Like many sequels, Desert Storm 11 could be a flop

Mike Royko

July 31, 1992|By Mike Royko | Mike Royko,Tribune Media Services

Some sequels work, but others don't. For example, "Godfather II" was a hit. But "Godfather III" was a clinker. The original "Alien" movie was a smash. The last one was a yawner.

So the White House should give that some thought before it goes into production for Desert Storm II.

There's no question that the original Desert Storm was one of the smash TV hits of all time.

It made instant superstars out of Stormin' Norman Schwarzkopf, Colin Powell, as well as Blitz Wolfer and the entire cast at CNN. And almost overnight, it transformed George Bush from a near flop into the biggest box-office draw of 1991.

The plot wasn't all that original: The ruthless and powerful Saddam riding roughshod over his weak and helpless little neighbor, only to be driven back when the forces of the heroic George Bush galloped in.

We've seen it before in "Shane," "The Magnificent Seven" and countless other shoot-'em-ups. Sometimes it's the ruthless and powerful cattle baron against the humble sheepmen or homesteaders. Or the ruthless and powerful railroad builder against the farmers or the small-town folk. Or the ruthless and powerful mining company against the small grubstakers.

However, the Desert Storm script had an unusual twist. The ruthless and powerful bad guy almost always gets it at the end. When John Wayne, as Rooster Cogburn, chased down Lucky Ned Pepper and his gang (including the Original Mexican Bob), he didn't say: "OK, Ned, you've learned your lesson, by golly, now go and sin no more." No, he left Ned and his gang dead in the dust.

But when Desert Storm ended, there was Saddam (far more evil and powerful than Lucky Ned Pepper or even the Original Mexican Bob) in excellent health, wearing his tailored uniforms and merrily knocking off helpless Kurds.

Not that most people noticed, with all the parades, welcome-home ceremonies and national chest-puffing, back-patting and yellow ribbon-waving in the joy of our having restored the frightened emir of Kuwait to his throne, thus reuniting him with all of his teen-age wives.

But the survival of Saddam, not as powerful but still ruthless, should have been the tip-off that we might see a sequel someday. Any scriptwriter will tell you that's the only reason to let the villain slip away before the credits roll.

And what better time than now, with Bush once again slipping at the box office. Which is why Washington is now buzzing with talk that a sequel might be in the works.

As I said, though, sequels can be risky. Bush has his qualities, true, but he's no Batman, although Dan Quayle would have made a fine Robin if they hadn't written him out of the script.

For one thing, the special effects might not be as effective the second time around. All those smart bombs, brilliant missiles and other exploding intellects provided some of the finest visuals Americans hadseen since the creation of Super Mario and his brother Luigi.

And the generals and other Pentagon cast members turned in fine performances. As a critic said: "They give good briefing."

But as we later learned, some of the bombs weren't all that smart; some missiles were absolutely dimwitted. We would be told: "Now, what we see there, that little dot, is an Iraqi tank." Then, poof, the tank would be gone and we would cheer and wave our yellow ribbons.

Later, it turns out that it wasn't a tank after all, but may have been a moth-eaten tent in which an old biddy was cooking a pot of camel hump stew.

Or if it was a tank, it might have been one of our own, which is really counterproductive.

So if there is a sequel, the audience might be harder to impress. When some general turns on the video and says: "Now, that little spot we see here is an Iraqi missile site, aimed right at Disney World. Ah, and now you see it and now you don't," this time some reporter might pipe up and ask: "General, how do we know that tank was not really a moth-eaten old tent, in which a toothless hag was stirring a pot of lizard stew, huh?"

Or someone else might even say: "OK, General, assuming that thing you blew up was a bridge and not a row of olive trees; and assuming the bridge was in Iraq and not in New York or San Francisco, since we all know mistakes can happen; and assuming that you have blown up every bridge in Iraq, some of them five times, how come Saddam is being shown on CNN, wearing a brand-new uniform while throwing a Kurd out of his office window?"

So it might be best to forget about a sequel. Just go with reruns. But leave out the ending.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.