might have happened. Looking at the inside of real flight decks, real air traffic control centers, looking at real people doing the same things to start that morning they did every other morning is illuminating, quietly and effectively. Good use of the tools of film-making.
    From this vantage the movie poster is effective as dark propaganda. The poster is dominated by the face of Liberty hidden in shadow. We’ve seen the burning towers, the film shows what might have happened in the control towers and on the plane. What is going on in the shadows around the face of Liberty? When did Liberty become known mainly for the spikes of her helmet?
    The film’s violence is organic, not exploitive. This film is *not* entertaining. It looks into shadows.

  • mhue

    I don’t believe the gov’t assertions as to what happened on 9/11. This seems to play into their story. What about the fact that planes do not vaporize upon impact, it’s hard to make a cell phone call on a plane (let alone several), and the crash site looked like none other in history of passenger plane crashes. Unfortunatly this movie will turn more people off of the trail to find the real answers to 9/11. I would suggest it a conspiracy to think that two planes brought down several buildings in NYC, vaporized in Penn, and made a tiny hole in the pentagon. That is the real conspiracy. I have shed tears for the people lost on 9/11, and don’t want their loved one’s deaths to go on with out someone being held accountable.

  • http://huibusa.blogspot.com Huib Riethof, Brussels

    It may be true, that, consciously or inconsciously, of the four attacks, the two on the WTC are almost exclusively featured because of their implication of innocent victims (noting, that, paradoxically, an inclination to posing too eagerly as a victim is commonly attributed to Middle East Muslims) and of the ashaming vulnerability that is shown through the third one, the one on the Pentagon.
    The fourth, the only one that failed, failed because of the alertness and civic and human courage of the community of passengers and crew of flight 93. If I understand it well, the movie itself deals with that aspect (see: black dog barking’s comment). Publicity and trailer have been made by commercial people. The shocking, but also inspiring message of the “93″ movie, i.e., that you can act yourself in the face of terrorism and that you are not obliged to blindly obey to bushian big brother regulations, is likely to override the commercial noise, in the end.

  • http://predawnraids.blogspot.com JRH

    “This film is *not* entertaining.”
    Therefore, it is propaganda.

  • http://www.jaxxattaxx.com/ black dog barking

    The version of United 93 that Cal Thomas sees is propaganda.

    …a profound and needed film that reminds us of what we must never forget: there are people who hate us and want us dead; they will not be reached by sympathy, empathy or anything approaching an appeal to our “common humanity.” Their complete indifference to human life and their religious fanaticism — portrayed powerfully as the hijackers pray and shave their bodies in preparation for “martyrdom” — is a necessary reality check for those with very short memories.

    Those of us unburdened by Mr Thomas’ preconceptions see a different film. This is not a typicial Hollywood Entertainment offering – give us a couple of hours and we’ll show you some cool stuff. Instead, we watch events of that day play out in something like real time from the vantage of those who lived this. We see lots of fear, confusion, frustration; we see forms of courage that don’t show up in typical Hollywood. Or typical History.

  • Jack Lin

    I watched United 93 this weekend, and echo CosmoReaxer’s comments: This film is about the people.
    The filmmakers wanted this story to unfold in real-time. Without the cuts to the WTC, we would be watching a lot of chatter on the airplane, or watching people reading their in-flight magazines or books, etc.
    The WTC gets very little screen time, relative to the ATC controllers, FAA coorindators, military air-defense coordinators, and the people on United 93.
    Judge not the film not for its marketing, but on the film itself. Of course, the marketing might tell us something about the national pscyhe — that seems to be what the post is explaining.

  • Paul in LA

    “I accept that the director and most people who were involved with the film had the best of intentions.”
    HILARIOUS. How much money did producers take from the DoD? The film is outright propaganda.
    “I walked out with a much better picture of what might have happened.”
    Doubly-hilarious. Now that they have created a myth, and made a movie of it, you have a better idea of how a TRILLION DOLLAR MILITARY had no aircover for NYT, DC, or the Pentagon. And yet no generals resigned.
    The only evidence, to my knowledge, that BOXCUTTERS were used on these hijackings is from rightwinger Barbara Olson, via, with no credit card for the phone, her conversations with Ted Olson, US federal prosecutor and chief Florida Coup in 2000 organizer.
    I got news for you: Planes are hijacked WITH GUNS.
    “Former Homeland Security IG Clark Kent Ervin on former Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson’s lack of response to airport security: …”how easy it had been to sneak guns, knives and bombs past airport screeners.” (from ThinkProgress’ coverage)
    Those hijackers had loaded pistols at least. They did not have boxcutters, they had twelve inch long Buck knives. Any passengers who ‘revolted’ ended up plastered to a blood soaked seat.
    The real terrorists on Nine-eleven were not goofs with boxcutters. They are warcriminals and mass-murderers, who live at the end of Penn Avenue, who turned their faces to the wall and allowed this attack to happen, for their endless profit and dictatorial power.

  • doug r

    That one-sheet was bugging me too. I know at least one of the WTC planes flew by Lady Liberty, but not 93.
    I guess it’s the one-sheet equivalent of a montage
    Sure a lot of things happing at once,
    With mind, everyone what’s going on (what’s going on?)
    And when every shot you show a little improvement
    Just Show it or it will take to long
    that’s called a montage (montage)
    Oh we want montage (montage)

  • http://www.tell-usa.org/flight93 RS

    That some Flight 93 passengers “fought like warrior poets” is encouraging for our future. For surely “we the people” are able (but are we willing?) to storm the bridge of the ship of state, and seize the helm from postmodernist hijackers. See http://www.tell-usa.org/flight93

  • Keevan

    I know a lot about flight 93 and during the movie flight 93 went over NYC, duh!!!

  • Chris

    You know the cover for this film was to show that this was about one of the 9/11 attacks. So the pictures of the towers which yes were already struck at the time are to show viewers that this is about 9/11. That is also why they did not use the capitol in the add because the capitol was never hit!
    I own both version of the United Flight 93 films and I love them both and it really shows what happened.
    Thank you for listening

  • Deanaandbrianna

    i live in pennsylvania and actually washinton isnt that far away. and  its not that far and mabey you should show more reapect for those who gave our lives there is no evidence of a bomb in the pane and why would they want to crash in a giant empty pensylvanian field?

Refresh Archives

Random Notes