How do we sway people? How are we swayed? Right now I'm using words. Words are second rate. They're a non-visceral intellectual abstraction. Reading about a tiger and catching sight of one staring at you are not really comparable events. Colour, texture, shape and movement trump text. There's no future in having a bit of a think about a tiger. Fortunately humans, like other creatures, have two brains (kind of). The big brain is for having a bit of a think and the small one is for wigging out and running away. The small brain trumps the big brain. If our brains didn't work this way we would have all been eaten millenia ago. Everything those people in San Diego Zoo had ever read about tigers was instantly forgotten when a too-convincing visual of a tiger lit up their small brain.
The people who wish to sway you understand this utterly. If you really want to influence people you don't muck around with words. When they commissioned Leon Uris to write Exodus, they didn't do it because they thought a book would sway Americans to send Israel absurd sums of money. They knew only a movie could do that. Uris was merely needed to jump start the stalled movie project. Apparently no one wanted to front the dough because in Hollywood-parlance Israel was box-office poison. Who wants to pay to see a film about foreigners in some place nobody gave a shit about? Happily Uris was the right man for the job. His book sold, a groundswell was created and the long-desired movie, starring a suitably martial, blue-eyed Paul Newman, convinced an entire generation of Americans that Israelis were the very best sort of martial, blue-eyed people.
Keep in mind that Exodus was actually a variety of feel-good movie. For US money and support this was sufficient. Blood is something else. If Americans were to shed blood smashing Israel's enemies something far stronger than a feel-good movie would be required. It would be time to target the small brain. Fear, horror and outrage would be the key and the visual experience would need to be so over the top that superlatives would fail. And the working title? 911! Don't laugh. The crowds would eat it up. Film-makers know their audience.
And they know precisely how jaded that audience has become too. What used to comprise a big budget film climax thirty years ago happens before the title sequence now. A twenty-car pile-up - yawn. The climax required for American blood would have to make Die Hard look like a Bruce Willis movie. It would need to knock people on their arse. How about jetliners crashing into the tallest building in the world's most famous city? Double up! Two jetliners into two buildings! Wise heads nod. It'd certainly make for a stunning and singular visual. Planes going in, flames coming out, chaos in the streets. But would it be enough to reduce the nation to a gibbering wreck? Maybe not. A few days later it would be business as usual. TV Camera crews would walk through the burnt-out buildings and reporters would tell the viewers how the disaster could have been much much worse.
Not good enough. It doesn't fill the brief. This had to be the biggest movie ever! The buildings would have to come down. 'Boom, boom, boom, boom, all the way down.' Now that's spectacular! And nothing less would do. This was going to be the most awesome FX set-piece in the history of entertainment. And all of it in-camera! A masterpiece of timing and coordination. Pyrotechnics by the IDF, remote-controlled planes by Dov Zakheim and a cast of thousands featuring the entire population of Lower Manhattan! Gritty realism so gritty and so real that the cheap seats would be crunching concrete and asbestos between their teeth for days.
By way of script there was no need to establish the villains. Brilliantly, this franchise ran backwards and had all the prequels first. The audience was merely waiting for the credits to roll and confirm their guess at whodunnit. Those rotten cinema-Arabs again! Boo! Straight from central casting - no real actors needed - stand-ins would suffice. They didn't even get any screen time - all the cameras failed! What a laugh. Perhaps the second unit ended up shooting them. Either way, no residuals for them. And the heroes? The American people - channelling Dennis Weaver in Duel. But with the truck elsewhere. The audience, confused, empathises with um... itself.
Back on the set - it's a wrap. No need for any clean-up. The production team just walk away. No need to return the props, they all came for free. You gotta love that! And then factor in the insurance payout for destroying the set and the various put-options on the plane suppliers and the producers make out like bandits. And! It's the greatest movie ever made! The reviews were mixed, sure. A lot of nit-pickers, particularly on the net, pointed out the flaws - planes and buildings that defied physics, villains that made no sense, and the guy playing the President fluffed all his lines! - 'Save it for the 'goofs' section of imdb, losers!' - nobody cares. Box-office is king and this box-office leaves Exodus in the dust. In dollar terms the takings are similar - uncountable billions. It's the blood that sets 911 apart. And none of that corn-syrup crap neither. Real human blood.