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How Overlord Retcons World War II History (& Why)


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The J.J. Abrams produced World War II sci-fi/horror film Overlord provided audiences thrills, but saw fit to change a key detail about the period.

The J.J. Abrams produced World War II sci-fi/horror film Overlord provided audiences thrills, but saw fit to change a key detail about the period. Overlord received a pretty big marketing push when it released in 2018, and also drew rave reviews from critics. While that sadly didn’t translate into boffo box office, the film has thankfully found more of a following on home video and streaming, albeit not to the level of making it a full-on cult classic.

Overlord focuses on a U.S. military paratrooper unit sent behind enemy lines to take out a German radio tower. Only a small portion of the group actually makes it to the real beginning of their mission, thanks to the plane they’re riding on getting shot down. Things get complicated, and the horror genre comes into play, when the soldiers involved discover that Nazi forces are conducting horrifying genetic experiments in the facility connected to the tower, resulting in a serum capable of resurrecting the dead.

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Simple re-animation isn’t the only danger either, as the serum causes those injected with it to undergo bizarre mutations, and lose control of their mental faculties. In the end, Private First Class Edward Boyce, Corporal Lewis Ford, and their makeshift squad wins the day, although not without casualties. However, Overlord glosses over a rather important fact about the time period it’s portraying.

How Overlord Retcons World War II History (& Why)

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Overlord‘s American military paratrooper unit is, quite obviously from the beginning of the film, racially integrated. While many younger viewers may just assume that’s historically accurate, due to the U.S. armed forces being integrated for many decades now, it’s actually not. Overlord is set in June 1944, right before D-Day. President Harry Truman didn’t sign the executive order integrating the military until July 26, 1948, three years after the end of World War II. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to have had soldiers of different races work alongside each other before then in some instances, but it was certainly not common.

According to star Jovan Adepo, who plays Boyce, Overlord‘s filmmakers chose to ignore the real-life racial segregation of the time in service of the film’s story. They didn’t want to complicate matters by writing around it, or having to worry about race during the casting process, so instead they made the whole plot and cast race neutral. This even extends to the German side somewhat, as the Nazi’s infamously racist motivations are downplayed. As for the inaccuracy, the attitude seems to be that Overlord simply takes place in an alternate universe, since the real world also doesn’t have zombies.

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Updated: November 26, 2020 — 6:30 pm

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