By Christian Blauvelt
Updated July 29, 2011 at 06:23 PM EDT
Industrial Light & Magic

“You’re all clear, kid. Now, let’s blow this thing and go home!”

Judging by the trailer Lucasfilm just debuted today, Han Solo’s famous pre-Death-Star-explosion line could fit comfortably amidst the dogfights in Red Tails. It’s a high-flying World War II drama about the Tuskegee Airmen, the legendary African-American fighter pilot squad who valiantly battled Nazis abroad and discrimination at home.

Click here to get a sneak peek at the George Lucas passion project that, after several decades of incubation, is finally ready to set S-Foils for a theatrical bow January 20, 2012.

Needless to say, Red Tails looks pretty kinetic. But I hope it’s more than just period-specific pixels and Stanley Kramer-style monologues. One thing’s for sure, from this trailer: Expect some major speechifying from Terrence Howard.

Still, the fact that Lucas hired acclaimed TV director Anthony Hemingway (The Wire, Treme) is a good sign that the character interactions will be as important as Luftwaffe attacks and the spouting of noble platitudes about equality.

Some might think a January release date is unusual for a project this high-profile. But Lucasfilm wanted to debut the race-themed drama, carried largely by an African-American ensemble (and Bryan Cranston), to coincide with Martin Luther King Day. (The company is likely hoping the film will have legs into Black History Month in February.)

Lucas has long hoped to make a film about the Tuskegee Airmen. In fact, he even used actual footage of World War II aerial battles to sell Star Wars to 20th Century Fox in 1976, before any of the spectacular Death Star trench-run effects were ready. But considering the failure of other race-themed war epics like Miracle at St. Anna, this could be one of Lucas’ riskiest ventures yet.

Based on the first trailer, what do you guys think of Red Tails? Could it be the next Saving Private Ryan?

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