Pearl Harbor: The Director's Cut
Film Length: 191 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
I had purposely passed up the opportunity to
see Pearl Harbor during its initial
theatrical run and DVD release. The movie had
several things running against it -- mainly the
bad reviews from both critics and audience.
Not that I don't blame the bad reviews. It is
obvious that Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor
is mostly disjointed as it irresponsibly ignores
historical accuracy for the sake of delivering a
mindless MTV-ish production filled with senseless
dialogue and a love triangle that brings the film
to a crawl for most of its first half. It's a
two hour film squeezed into three hours, with no
Rafe (Ben Affleck) and Danny (Josh Hartnett) have
been best friends since they grew up together during
the Depression. Early on, both had a love for flying.
It doesn't surprise us that years later, in 1941,
we find both enlisted as fly boys in the U.S.Army
Air Corps. Their life is changed with an encounter
with beautiful nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale).
Rafe is immediately smitten, and both enjoy a mushy
(but short) romantic relationship until Rafe
announces that he is leaving to volunteer to fight
with a British squadron of American pilots defending
London against Hitler's air attacks.
Rafe's plane is shot down somewhere over the English
channel, where he is presumed dead. Turning to each
other for comfort, Danny and Evelyn, now stationed
at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, begin their own romance,
not yet knowing that Rafe is alive, after all. Rafe
comes back from the dead, arrives in Hawaii, and finds
he has been betrayed by both his best friend and his
And this is just the first hour of the film.
And, oh yes, there is something about Pearl Harbor
in this movie. Throughout this love triangle, we
learn that the Japanese are preparing for an attack
on Pearl Harbor, and Captain Thurman's (Dan Akroyd)
interception and decoding of crucial Japanese messages.
We also are introduced to President Roosevelt
(John Voight) who is eager to participate in the war.
Up to this point, it seems that Michael Bay is
more interested in showing us beautiful stylized
blue-filtered shots of the young lovers than telling
a factual story. After all, how interesting could
the story of Pearl Harbor be without heroic,
One of the biggest insults of accuracy to this film
comes as the Japanese fly over the American island
in preparation to attack. Boy scouts tromp through
the mountains, a woman hangs up the wash, children
play little league baseball. This of course, is all
going on at 7:30am on a Sunday morning when the
At nearly 90 minutes into this borefest, the attack
on Pearl Harbor begins. It's at that point that
I found myself awakened to a remarkable 40-minute
long CGI-enhanced recreation of the attack. The
film spares no expense to show the constant carnage
where 3000 people lost their lives and the bulk of
Pacific fleet was sunk.
Not having seen the original theatrical version,
I can only guess which scenes of graphic gore were
added to this Director's cut. One scenes shows a
Captain's being blown off and standing decapitated
aboard the deck. Two separate hazy dream-like
hospital sequence shows detached limbs strewn
No contest, there has never been anything quite
as elaborate as the packaging for this four DVD
Pearl Harbor arrives inside a slipcover
that mimics an aged scrapbook. When you pull out
the insert, you find it opens to a 6-pane foldout
chock-full of content that pops up at you from
On the far left is a folder that contains a
paper-like passport. Opening it up reveals text
from President Roosevelt's "infamy" speech on
December 8, 1941. The next pane holds the 4 DVD
discs that can be accessed by breaking a seal on
an outer sturdy envelope.
In the next pane you will find the collector
booklet filled with lots of production photos,
but more importantly, all the chapter stops for
the DVDs. Unfortunately, these chapter stops
do not indicate where new material has been added
over the original cut. The booklet also gives an
overview of all the extra bonus features on discs
2-4. In the next pane you will find 4 postcards
of artwork of the cast made to look like war promo
posters. These postcards are held in place by an
attractive strap and buckle.
You can't help but feel immensely impressed by
the amount of effort that went into this packaging.
This is one of those rare moments that you realize
just how far a studio can go in producing packaging
that reflects the theme of the film itself.
How is the transfer?
Of all the transfers I have seen, this ranks
as the very best. Both visually and sonically,
Pearl Harbor is reference quality.
The images are razor sharp. The film looks
bright, bold, crisp and clean -- almost bigger
than life. I have rarely seen such stunning
clarity from a DVD. All of this comes without
any indication of background video noise.
The 5.1 DTS track is equally as impressive as
the video. This is one of the most aggressive
DTS presentations I have yet to hear. You can hear
it from the earliest moments of the film when Danny
& Rafe are doing a "chicken chase" with their planes.
The direction of sound is extremely precise with
every channel given a designated activity. While
dialogue remains firmly in the center channel, the
rears supply a constant barrage of supporting action
from crowd noise during a fight to the subtle sounds
of the beach in the background. During the film's
highly-charged action sequences, the sound of planes
and gunfire move through every channel, giving the
viewer a totally engrossing assault on the senses.
The LFE channel is also very active. Through most
of the first half of the film, my subwoofer pounded
to each beat of Hans Zimmer's musical score. But
it was the attack on the Arizona that had my entire
If I read correctly, Pearl Harbor features
12 hours of added material that is strewn across
three discs. The film begins on Disc One.
After a little over 2 hours, there is a brief
intermission and it continues on Disc Two.
The menu structure is very simple, yet nicely
designed to reflect the period the film represents.
Each disc has a slightly different menu introduction.
On Disc Two for instance, a camera rotates
across a table strewn with postcards and letters,
as 40's music plays in the background. After the
menu choices appear, the sound of radio static
breaks in as Roosevelt is heard giving his famous
Disc One movie features three audio
commentaries. The first is with Michael
Bay and Jeanine Basinger. The second is with
Jerry Bruckheimer, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck
and Josh Hartnett. The third is with
Cinematographer John Schwartzman, Costume
Designer Michael Kaplan and Production Designer
The Special Features begin on Disc Two, so
this is where we will start.
First up is the Faith Hill Music Video,
"There You Will Be". Extremely well produced,
Faith sings this wonderful song against many
backdrops that represent the 40's era. Intertwined
are scenes from the film.
A short promotional commercial for National
Geographic beyond the movie: Pearl Harbor is
included. What looks to be an extraordinary
documentary ultimately looks tarnished for the
fact that they tied this film in with the documentary.
All in all, it looks very interesting, and I am
already putting in my order.
The Making of Pearl Harbor begins with
Producer Bruckheimer and Director Bay talking
about the immense project of recreating the
attack on Pearl Harbor. The real treat of
watching this documentary is watching and hearing
the tales of events from WWII veterans that were
stationed at Pearl Harbor. Director Micheal Bay
interviewed 70 of these survivors who often
visited the set to give technical advice. Animated
art Work of the attack on Pearl Harbor, to give
the Director an idea of how all of it should look,
is presented for your enjoyment. There are many
behind-the-camera shots to see here, along with
interviews of every one of the major cast members
who talk about their emotional experiences in being
involved with this production. And how do you
make a huge ship roll over on its side? You'll
watch it all done. There's even a look at how
all the explosives were rigged for this film.
Alan Purwin, Aerial coordinator, takes us through
all the daring flying sequences. Everyone comes
together as we watch 350 bombs go off with airplanes
flying overhead. The grand finale to this entire
documentary is Michael Bay diving into the waters
off Pearl Harbor, as he photographs the Arizona
that lies at the bottom of the murky water.
Disc Three begins the official supplement
area. Once you hit the Main Menu, you realize that
these supplementals are divided into two main
categories: The Film and The History.
Let's begin by looking at The Film....
First up is the Production Diary. Think of
this as a filmed diary of the behind-the-camera
events of each day (or segmented days) of filming.
This area is divided into 10 sections and all can be
played with accompanying commentary by Director
1. Airfield Attack is an interesting piece
on how low-flying helicopters were used to film
a strafing Japanese zero attack. What makes this
piece thrilling to watch is the fact that we see
the raw helicopter footage being shot, with a
small box in the lower corner showing how it looked
in the final print. In the commentary, Director Bay
talks about how safe all these stunts went off with
minimal injuries. Small tidbits of "did you know?"
type of information appear in the lower portion of
the screen, some of which talks about how much
gasoline or explosives were used in a sequence, or,
the fact that military extras were used in some
portions of the film.
2. Baja Gimbal takes a look at how the
capsizing of the Oklahoma was effectively recreated.
Through time lapse shots, we see the tons of steel
built upon a gimbal, which is a hydraulically
controlled circular rig on which a set can be
built and rotated. Once the ship is built upon
this gimble, we see the cast coordinating themselves
upon the ship's deck as it gets blown with gallons
of water and begins to turn over.
3. In Battleship Row we watch Michael
Bay film against a fleet of six ships that have
been inactive since the 1970's. In one of the most
complicated film explosions ever done, 700 sticks
of dynamite were used to set these ships aflame.
Note Director Bay getting pissed off at a crew
in the water that do not follow his directions.
4. Doris "Dorie" Miller was a cook aboard one
of the ships who fired upon the Japanese. He is
portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the film. In
Dorie Miller, we watch Cuba rise to the
occasion as we watch this sequence being photographed.
It's cool to watch Cuba behind this gun giving off
5. How do you photograph a bouncing bomb?
Dud Bomb introduces us to Kenny Bates, who
coordinates the highly dangerous stunt that comes
complete with exploding gasoline. In the
accompanying commentary, Director Bay talks about
having to deal with onlookers.
6. Mechanics Row show us how the scene
with Raf and Danny get across an airfield and get
aloft, which resulted in them shooting down seven
7. In homage to the nurses that saved numerous
lives and became the real heroes of the war,
there is Nurse Strafing, a sequence that
had to be filmed quickly as there was little sun
to work with. When the clouds parted and sunlight
finally came through the hole, the scene was filmed.
Kate Beckinsale provides some short commentary for
8. Sandbag Stunt is a short piece on
what it takes to prepare for a very dangerous
stunt that may only get two seconds of screen
time. Stunt Coordinator Kenny Bates maps out
the sequence of a sandbag exploding and the
guys that get thrown into the air. Fertilizer,
cork and other debris were added to the explosion
to add more dramatic elements and not hurt the
stunt men involved.
9. Off the coast of San Diego, aboard the U.S.S.
Constellation, we watch how the Doolittle Raid
was filmed. Using the aircraft carrier here, and
another in Corups Christi, Texas, we watch how a
squad of B-25's were launched in an attack on Tokyo.
10. It was a dream of Michael Bay to show
the sunken Arizona. In Arizona Dive, we
watch the Director suit up and dive into the murky
waters to photograph the Arizona as it sits today.
It's quite an eerie thing to watch.
This is very cool! Never say an actor takes the
shortcut to recreating realism. Soldier's Boot
Camp takes us through the training that the
young actors (Affleck and Hartnett) had to go through
before playing soldiers on the big screen. Officer's
Boot Camp shows Alec Baldwin in the field as
he learns strategic maneuvers.
(length: Approx 22 minutes, both)
Rounding out the extras in this area are the
film's Original Trailer and Teaser
Trailer as well as a Super 8 Montage
shot creative advisor Mark Palansky, which is
the footage that was used for Newsreel sequences.
Now let's take a look at the second part
of the supplements ob Disc Three, called
1. One Hour Over Tokyo is a History
Channel special on the true story behind James
Doolittle and the Tokyo Raiders. There is plenty
of newsreel footage here from the attack which
is more factual than the film itself.
(length: 50 minutes)
2. Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor examines
the survivors of the Pearl Harbor as they give
first-hand stories about the heroics that took
place during the attacks. Lots of archival footage
here to see.
(length: 50 minutes)
3. Oral History: The recollections of a
Pearl Harbor Nurse is the true accounts of
Lieutenant Ruth Erickson, a nurse stationed at Pearl
Harbor. Using her narration, accompanied by still
pictures and newsreel footage, we get a real chilling
sense of what it was like to be in the middle of
the Japanese attack.
(length: 4 minutes)
Now it's time to move on to Disc Four,
which is labeled Part Two of the Supplemental area.
First up is the Visual Effects portion of
1. Interactive Attack Sequence is a
multi-angle, multi-audio presentation that gives
us a detailed look into the creation and production
of the attack sequence. Using your remote, you
can switch not only to different perspectives of
the scene from MOVIE to SET to DRAWINGS, but you
also isolate the various sound tracks so you can
hear just the action on the set, or just the music
from the film, or just the sound effects. You can
literally sit here for hours and watch these
sequences over and over again from a different
perspective. I must say, this is one of the most
fun additions I have seen as a DVD supplement, and
though it has been sort of done on other Special
Editions, nothing comes close to the interactive
capabilities you have here.
2. Interactive Timeline is a remarkably
produced piece that history buffs are going to
love. Using your remote, you move along a timeline
that dates back to 1853 through 1942 as we look
at the culture struggles and political clashes from
both the Japanese and American sides. Click on
a date and you will be shown footage that describes
that era of history.
3. A Gallery shows hundreds of never-before-seen
photos from the set, as well as reproductions of
the artwork used for the theatrical campaign. You
can select production design; Publicity; Historical;
storyboards; ILM and Stan Winston's special
There is also DVD-ROM material which includes
the Pearl Harvor Definitive Bibliography.
Easily, Pearl Harbor is the most elaborate
Special Edition package ever brought to DVD. It
took me two days to go through most of the material
here, and trust me, I had to skim through some of it.
From packaging to content, nothing comes close.
This presents a moral dilemma. Should a person
spend the money for the sake of an elaborate set
that is built around a movie that, well...sucks?
I mean, take it for what its worth, Pearl Harbor
is a dud that concerns itself more with stylized
shots and handsome cast over being authentic. If
not for the film, I could almost declare this set
as being DVD OF THE YEAR.
You can't blame the folks at Disney. In fact I
absolutely praise them for releasing a set like
this that sets a new standard on what Special
Editions should be.
Anyone that wants to see how well Pearl Harbor
should have been, should check out Tora! Tora!
Tora! (Fox DVD) a 1970 film that even dated,
blows Pearl Harbor out of the water.
When it all comes down to it, one must consider
that this elaborate monstrosity of a set can be
bought for under $30 on-line. For that price,
you can easily purchase this guilty pleasure.
Release Date: July 2, 2002