Review: Films Inspired By Japan – Pearl Harbor (2001)

Now I have to hold my hands up and admit that when I first watched this back in the early days of Tokyo Fox (that’s 2006 by the way!) I said that “I actually quite enjoyed it despite being an overlong Hollywood film (albeit one full of amazing battle scenes) overflowing with cliches.” I gave it an incredible 7/10 rating at that time but I wasn’t exactly a regular watcher of films then not that it means I’m an expert now that I do watch more than the average person!

As a British person, one of the main gripes I have with this film is the lack of the letter U in the title’s second word! If that was the only problem I had then the film’s producers would no doubt be delighted. However, there are quite a few other flaws in this ‘Titanic‘ of the skies-style epic.

One of them (as referenced in the opening paragraph) is it’s duration. No movie ever really needs to be over three hours long. I’d actually forgotten about it’s length when I re-watched it earlier this year. I was most surprised when my DVD suddenly stopped after two hours plus and displayed the word intermission. I had just got rid of a load of disc 2’s (usually just bonus material) from my collection so was quite relieved to discover that I did still have the second disc of this film. Let’s be honest, it really wouldn’t have been too difficult to watch the remaining hour or so if I had got rid of it!

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

It may have been 183 minutes long yet the first third seems quite rushed in a way as Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) is shot down in battle and is presumed dead. His lover Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) grieves for him with help from his best friend Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett). They end up falling for each other and getting it on before Rafe miraculously returns, and all that is in the first hour! Maybe I’ve been corrupted by seeing too many Nicholas Sparks novels turned into films than is healthy but I have to say that I didn’t mind this part.

They try to show too much and at times one has to wonder what kind of movie it is. Is it a love story or an action biopic? I’m not sure the producers knew as they tried to cram too much in and ultimately failed to blend the plot pieces together in a clever fashion. Instead it feels like a different film when the Imperial Japanese Navy’s attack on Pearl Harbor begins in the film’s second third.

This segment was quite impressive and exactly what you’d expect from a director like Michael Bay. His break-neck directing style perhaps works better for these scenes than on the rest of the film. Impressive stuff maybe but this 40 minute battle sequence failed to have me entranced. This was where much of the film’s substantial budget was blown and it was hard for me to watch it in the present and not just think about money being thrown against the screen.

The film got panned by the critics as it didn’t go into enough detail about the war strategy of the USA and Japan but films like that have rarely, if ever, been too interesting in the past so they actually got it right here by focusing on the love triangle. However, changing events and facts in a desperate attempt to fit the love story in didn’t really work for the director trying desperately to mix it all with a vital historical occurrence to make it interesting and appealing to a large audience.

I can’t pretend that I am overly aware of the events of Pearl Harbor but it’s fairly common knowledge that there were many inaccuracies in this film. ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!‘ (1970) does a much better job of it and is no doubt the cooler WWII film to like as this one has probably been given too much Hollywood flavour added it to by way of incredibly cheesy dialogue and seeing things principally from the American point of view.

It’s not the usual type of music I like to listen to but I do like the Faith Hill song ‘There You’ll Be‘ which is played as the closing credits begin to roll. However, I’m not really a fan of pop music being in films. That is of course dependant on the type of movie and I just feel a more sombre reflective score would be a more appropriate way of accompanying the initial end credits.

The rest of the soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer was fine but there were a few repetitive chords throughout which did remind me of ‘Champions‘ by Carl Davis from the ITV series ‘The World At War‘ (1973) but perhaps more famed for being used by the BBC for their Grand National horse racing coverage in the past.

The underlying problem with ‘Pearl Harbor‘ is that it just has no heart, and exists purely to make money and replicate the success of ‘Titanic‘ (1999). The easy retort that I used to hear was that a bomb should be dropped on this movie but that’s a tad harsh. The whole is not greater than the sum of its parts and for that reason it all comes across as nothing more than average.

Tokyo Fox Rating 5/10 

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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