The History Place - Movie Review

Pearl Harbor

By Fred Harvey
The History Place

How do I hate this movie, let me count the ways. Perhaps it was the crummy script, bad acting, amateurish directing or lousy special effects. This is definitely one of the worst World War II movies ever made.

If you took a bit of Titanic, mixed it with Top Gun, and added some Saving Private Ryan, you would have the stinky stew that is this marketing piece of junk from Disney, capitalizing on the heroic legacy of the Greatest Generation.

Pearl Harbor, directed by Michael Bay and starring Ben Affleck, is the latest in a string of Hollywood films to depict the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base at Hawaii on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941.

And, like some of its predecessors, it attempts to weave in a personal story involving the main characters in the days leading up to the actual attack. Here, we have a convoluted Titanicish love story that drags on for whole first hour of this three hour spectacle. It was simply painful to watch Mister Affleck stumble and bumble along, lacking the necessary screen presence to pull it all off. I watched this movie in a packed theater and people were beginning to snicker at the stupidity of the lines being uttered so awkwardly.

The mark of an amateur film director is the tendency to use a lot of reaction shots and Pearl Harbor is chock full of them. A reaction shot is when you the see the actor standing there all alone reacting to something he has just been told, perhaps nodding or looking surprised or some such thing. Watch any drama made by young film school students and you'll see tons of awkward reaction shots, and they look stupid. Film students also have a tendency to utilize too much camera movement just like you see in Pearl Harbor where the camera never stops moving around, lest we get bored.

And so I ask, how could a film of this magnitude, a multi-multi million dollar extravaganza wind up looking so much like an amateur movie?

Making matters worse, the part of Lt. Col. James Doolittle is played by Alec Baldwin, who almost single-handedly wrecks this film. A worse choice could not have been made for the part. Baldwin's performance precisely matches the parodies of bad acting he does on the Saturday Night Live comedy TV show in which he plays a pompous, rotten actor. I was genuinely angry that Jimmie Doolittle, the great American, was played by Baldwin in such a jackass manner. In addition, there is also a bizarre cameo by the comedian Dan Aykroyd as a naval intelligence officer. I couldn't help but notice that as Aykroyd ages he is beginning to look more and more like Richard Nixon.

Now let's talk about some of the military stuff. We're dealing here with two young hotshot fighter pilots played by Affleck and his best buddy (Josh Hartnett). Obviously, this leads to battle scenes involving air-to-air combat. What we get is a mix of real World War II planes interspersed with reams of digitally produced footage whenever they needed larger numbers of aircraft or shootdowns. The digital footage is blatantly obvious and looks about as credible as a Nintendo game system. The Japanese attack as seen on December 7 contains a huge abundance of these phony effects and they're terrible.

Other problems include a schmaltzy, smothering music soundtrack by Hans Zimmer in which every dramatic nuance and patriotic utterance is accompanied by an overbearing fanfare, as if we needed to be told what to emote.

And on and on and on.

All in all, if you want to watch a really good drama about Pearl Harbor, then you should go to your local video store and rent Tora! Tora! Tora! a realistic, historically accurate film that does justice to the legacy of those who perished on that extraordinary day.

Rated PG-13.

Pearl Harbor - Official Website
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