HTF REVIEW: "Pearl Harbor" The Director's Cut (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 17, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Pearl Harbor: The Director's Cut

    Studio: Touchstone
    Year: 2001
    Rated: R
    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
    originality whatsoever.
    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
    best girl.
    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,
    good-looking characters?
    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
    attack began?!
    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
    across tables.
    The Packaging
    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
    every direction.
    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
    floor shaking.
    Special Features
    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
    "infamy" speech.
    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
    Nigel Phelps.
    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.
    (length: 3:53)
    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.
    (length: 1:18)
    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.
    (length: 47:00)
    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
    Michael Bay.
    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.
    (length: 7:50)
    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.
    (length: (7:16)
    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.
    (length: 6:17)
    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
    massive firepower.
    (length: 6:44)
    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.
    (length: 7:22)
    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
    Japanese planes.
    (length: 7:39)
    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
    this sequence.
    (length: 3:58)
    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.
    (length: 5:09)
    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.
    (length: 6:44)
    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.
    (length: 3:52)
    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
    The History....
    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
    the DVD.
    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
    effects makeup.
    There is also DVD-ROM material which includes
    the Pearl Harvor Definitive Bibliography.
    Final Thoughts
    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,
    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
  2. Jay W

    Jay W Supporting Actor

    Oct 5, 1999
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    Damnit, sold [​IMG]
  3. Frank ten Hove

    Mar 18, 1999
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    I can't wait to HEAR this dvd.
  4. HenrikTull

    HenrikTull Second Unit

    Jun 6, 2000
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    Got that right.
  5. TonyD

    TonyD Who do we think I am?

    Dec 1, 1999
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    Gulf Coast
    Real Name:
    Tony D.
    i would like to know how the $10 coupon for owners of the first dvd, works. aparently you get a rebate of sorts.

    but do i need the reciept for the old dvd or just the proof of purchase?

    thanks in advance if anyone knows.
  6. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

    Aug 6, 2001
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    Northern Virginia
    Real Name:
    Chuck Mayer
    Thanks for the time expended to give us a lengthy review (and to Jeff as well, but I thanked him elsewhere). Bay can make beautiful images and frame the action well. David Prior is truly one of the very best in the business. And I thank Disney for their support of this big set.

    From the moment I saw the teaser for this film in 2000, this topped my must-see list. That said, I was fairly disappointed in the final product, but it was not without merits. I look forward to viewing this exceptional package soon. Glad to see it's worth the money.

    Kudos to Bay and Prior (and teams) for making this happen.

    Take care,
  7. John_McKittrick

    John_McKittrick Stunt Coordinator

    Nov 9, 1999
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    Well, I know plenty of people (myself included) that loved this movie. I will definatetly be picking it up, not out of guilt either.
  8. Marc Colella

    Marc Colella Cinematographer

    Jun 19, 1999
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    The entire DVD presentation (video and sound quality, extras and packaging) look wonderful... truly excellent stuff. Buena Vista gets high marks on this release.

    I just wish this type of treatment was given to other films (ie. Amelie).

    I found Pearl Harbor to be an embarrasment to filmaking, and a slap in the face to the severity of the actual events.

    No Sale.

    I have to commend Ron for going through the massive amount of extras for a film that he didn't like. I doubt that I would have the patience to do the same.
  9. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

    Jul 25, 2000
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    Love'd this movie. Purchased the first release, going to purchase the DC. Thanks for the review Ron.
    Peace Out~[​IMG]
  10. Mark Walker

    Mark Walker Producer

    Jan 6, 1999
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    While Ron mentioned Tora! Tora! Tora!,
    I thought I would just say, that I got a chance to
    watch From Here To Eternity with Frank
    Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Debra Kerr and Monty Clift
    (when Columbia released the DVD),
    and it is a FANTASTIC film that deals
    with romance in Hawaii right before the Pearl Harbor
  11. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

    May 19, 2001
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    Great review, Ron! I wasn't planning on picking this up, but I will now!
  12. Marty Christion

    Marty Christion Stunt Coordinator

    Oct 3, 2001
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  13. Butch C

    Butch C Second Unit

    Dec 13, 2001
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    Please do not re-purchase this piece of crap and send a message to hollywood that we want 'films' about historical milestomes and not popcorn garbage
  14. Jon Robertson

    Jon Robertson Screenwriter

    May 19, 2001
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    Great point, Bruce! I was planning on picking this up, but I won't now!
  15. Matthew Chmiel

    Matthew Chmiel Cinematographer

    Apr 26, 2000
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    I didn't like the movie, but Ron's review wants me to purchase this DVD now just for all the extra material devoted to the movie and Pearl Harbor itself. Also, it wouldn't hurt to have the attack sequence and the set might look nice next to my Armageddon: Criterion Collection DVD. [​IMG]
  16. Ron-P

    Ron-P Producer

    Jul 25, 2000
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  17. Gavin_L

    Gavin_L Second Unit

    Aug 24, 2001
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    thanks ron for the review, i will for sure be picking up the new 4 disc set [​IMG]
  18. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    As much as I didn't like this film, I have
    to agree with Ron.....this is purely "popcorn".
    I used to love Bruckheimer/Bay movies. They
    were truly enjoyable actions films that seemed
    to elevate you with their slick action sequences
    and heightened musical score.
    But more recently, the stuff coming out from
    these guys is garbage. It seems that the films
    are all visual with no substance whatsoever.
    But you know what? These films make money.
    There is a built in audience for these type
    of movies, and perhaps the reason why many people
    like us don't like these films anymore is because
    we are no longer the teenage crowd that eats this
    stuff up.
    Can't blame Hollywood for making more movies
    like Pearl Harbor if these movies consistently
    rank high in the Box Office.
  19. Roger Kint

    Roger Kint Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 2, 2002
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  20. Marc_E

    Marc_E Supporting Actor

    Oct 9, 2001
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    How does this video compare to the original (EE) release?


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