The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


A new memory of ‘The Alamo’

The men of Texas’ greatest battle takes on a different dimension

Texas legends are almost always bigger than the state itself,and the legend of the Alamo is the biggest of them all.

The stories of Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William Travis, and afew hundred loyal Texans defending the Alamo against the forces ofGen. Santa Anna are ingrained in Texas cultural identity. With eachtelling, the heroes of the Alamo become braver, stronger, purer andmore dedicated to the cause of freedom.

But historical evidence has a way of deflating larger-than-lifelegends. David Crockett was not a Hercules from Tennessee, but anopportunist who came to Texas thinking that the fighting was over.Jim Bowie spent most of the battle of the Alamo bed-ridden withpneumonia.

William Travis divorced his wife after committing adultery whileshe was pregnant. The men who fought and died at the Alamo werejust that — men. It is the story of these men, with theiraccompanying flaws, that John Lee Hancock’s The Alamoattempts to tell.

If you can’t remember your Texas history lessons fromjunior high, or if you’re one of those no-good out-of-statecarpetbaggers, you might not know why the battle of the Alamo issignificant, or maybe you don’t even know what the Alamois.

If that’s the case, you’re probably living in thewrong state. Regardless, the Alamo was an abandoned mission thatbecame the most hotly contested fort in the Texas Revolution.

In 1835, 183 Texans and Tejanos (Mexican-born Texans), under thejoint command of Lt. Col. William Travis (Patrick Wilson) and JamesBowie (Jason Patric), moved into the Alamo to defend it against theadvancing Mexican army of General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana.

The Texans were joined by folk hero David Crockett (Billy BobThornton), who came expecting cheap land and cattle, but found afull-scale war.

The Mexican army arrived with nearly 2,000 men, and after a13-day siege, overran the Alamo’s defenses and killedeveryone in the mission.

Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? It is, in a way, but at the sametime it’s an inspiring story about real people fighting anddying for an ideal. Gone are the inhuman John Wayne supermenportrayed in previous films about the Alamo. These heroes are humanand pains are taken to portray them as such. David Bowie drinks toomuch and his excessive pride leads to clashes with Lt. Col. Travis.Travis, in turn, is fixated on decorum and has his own inner demonsto battle.

The legendary Davy Crockett doesn’t want to die for arun-down church, but he feels obligated to live up to the imagethat has been built up around him.

On the other side of the conflict is the Mexican army, led bydictator Gen. Santa Anna. Contrary to what some advertisements haveimplied, The Alamo does not tell both sides of the story ina fair and balanced fashion.

The portrayal of Santa Anna in The Alamo more closelyresembles the portrayal of the British in The Patriot thanthat of the Japanese in Tora! Tora! Tora! While his actionsin the film are based on historical fact, he is portrayed as araving psychotic, with more interest in killing Americans than inprotecting his people.

Perhaps this cruel, inhuman savage was the real Santa Anna, butit’s hardly the story of “two sides fighting for whatthey believe” that was trumpeted by the ads. And while wemeet many of the Texans inside the Alamo, we see very little of theMexican soldiers just outside the wall. Patriotism is not anexclusively American trait, despite what so many Hollywood filmswould have you believe.

The film started out under the direction of Ron Howard, whowanted the movie to have an R rating and a large budget. The studiobalked, slashing the budget and asking for a PG-13 instead. Howardleft the project, along with actor Russell Crowe, who was slated toplay Sam Houston.

After many re-writes, the script was handed to The Rookiedirector Hancock to helm. The film was originally scheduled forrelease in the Christmas season last year, but productiondifficulties forced the film to be delayed until now. At times, thefilm’s patchwork construction shows itself, like a frayedpatch holding together a worn pair of jeans.

The dialogue can swing from well-written and inspiring to cheesyand jingoistic in a heartbeat. And despite its historicalaccuracies, some of the most important speeches in the movie arethe most uninspiring.

Admittedly, appreciation for this film will be mostly limited toTexans, or those who know Texas fairly well.

The Alamo is a central part of our state history, andseeing it accurately re-enacted is exciting to Texans in a way thatdoesn’t apply to people in other states. And while the moviemay not live up to the hype, The Alamo is still aninteresting look at the human side of Texas’ larger-than-lifeheroes.

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