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The film takes place against the backdrop of a newly independent Mexico, which gained territorial control over Texas from Spain, and an emerging new breed of Texans. The film chronicles an historic battle in 1836, the battle of the Alamo, long before Texas became a state of the…
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Hernani M. Jover Order No.481052 Sent: 5 Dec. Topic: Film Review of Film: The Alamo, 2004 Time Period of Setting:
The film takes place against the backdrop of a newly independent Mexico, which gained territorial control over Texas from Spain, and an emerging new breed of Texans. The film chronicles an historic battle in 1836, the battle of the Alamo, long before Texas became a state of the Union.
Overview:
“The Alamo” produced in 2004 is a remake, albeit an improved version, of a John Wayne production in 1960. The film is a historical drama which details the Texas Revolution before, during, and after the 13-day siege of the Alamo from 23 February to 6 March 1836. While the film highlights the battle of the Alamo and the 189 Texians (American-born Texans) and Tejanos (Mexican-born Texans) who “gave their lives” so that “a nation might live,” central to the film is Sam Houston and his role in the founding of an independent Texas.
In 1835, the Texans had achieved partial success in capturing San Antonio de Bexar from the Mexicans. Federalists, among them Sam Houston, were optimistic that as more Americans settled in Texas, it would survive as an independent republic, but not without a professional army. An “illustrious” and popular Congressman from Tennessee, Davy Crockett was among those who responded to Sam Houston’s impassioned call. However, Sam Houston was relieved as commander of the Texas army by the provisional government, in opposition to his proposal to raise a genuine military force (Bohem).
The Alamo which served as a fort on the outskirts of San Antonio de Bexar was a neglected mission. Colonel James Clinton Neill, who was mainly responsible for maintaining the fort, knew, only too well, how vulnerable the Alamo was. Convinced that volunteers alone could not defend San Antonio, Sam Houston wanted the Alamo abandoned and ordered Colonel James Bowie to destroy the fort. Contrary to this plan, the official government sent Lieutenant Colonel William Travis and a number of soldiers as re-enforcement, with little else, to defend San Antonio.
Ironically, the Alamo became the last “stronghold” of the people of San Antonio from the advancing Mexican army under the dictator General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. From February to March of 1836, an army of 2,000 men laid siege against the mission, killing all defenders, taking no prisoners.
The film details the siege and the final assault on the mission, showing the humanity, the courage and the heroism of Alamo’s defenders, led by the Col.William Travis, James Bowie and David Crockett.
A month later (April 21, 1836), inflamed by the massacre in the Alamo, heightened by the deaths of “illustrious personalities,” and Sta. Anna’s brutality, Texans and American volunteers, forming “a rag-tag army of Texans” under the command of Sam Houston defeated Sta.Anna’s army in the Battle of San Jacinto - his battle cry – “Remember the Alamo.” At the end of the film, Sam Houston, arguing against the popular desire to execute Sta.Anna, declared that he wanted independence for Texas. In exchange for his life, Mexican President Santa Anna signed over all Mexican rights to Texas and removed all Mexican troops from Texas ( (Bohem).
Political Significance:
“The Alamo” is a political film, per se. It is meant to dramatize a single historical event, the Battle of the Alamo because of its far reaching consequences unknown even to the political figures involved at that particular time.
As depicted in the film, in December 1835, the Federalist army had driven the military forces of the Mexican Government from San Antonio de Bexar. Oblivious to the possible threat of a spring offensive from the Mexican Army, majority of the Texan volunteers had left the service and returned to their families. With no real army to speak of, and with Sam Houston’s removal as the commander of the Texas Army, the fate of Texas lay with the men in two forts: Presidio La Baha at Goliad and the Alamo at San Antonio. Ill-equipped, these forts were not only meant to serve as look out points, but were expected to block the Mexican Army’s approaches into Texas (Battle of the Alamo).
By February 1836, a majority of the troops at Goliad and Bexar were American volunteers. Among the Americans who came to San Antonio at this time were James Bowie, returning to his family home of his deceased Mexican wife, and Davy Crockett with some friends from Tennessee, convinced by Sam Houston to take a look at the opportunities Texas had to offer. Together with designated Lieutenant Col. William Travis, these men found themselves in the Alamo, when the Mexican President and head of a Mexican Army of 2000 men arrived on 23 February 1836 to retake San Antonio de Bexar ( (The Alamo).
Man makes history; in certain instances, history makes the man. This message shines through in the film as the defenders of the Alamo, through their unflinching and steadfast commitment to hold the “fort,” changed the course of Mexican history, US history, and Mexican - US relations for all time. “Remember the Alamo” became a battle cry for Texas. The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) writes: “For many Americans and most Texans, the battle of the Alamo has become a symbol of patriotic sacrifice” (Hardin).
“As goes Alamo, so goes Texas,” was Colonel James Clinton Neill’s challenge to Travis before going on furlough (Bohem). Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Rising from the Alamo, Texas surmounted more military conflicts with Mexico and within a period of ten years transformed itself, taking its place among the states of the Union. Texas joined the United States on December 29, 1845.
Opinion
Notable were the efforts of the film makers and producers to do justice to history, to remain as faithful as possible to settings, events, and personalities.
Understandably, the film received criticisms from Mexican viewers for its perceived bias. In light of the overwhelming number of Mexicans and Latinos in the United States, both legal and illegal, there was anxiety that the film could cause a backlash against Mexican and Latino immigrants in the United States (Carreon). Unfairly or not, General Santa Anna and the Mexican Army were presented in a bad light in many of the film’s scenes – their conduct in battle, the apparent incompetence of many of the Mexican soldiers, the subservient conduct of their officers to Santa Anna, the cowardly manner of the execution of Davy Crockett, and the apparent cowardice of Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto. Santa Anna may have, in certain instances, exhibited gallantry in the treatment of women and children after the battles, but this was not reflected in the film. But even if it were, such “gallant” gestures would have paled against the recorded atrocities of Sta. Anna, and the massacres in Alamo and Goliad.
That the film was not a box office hit does not detract from the success of the film in dramatizing the heroism of individuals, Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and the men who fought to the death during the Battle of Alamo. The film is, indeed, a powerful reminder of America’s roots and a tribute to the makers of America, those who are driven by dreams, larger than themselves.
Stephen Hardin, in his article concludes that the battle of the Alamo remains an inspiring moment in Texas history. That inspiring moment in 1836 has been captured and recreated in the film “The Alamo” for posterity.
Works Cited
1. "Battle of the Alamo, San Antonio, Texas." 20 Oct. 2010. Lone Star Internet. Austin Web Design. 2 Dec. 2010 .
2. Carreon, Hector. "Eisners new film "The Alamo" will increase Anti-Mexicanism." La Vox de Aztlan. 2 Dec. 2010 .
3. Hardin, Stephen L. ""ALAMO, BATTLE OF THE, " The Handbook of Texas Online." Texas State Historical Association. Ed. Stephen L. Hardin. Handbook of Texas Online. 2 Dec. 2010 .
4. The Alamo. By Gaghan, Hancock Bohem. Dir. John Lee Hancock. Perf. Dennis Quaid. Prod. Ron Howard. Touchstone Pictures, 2004. Read More
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