Let's make it clear right off the bat: I haven't yet seen 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi and I doubt I will until it hits pay-per-view or Blu-Ray. It's not that I think it'll be a bad movie and I admit to my ongoing curiosity over the question of whether Michael Bay can do something worthwhile that wasn't released in the mid-90s, but there are about ten films still in theaters ahead of it that I need to see so I probably won't get around to it. From all appearances, it looks like 13 Hours is Bay's crack at making his own Black Hawk Down, which was undeniably one hell of a good movie, but not having seen the film I can't comment on whether Bay succeeds on any level (although I suppose we should at least consider his ignominious track record as a potential red flag). With that in mind, everything I'm about to say is based not on the movie itself but on the marketing for it, which is everywhere right now.
I want to talk about the reason this movie got made in the first place, why it's being released at this time of the year and how it's being sold to audiences. Well, a very particular audience, anyway.
According to Michael Bay and producer Erwin Stoff, it was their intent in making 13 Hours to eschew partisan politics as best they could and concentrate almost solely on the heroism of the security personnel who came to the defense of the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya when it came under attack on September 11th, 2012. The book the movie was based on allegedly managed to walk that fine line at least somewhat -- it was also, from what I've heard, a riveting read -- but the fact is that separating Benghazi from partisan politics is next to impossible. The very existence of 13 Hours is the result of Fox News's relentless, ongoing advancement of the event as a scandal rather than simply a tragedy and Republican lawmakers' subsequent obsession with linking it to Hillary Clinton. If the right hadn't worked itself into a frothing frenzy over Benghazi, there would've been no reason to make the movie -- since there probably wouldn't be a guaranteed audience for it.
But that audience, conservatives who believe Hillary Clinton left American heroes to fend for themselves against the savage hordes, are exactly who this movie is aimed at. There's of course a general conservative demographic that will respond feverishly to any movie that portrays U.S. soldiers as unequivocally heroic -- and not only does Paramount Pictures know this, it's following a pattern for these kinds of movies that's been hugely successful in the past. Both 2013's Lone Survivor and 2014's American Sniper -- good movies, no doubt -- were released during the Christmas season and racked up huge January numbers from largely conservative audiences, Sniper benefitting not just from being about a decorated member of the military but also from the fact that that military member was heavily criticized as being a racist sociopath by the left. Nothing gets Fox News viewers to take a particular cultural stand en masse like knowing that it'll infuriate the libtards. This is precisely why 13 Hours was always a sure bet to be massive -- because it's about "American heroes" and it's allegedly a thumb in the eye of the right's political enemies.
Paramount of course knows this. It knows what it's got on its hands -- because it planned it that way -- and so it's making sure to hit all the notes in its promotion of 13 Hours that will instantly harden and dampen the bad-touch-areas of not only Fox News's acolytes but Fox News itself. It wants to appeal to the former because those are the people who are going to be spending money in theaters -- the latter because that's the media apparatus that's going to provide a ton of free publicity in the lead-up to opening day (and assuredly beyond, because this is Benghazi we're talking about after all). Hell, the red carpet premiere for 13 Hours is happening not in Hollywood but at AT&T Stadium in Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Call it flawless fan service designed to send exactly the right message to "real America."
Then, of course, there's the trailer. Whether it's indicative of the angle the film actually takes, the trailer for 13 Hours is cut to ensure that every preconceived notion about Benghazi conservatives have gleaned from Fox News is hit hard. We have the CIA lackey shouting at our heroes to "stand down!" There's the call for help that never comes, from a besieged station employee who tells someone on the phone -- a cackling Hillary Clinton herself? -- "If you don't send air support, Americans are going to die, including the one talking to you right now." There's the slo-mo image of the American flag being riddled with bullets by al-Qaeda invaders and a quick cut to what appears to be ambassador Chris Stevens, played by an actor, bravely brandishing a pistol to protect himself. As fan service to the conservative faithful, there's of course a familiar refrain as one of the security personnel tells another,"As long as I'm doing the right thing, God'll take care of me."
It's entirely possible that these moments are taken out of context or over a span of two-and-a-half hours there's a balance achieved that renders the movie slightly more apolitical, but there's little doubt that their placement within the trailer is 100% intentional.
Michael Bay isn't exactly known as a leftie in Hollywood. His movies have always appealed to conservatives because they blow things up good and tend to revel in their naked jingoism while doing so. Bay never met a slow-motion shot of an American flag fluttering in the wind he didn't like, which makes him really the perfect person to direct 13 Hours when you consider the audience it was always going to be aimed at. And that audience is going to eat it up. It almost certainly already knows the movie is coming and if it doesn't, Fox News will make sure it finds out.
On Monday night, right on schedule, Megyn Kelly launched the first salvo in what's sure to be Fox News's sustained campaign to tie 13 Hours to Hillary Clinton and claim that it portends bad news for her. "Breaking tonight. A Kelly File exclusive on the gripping new film that may pose a threat to Hillary Clinton's hopes for the White House," she said. Fox News is going to promote 13 Hours as a documentary -- and if it traffics in entirely debunked myths about what happened at Benghazi, well, that's the idea. The trailer would certainly seem to -- which, again, was exactly the idea.
Conservatives were already likely to line up for this thing because of Fox News's beating of Benghazi to death, and now with Fox News acting as Paramount's promotion department, free of charge, it's a sure thing.