Pearl Harbor (2001)
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To borrow and paraphrase from that great orator and writer, Winston Churchill, 'Never in the annals of human endeavor have so many witnessed the butchering of history by so few.'
I remember a story on a national morning TV news program that was a major promotion for the debut of this huge waste of celluloid. This interview/promotion took place aboard the aircraft carrier that's on permanent display in New York harbor. The major male stars, Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett, along with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer were interviewed by one of the hosts of this TV morning news show. In this interview, all three claimed that they enjoyed talking to veterans and listening to their stories. Well, I don't think they were paying much attention to those vets.
Or at least they decided to ignore reality when it interfered with their script!
Some historical facts that got in the way of Bruckheimer's blockbuster: It doesn't matter how simple WWII aircraft are compared to today's jets. Ask any pilot and he/she can tell you that you just don't go from flying American P-40 fighters one day, go to England and jump into the cockpit of a British Spitfire fighter and start shooting down HIGHLY EXPERIENCED, COMBAT VETERAN German PILOTS the next! (I don't care that even a blind pig can find the occasional acorn!) Each aircraft's handling qualities, e.g., speed, max altitude, rate of climb, rate of dive, turning, etc., are different. In other words, a pilot has to be TRAINED on that aircraft! To ask us to believe that Affleck's character, who hadn't seen REAL aerial combat prior to England, can shoot down experienced German fighter pilots the VERY FIRST TIME HE STRAPS ON A 'SPIT' is not only LAUGHABLE, it's insulting to the REAL pilots who fought and died in the 'Battle of Britain.'
The famous 'Doolittle Raid' took place on April 18, 1942 - a scant 4-1/2 months after the Pearl Harbor attack. Yet, we're supposed to believe that not only can Affleck's character IMMEDIATELY master unfamiliar aircraft (forgetting that a B-25 is a MULTI-ENGINE BOMBER no less for the moment!), apparently so can Josh Hartnett's character. It took EXPERIENCED B-25 bomber crews about that long to train for this extremely hazardous raid on Japan (January 1942 to April 18, 1942). No way in the world could P-40 fighter pilots be chosen to fly B-25 bombers in the 'Doolittle Raid!'
What I don't understand is that since Bruckheimer was obviously not interested in historical accuracy, in addition to Affleck's character's superhuman abilities of shooting down EXPERIENCED Germans pilots over England and BATTLE TESTED Japanese pilots over Pearl Harbor, rescuing sailors trapped in half-sunk ships, giving blood, and eventually taking the war to the Japanese in the 'Doolittle Raid,' why didn't Bruckheimer just have Affleck's character pump-out and raise the Arizona and single-handedly save her crew from their watery grave. Thank goodness there are some things even Bruckheimer can't swallow!
The special effects and battle scenes were great! Yeah, I know. Bruckheimer wasn't shooting a documentary. BUT, if you want an entertaining, more historically accurate dramatic portrayal of the events of, and leading up to, December 7th, 1941, stick with Tora! Tora! Tora! That movie is based upon the work of a historian considered by many to be the top of his field, Gordon Prange. Although Dr. Prange wrote many books on this topic, I believe his book, "At Dawn We Slept" was the basis of Tora! Tora! Tora! As a MEDAL OF HONOR winner, General Doolittle, and the heroic pilots he led on that raid deserved better than the way they were portrayed in Bruckheimer's schlock film. Despite the romance scenes, and when it was filmed, "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" is a much more accurate depiction of the famous "Doolittle Raid." At least it's more believable!
Affleck, Hartnett, and Bruckheimer may have listened to WWII veterans, but they did not hear. They did not learn. Nor did they appreciate the immeasurable costs paid by those members of this country's 'greatest generation.'
The only things I recognized as historically accurate about this film were: 1) the US was attacked at Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7th, 1941; 2) the US Army did fly P-40s; 3) British pilots did do combat with Germans in the skies over England during the 'Battle of Britain;' 4) some British pilots did crash into the Channel; 5) Cuba Gooding's character, a black mess cook, DID shoot down Japanese planes even though he received no gunnery training; and 6) Doolittle did lead a force of 16 US Army B-25 bombers from the carrier USS Hornet against Japan. I can't speak to any accuracies about the nurses, or their quick thinking, e.g., writing with lipstick on the foreheads of the wounded.
The only way I'd own a copy of this film is if someone accidentally gave it to me as a gift.
The writing is ludicrous. It's a series of situations and set pieces strung together without a single regard given to character development or even plausibility. The acting is beneath contempt. Ben Affleck should never have been let anywhere near this film, and in the "love" scenes between himself and Kate Beckinsdale, it appears patently obvious that the actors completely detest each other. The attack scene is filmed and edited like a Saturday morning cartoon. And...excuse me...in real life Pearl Harbor was a DEFEAT. There was none of the stupid garbage with slick fighter jocks dogfighting Japanese Zeros. This film makes it look like a victory! And, excuse me...FDR could not stand up by himself. The scene in the cabinet room where he rises from his chair was simply laughable.
This film is beyond bad. It is insulting. It's a 6-year-old's coloring book passed off as history. Aside from that, it's probably the limpest, shoddiest big-budget "epic" produced in the last 10 years. The day it opened in theaters was truly a day of infamy.
In 2001 Michael Bay spent $132 MILLION dollars to film the event, and ran four minutes longer.
Even taking into account 60 years of inflation, the Japanese did a better job with a smaller budget...
Due to the ten line minimum submission this may be too short - but sometimes less is more.
20th Century Fox already did the Pearl Harbor attack in Tora Tora Tora - and did an excellent job. Michael Bay should have left well enough alone.
However, this is just not so. While extra care was given for the attack scene (I think WWII veterans would have crucified the producers if this had not been so), the other smaller details give the watcher a false sense of history. For one thing, no Red Cross Army nurses died (as they portray Betty dying). Also, no US soldier would go to Britain to join the Royal Air Force. The US Army Air Force had a unit (the Flying Tigers) in Britain helping out the RAF, but no US soldier would actually leave his unit to join another country's military (regardless of allies). It would mean a total US military discharge AND rejecting US citizenship. Ben Affleck's character could not have done that, especially when he was not a British citizen.
Also, Ben and Josh Hartnett's characters were fighter pilots. NOT Bomber pilots. The two are very separate things. Ben and Josh could never switch from being fighter pilots to bombers for Doolittle's Raid. The Army Air Force had pilots for all kinds of missions, and fighter pilots stayed fighter pilots, and bombers stayed bombers. Continuing with Doolittle's raid, it did NOT turn the tide for the Americans. It was not a military victory, and little in Tokyo was affected. It only served as propaganda to help the US citizens on the homefront (also, Doolittle's Raid was long after Pearl Harbor and not a revenge mission). Watch this movie if you're into sappy love stories, but NOT if you want to learn about Pearl Harbor (and/or the Doolittle Raid). Few historical facts can be gleaned from this movie.
The film is really divided into three parts. The first part, the love story, the two best friends and of course the girl. Then one hour later, develop a love triangle, wow, Hollywood has never seen anything like that before! (sarcasm intended) Also add several less important characters and bit parts that you hope will die in the bombing sequence that you know is coming, unfortunately, only one of them does.
Finally, the second hour, the bombing sequence begins. It's good to begin with, its good fun, the only part of the movie thats bearable. The special effects are great along with good fight sequences. Unfortunately, they even managed to spoil that with a ridiculous scene in which the two main characters fly around and save Pearl Harbor by shooting down two pilots.
Now you think that with the bombing sequence over, the end of the film is near, you're just about to get your coat and run out of the movies, when all of a sudden, you're subjected to one of the most pointless hours I have ever seen in a movie, in which the survivors, and only the survivors for some reason, fly over to Japan to get revenge. Oh dear. At this point, the movie has completely lost the plot, the acting is horrendous, the editing and direction terrible, and I have lost interest in all the characters. The story has been completely suffocated with the ridiculous sub-plots.
Avoid this film at all costs. Three hours of pointless clichés, cheesy scenes, unlikeable characters, historical inaccuracies and the worst direction I have ever seen. This film could have been so more, or less.
It seems to be more preoccupied with portraying America in the best light than accurately depicting the facts. The love story is out of place and pathetic.
At the end of the film is a 5 minute rant about why America is supposedly great; it actually says "after pearl harbour all America knew was victory", obviously the writers had never heard of Vietnam.
The only good aspect was the special effects, but they could never make up for this absolutely dire film.
My only regret (apart from wasting 2 and a half hours of my life watching the film) is that I can't award zero out of 10!
Okay - I could almost accept the hokey old love triangle romantic plot - certainly the stars are great to look at - but the dialogue really sucked: "I don't think I'll ever look at another sunset without thinking of you". Please! And all those hero shots from the ground, and the slow motion love bits, and the soppy music, and the eternal sunsets...
But what this film really needed was an editor! The climax of the film is the attack on Pearl Harbor - an American defeat. But it seems the film-makers decided that the American audience wouldn't be satisfied with this - and so the movie grinds on and on for another hour or so dramatising a revenge attack on Japan. And we're supposed to believe that this attack was fought by the very same guys who were on the ground in Hawaii. I mean we all know that America won the war in the end, so did we really need this long epilogue?
Personally I'd cut out all the Roosevelt and the Japanese high command scenes and concentrate on the experiences of the people on the ground at Pearl Harbor. The Japanese stuff was all completely unbelievable anyway. The sad loss would be the superb performance of Jon Voight as Roosevelt - but maybe they could make another film about him. I'd also end the film after the attack at Pearl Harbor, as the survivors pick up the pieces. So why not have a shorter Director's Cut - a novel concept - that makes this film the great film it could have been. If you like I'll lend the scissors!
1.) First off the movie is way too damn long, I mean Jesus I would have to spend have a day to watch it so the makers failed to edit many scenes that didn't need to be in the film.
2.) Historical inaccuracies are everywhere. Little and small. I read a list of all the inaccuracies in this movie, I couldn't possibly write all of them down in this review that's how bad this film is. If you'd like to know what these inaccuracies are checkout Wikipedia and search Pearl Harbor (film). Trust me the list of historical inaccuracies are long.
3.) Waste of talent: Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin, and Jennifer Garner are given relatively minor roles in the film.
4.) This is what really upset me. The movie is called Pearl Harbor, I thought it would be about the events leading up to that faithful day. in fact it's about a cheesy love triangle, A LOVE TRIANGLE! this entire movie is centered around three stupid & shallow characters surronded by characters just as annoying as they are. The Pearl Harbor attack doesn't come till the middle of the movie. there isn't much attention given to the events that lead to the attack, just these cliché characters. Pearl Harbor just seemed to get in the way. Goddam this is like a cheesy Soap Opera or a World War II version of Titanic. I mean how much more Cliché can we get?
5.) The Pearl Harbor Attack was a n intense action packed sequence, but even that was incredibly flawed. First off Why is there a Pee-wee baseball game being played so early in the mourning? second when Hartnett & Affleck get up in the air it seems like they shoot down about 20 planes, in reality the Japanese air losses where bare minimum. third there is too much emphasis on CGI effects. fourth this really made me laugh when a group of about 5 men went up into a tower and shot down an enemy fighter with rifles and automatic rifles ..... right... Damn they must have had good accuracy.
6.) Kenneth M. Taylor is a legendary hero of Pearl Harbor. He was one of two pilots who got into fighter planes and began engaging & shooting down Japanese planes. The other pilot was his friend George Welch, Basically Affleck & Hartnett were depicting them. Taylor called this film "A Piece of trash, over-sensationalized & distorted". This was a man who was there and did these heroic feats so you can't discard his opinion. This is proof that this film is a disgrace to our veterans.
Overall this movie was a huge disappointment & let down. If you are gonna do a movie based about Pearl Harbor then do it right! seriously! thousand of good men died that day so tragically in one of the most defining moments of American History and you wanna make a movie centered around fake characters and a cheesy love story. Michael Bay whether you realize this or not I think you disgraced a lot of WWII veterans. This film had so much potential and ultimately failed to deliver something spectacular that could have had a major impact in film. My recommendation, watch Tora!Tora!Tora! a far more faithful retelling of the Pearl Harbor attack. Pearl Harbor had a budget, but at least Tora!Tora!Tora! has heart.
So I thought "Given all this, how bad can it be?".
The answer, unfortunately, is AWFUL. This may not be Hollywood at its worst, but it's pretty close.
I don't know the origin of the phrase "Titanic with bombs" for describing this film, but it's pretty apt. One difference is that Bay and Bruckheimer together don't add up to James Cameron. Both films feature trite, sappy, predictable love stories (with every chestnut in the Hollywood Cliché guide clearly in evidence) layered over a real-life, tragic event. However, although I don't particularly like Titanic, I have some respect for Cameron's success in reproducing the appearance of the RMS Titanic and the events of the Titanic sinking on screen. I am prepared to watch Titanic (while fast-forwarding over the love story bits) just to see the history parts.
Pearl Harbor fails this test. The portion of the film featuring the attack on Pearl Harbor comes off like a video game -- Lots of sound and fury, but no realism whatsoever. The problem here is that this is not only a real event, but an event of pivotal importance in the history of the United States. Worse yet, the event is still within living memory. How will we feel in 2061, when a director decides to make a movie about September 11, 2001, and casually re-arranges the events of that day to make the resulting film "more entertaining/more commercial/more appealing to mass audiences"? Do you feel sick even contemplating that possibility? That's how I suspect that veterans of the actual attack on Pearl Harbor feel about this movie. The late Brigadier General Kenneth Taylor, one of the pilots who did in real life what Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett portray on screen described the film as "a piece of trash...over-sensationalized and distorted."
Watch Tora Tora Tora instead. It's not perfect, but it's a pretty accurate telling of what really happened at Pearl Harbor. (Tellingly, Tora, Tora, Tora used veterans like General Taylor as advisers to make sure that they got most of the details right). A newer film with improved special effects is not necessarily a better film.