Pearl Harbor: A Bad Term Paper
Phil Davetas
10/6/2002 8:42:04 PM

I'm not sure why it's so difficult for me to sit through a movie with Ben Affleck in it. I suppose it's no secret that he can't act, but it's just too hard for me to root for him to make it through the whole movie. I can tolerate him in subordinate roles, but when the movie rests on his shoulders I begin to realize that the industry has hit another low. Hollywood movies cater to the audience's fetishes [no secret] and this is no exception--unfortunately this was geared for the young teens and the chick flick audience. The movie suffers on almost all levels and it goes right to the bone. The written material of Pearl Harbor seems to have been written like a bad term paper on an 8th grade level. The story is mixed with facts and fiction with real historical figures and fictitious characters rubbing elbows and having conversations that you know didn't happen. Much of the facts are changed around, falsified and yet tries to come off as an accurate documentation of the events surrounding December 7th, 1941. Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line center around historical events with fictitious story lines as backdrop, but they aren't mixed up so irresponsibly as this. I suppose I should forgive this based on the fact that this is just a movie, but this is too far off the mark. It doesn't know on which line of reality it wants us to stand on.

The movie is hard to take because of the conflicting emotions of all the characters. Everyone seems mixed up and has no direction until the story tells them to go somewhere. Like killing off Ben Affleck in the beginning to move the story forward and then bringing him back to further some more silly melodrama. I'm not just talking about the leads either. The nurses themselves seem enveloped in relationships and subplots that are just thrown out with good reason, but the residual scenes that do exist after the many cuts of the film leave it a sloppy rush-to-theaters version. Ultimately, we're just waiting for the big boats to start. Actually, this reminds me of Starship Troopers, of all flicks.

Michael Bay does what he can with this movie, but I'm not so sure that it's well done. It doesn't help that many of the shots are recycled from the other Pearl Harbor movie, Tora, Tora, Tora. And it also doesn't help that Bay's style is recycled Tony Scott--another Simpson/Bruckheimer alumni. And this movie is Bay's baby. He spent many, many, many seconds writing images so Braveheart's Wallace could force them into a haphazard script. To talk ill of a movie surrounding an American tragedy is near sin, but I think movies like The Rock, Bad Boys and even that cinematic travesty called Armageddon were more entertaining then this chalk outline of a 3-and-a-half-hour flick. The historical events documented in Pearl Harbor are no big surprise and nothing everyone who’s been through elementary school doesn’t already know. It reminded me of Traffic in the respect that we've all heard and seen these issues and don’t need to compact it all into one long movie with thin sub plots. Much of the dialogue spoken in Pearl Harbor seems to have been designed around what the popular American consensus has come to believe over the years. The Roosevelt scenes, the Navy officers, code talkers, nurses, the American, English and Japanese pilots, Yamamoto and Doolittle sequences all seem unnecessary to try and replicate a sense of America's version of the events. The directing is that bad, it's almost as if Bay is still in film school and we're all paying for his tuition. This is the wrong movie to experiment with, but at least now he’s got the experience to play around with the tools (at our expense). In fact, the trailer and the teaser featured on the DVD pretty much encapsulate the entire "film" with all the annoying melodrama and bad acting cut out.

Special Features:

Faith Hill's silly patriot music video, "I'll Be There", a trailer and teaser, a making-of featurette of basically the filmmakers and actors thanking themselves and the politically correct tribute to the unsung heroes of the event and a National Geographic video promo on the real Pearl Harbor events with a Pearl Harbor movie tie-in so you can help Bay pay for his next flick, Pearl Harbor 2002: The Revenge of Hitler's Pissed Off Offspring.

Pearl Harbor
PG-13, 2001, 183 min., Touchstone Home Video.

Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnet, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jon Voight, Dan Aykroyd, Tom Sizemore, Music by Hans Zimmer, Written by Randall Wallace, Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay and Directed by Michael Bay.


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