THE FATE of The Red Baron has played out a bit like a German Waterworld. The film, a biopic of Manfred von Richthofen (Matthias Schweighöfer), the famous WWI fighter pilot whose success made him a symbol of German propaganda during the losing days of the war, makes liberal use of CGI aerial fight scenes and is one of the most expensive films ever made in that country. It was also more or less rejected there, with disappointing box office grosses. The prevailing theory is that it remains taboo to make a film about a German war hero, even though the historically dubious message of the film is naïvely antiwar. I like to think it's more likely that Germans, like any intelligent audience, are turned off by revisionism for the sake of trite romanticism and scenery-chewing speeches, and find it as nonsensical as I do that Germans should make a film about Germans in which all the characters speak English.

This much we know: von Richthofen came from an aristocratic family and in his career as a fighter pilot is credited with 80 documented victories, becoming known as the "Red Baron" in reference to the color of his plane. In director Nikolai Müllerschön's interpretation, much is made of his gentlemanly, sporting attitude toward aerial battle. He instructs his squadron not to focus on kills, just on bringing down planes. When he fells a Canadian pilot, he aids his fictitious, token romantic interest, nurse Käte Otersdorf (Lena Headey), in fashioning a tourniquet, later having a friendly chat with the same pilot after both are forced to land in a field during a dogfight.

Baron's best moments are, appropriately, in the air, but its dialogue suffers from forceful messaging and a cookie-cutter romantic subplot. The best solution for salvaging its visual worth is probably the homespun YouTube technique of editing together all the good parts to a soundtrack of your choosing.