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A Midshipman dismisses 'Annapolis'

As an avid reader of your internet column and a Naval Academy Midshipman, I thought it necessary for me to respond to your experience of "Annapolis," a movie that I might find more pertinent and tangible. As a Brigade, we looked forward to the first feature presentation of the United States Naval Academy since the days of black and white film. The day the trailer came out on Touchstone Pictures' webpage, it took up to thirty minutes to watch the lagging preview because virtually the whole Brigade was trying to watch. We waited those thirty minutes. We looked forward to a more realistic portrayal of this institution, or, at the very least, a popcorn movie that showed bells and whistles, something like "Top Gun." Neither was our fortune.

Granted, the movie was enjoyable to watch. Base a feature film on your school and you'll like watching it, no matter how clichéd or trite it might be. Add to the fact that the theater in Annapolis, Maryland for the 7:30 P.M. showing was sold out since 10:00 A.M., and ninety percent of the attendees were Midshipmen, you enjoy it just for the company. Other than being mildly entertained, there are few to no Midshipmen that I have talked to that thought it was a good movie. This has less to do with details the director didn't feel necessary to include and that "Annapolis" was filmed in Philadelphia: the screenplay was shallow, the dialogue was stilted and forced, and the direction was sloppy and indifferent.

As a crowd we reacted less to the fact that their was some sort of Greek Pantheon-like building on the grounds of "Annapolis" and that Plebes were not chopping and more to the fact that the CGI version of the Naval Academy was a joke, that such an open relationship between Jordana Brewster and James Franco would go unnoticed, and that Vicellous Shannon, as Twins, would jump out of the window in his moment of despair, almost as if Dave Collard was trying to add yet another "Officer and a Gentleman" parallel. Too bad he almost killed off the most in depth and interesting character in the movie. What is that James Franco? You're not quitting? Darn.

I noticed in your review of "Annapolis" some factual errors and maybe a general misperception of what the Naval Academy is about. For example, Tyrese Gibson plays MIDSHIPMAN Lieutenant Cole; he is not a "drill sergeant"; he is not "on loan to the academy" (prior enlisted Marines and Sailors are a regular occurrence at USNA); and there are Midshipmen like Twins who struggle with their physical condition (though Plebes do not have to complete any obstacle course to avoid separation). I think, however, that your misperception of the Naval Academy illustrates what any other viewer would think and how the filmmakers didn't care about detail or a well-made story. Why make a movie about such a unique institution like the United States Naval Academy if you can't do it right? I see now why the Naval Academy didn't endorse this film.

There are many rich and interesting stories to be told about the real Annapolis. And it could be a crowd-pleaser like "Top Gun" or "Officer and a Gentleman" if it had a director that did his homework and a writer that didn't seem like he was making some kind of public service announcement with the way he had characters drop into conversations pontifications about "honor" and how "Shipmates help each other". Give a solid idea to someone like Ron Howard; give a pen to Paul Haggis. There's more to the United States Naval Academy than training montages, pushups in the rain, "bankrupt clichés", and "cardboard characters". Maybe I should have been skeptical of a movie called "Annapolis" that was filmed in Philadelphia. Maybe someone can redeem the general populace's viewing of "Annapolis", a weak film, with something strong.

Very Respectfully,

United States Navy
(Due to Naval regulations, I chose to withold my name, in the event that you decide to put this on your website or any public medium)

Disclaimer: My views are my own and in no way reflect the views of United States Navy

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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