The Truth About ‘Pearl Harbor’: An In-Depth Analysis

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Edwin Pereyra, Dec 11, 2001.

  1. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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    (Note to Admins.: I had permission to post this in an entirely new thread)
    First of all, these comments are from someone who has not seen first-hand the horrors of any war and hopefully never will. However, I am not at all insensitive but rather very respectful to those who have served and/or sacrificed their lives all for the sake of freedom. Second, I am glad that Chris Maynard started a thread asking about the historical inaccuracies of Pearl Harbor. After viewing the film for the very first time this weekend I am in agreement that the attacks leveled on this film both on the elements of historical inaccuracies and how disrespectful it is to Pearl Harbor veterans are just too harsh. Rather than have this very long post buried in Mr. Maynard’s thread, which as of this writing is already five pages long, I have asked that this post be granted an entirely new thread.
    To understand a film like Pearl Harbor is to understand where filmmakers Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer are coming from. That is why, if available, I almost always read the film’s production notes after watching a film, in order to get a better understanding of a film. There is a big difference between an informed filmgoer who comments on a film vs. an uninformed casual filmgoer who then comments on a film but entirely missing what the filmmakers set out to do in the first place. These notes work like director’s commentaries on DVDs and gives one an insight into the minds of the filmmakers. It tells you about their vision. Then in the end, one can evaluate as to whether or not they have succeeded in accomplishing that vision. Pearl Harbor’s production note can be found here.
    There is no doubt that some production notes are riddled by marketing and propaganda material for the film. They are not true to their purpose but after reading quite a few of these I have learned to weed out the chaff from the actual substantive parts.
    I am also in firm belief that others are more forgiving on less than stellar films when the people involved behind the project are well known. Case in point: Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven and its all-star cast. But when a project involves names such as Bay and Bruckheimer, others are less forgiving and its open season for the attacks even to the film’s minute details.
    So for a moment, please allow me to analyze Pearl Harbor with an open mind.
    I looked at this film based on how I viewed Titanic – that the fictional central characters are nothing more than instruments to advance the real story at hand. They are a device only to advance the film’s primary narrative and what happens to them is not so much as important as those that are going on around them. Like I said about Titanic before, if one thinks that this is a film about a mismatched couple falling in love aboard a doomed oceanliner, then think again.
    A film titled, “Pearl Harbor” should be about that. But in this film’s case, even though I was willing to dismiss its love story altogether and focus more on the events about the Pearl Harbor attack and beyond, the love story was given more screen time than necessary, thereby somewhat diminishing the value of the actual historical events it wanted to portray. While Titanic succeeded in giving us a love story that is both honest and moving, the case is not the same for Pearl Harbor. Its love story was weak with some dialogue aimed at girls in their teens.
    However, I found the 40-minute attack sequence to be both dramatic and sad. For me, the human element of the attack was there. I did not see anything gratuitous about it and the CGI accomplished what it was supposed to do. But I did not care for nor understood the use of the hazy photography during the hospital scenes other than probably to avoid an R-rating due to its violence.
    I also found Josh Hartnett to be very good in this film. Of the three main actors, I thought he was the strongest with Ben Affleck coming in second. Based on reviews which came out off Hartnett’s earlier film, O, I am very positive about this young man’s future as an actor. However, the three main actors, including Kate Beckinsale, can only do so much with screenwriter Randall Wallace’s rather shallow characters.
    However, I don’t think Pearl Harbor is a bad film that others make it out to be.
    Now whether this film is a disgrace to actual Pearl Harbor veterans because it does not honestly pay tribute to them is not for me to say. I don’t think anyone here who is not a Pearl Harbor veteran is qualified to make such an assessment. And from the responses I have read from most Pearl Harbor veterans, the portrayal of the events on the morning of December 7, 1941 have been overwhelmingly positive. Let me say that again with emphasis:
    I don’t think anyone here who is not a Pearl Harbor veteran is qualified to say whether this film is a disgrace to those veterans. I am taking the position that only them are allowed to make such an assessment. And from the responses I have read from most Pearl Harbor veterans, the portrayal of the events on the morning of December 7, 1941 have been overwhelmingly positive.
    Now, as we all know, not everyone will be satisfied. But if it pleases the majority as the film did, then I think it had accomplished its objective.
    It should be noted that even before principal photography began on April 4, 2000, two days before, the studio, filmmakers and actors along with the Unites States Navy and several members of the Hawaii and San Diego chapters of Pearl Harbor Survivors Association held a special wreath laying ceremony in memory of the men and women who gave their lives that fateful day at the USS Arizona Memorial site. One of the early screenings of the film, if I remember correctly, was also held at this same site for Pearl Harbor veterans. To me, this shows that the filmmakers were committed to pay tribute to the survivors and their families from the very start.
    As I said earlier, to understand a film like Pearl Harbor is to understand where filmmakers Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer are coming from.
    From Michael Bay:
    The film’s production notes goes into detail into some of the other artistic license taken by the filmmakers based on their own research on other issues raised in Chris Maynard’s thread.
    I guess my point in all this and in conclusion, is that Messrs. Bay and Bruckheimer made a good faith effort to make Pearl Harbor as historically accurate as possible. In that regard, it is my firm belief that they have succeeded. There were no, what I would consider, gross misrepresentation of the facts outside of the fictional love story and the events involving the three main characters. Moreover, the film made an honest effort to pay tribute to the survivors of the Pearl Harbor attack. They have voiced these positive comments loud and clear. It is unfortunate that Mr. Bay had to deliver a film to Disney with a PG-13 rating or less. The result is a love story that didn’t quite work so well with their best intentions of portraying the actual events of Pearl Harbor and honoring those that served and survived.
    ~Edwin
    (Edit: For spacing only)
     
  2. Chris Maynard

    Chris Maynard Supporting Actor

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    Edwin - An excellent post which you obviously spent good effort putting together.
     
  3. Tino

    Tino Executive Producer
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    A well thought out comprehensive fair post.
    I agree with almost all of what you have said Edwin. The hatred leveled at this film has been unfair to a certain degree. It may not be one of the years best films, but it is far from the worst.
    I seriously believe that some are picking on this film merely because of who made it and because it's easy to throw stones. Apparently for some, it's cool to trash Pearl Harbor just for the sake of trashing it. Very little has been said about the film itself, with most of the hatred directed at Bay and Bruckheimer for being successful it seems.
    There have been valid honest reviews by members here, with good criticisms, but others seem to have a different agenda. Some people I believe truly enjoy hating films.
    I have more thoughts to add later when I have more time, but in the meantime, I urge other members who haven't seen the film yet to keep an open mind and read through Edwins fair assessment of this film.
     
  4. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Edwin,

    I appreciate your research as well. I agree with almost all of what you said, but especially the points made regarding potential "disrespect" to the veterans. I made that very same points in this or another thread. I felt it was (and is) a cheap way to attack the film.

    Pearl Harbor is by no means perfect. I respect the views of those that did not enjoy it. And I respect the views of those that defend it. It's a good, solid movie with some bad moments, but a good heart.

    Take care,

    Chuck
     
  5. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    Good intentions don't necessarily translate into good cinema. The list of well-intentioned failures is a mile long and growing by the week. One need not impugn the intentions of a filmmaker to conclude that his film fails as film.

    The question of historical accuracy is sort of a corollary to the previous rule. Edwin expended much effort to demonstrate that there are factual bases behind the specific events depicted in the film. No argument here. One could also reasonably argue that the events depicted in TORA! TORA! TORA! are historically accurate.

    But TORA! TORA! TORA! is a lousy film.

    And so is Pearl Harbor.

    Historical accuracy is merely the starting point, the necessary research one must engage in before responsibly tackling a subject of weighty historical significance. But this is merely the beginning - the task of turning it into compelling cinema has only begun. It's at this point that Bay completely fails.

    Perhaps someone in Hollywood can still write romance. But Michael Bay certainly can't. I've found other love stories equally poor, to be sure, but none less compelling than this one. And there's plenty of comparison as love triangles have formed the basis of movies about war and sundry other topics since the beginning of cinema (everything from Birth of a Nation through Bridget Jones's Diary and beyond). I don't require another Casablanca to be entertained, but rarely has such a love story been handled so ineptly as the one in Pearl Harbor. It's a hackneyed tale of posterboard characters, phony to the core. If you can watch this rank affair play out without laughing out loud, you must be comatose.

    And perhaps someone in Hollywood can create a believable combat sequence (ahem... Mr. Speilberg, Mr. Stone, even Mr. Malick). But Michael Bay certainly can't. His artless video game is utterly antiseptic. Please note that I'm not suggesting that Bay should ape Spielberg's very specific style (or Stone's or anyone else's). I'm saying that where Spielberg and others succeed in creating on film the kind of battle conditions that give the viewer a sense of the horrors and reality of combat, Bay succeeds only in creating choreography, a bloodless ballet mechanique that fails to induce fear, suspense, dread, shock, anger, frustration, despair or any other human emotion we tend to associate with the raw life and death experience of war. Bay's attempt is merely eye candy. And if you can't tell the difference, then load up Saving Private Ryan and compare your experience.

    This film attempts to accurately recreate history via a romance nestled around an extended combat sequence, neither of which are compellingly realized. I've found no one willing to argue that the bulk of the film - the romance - is worth a plugged nickel, let alone the $10 I paid at the box office. And those who laud the combat scenes do so from a very different aesthetic than mine. Perhaps it's great demo material for your home theater, but it's lousy cinema.
     
  6. David Rogers

    David Rogers Supporting Actor

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    Echoing previous comments, a very well assembled piece of writing. Kudos for that.

    However, I cannot agree with you with regards to two things.

    The first is the script; the fault for this lies mostly in the hands of the scriptwriter, and less so but still measurably also at the feet of Bruckheimer and Bay. The former as he offered it up as a worthy piece, the later two because they accepted and shot with it.

    The second is the direction with regards to the inclusion of the love story.

    To speak to both points, it should be known I am not an adrenaline movie junkie, nor do I scorn 'softer' movies with such topics as romance or relationships as their primary draws. I enjoyed Titanic as a love story, for example, and rank films such as Phenomenon and Toy Story highly on my personal list due to the depth of emotion they touch upon.

    The script was lacking. Period. Dialog and scenes were awkward and unconnected. Many scenes involving the "Love Triangle" were forced and artificial. To contrast to Titanic, Cameron's film and script wove the romance into the disaster setting with great skill, with quite a bit of grace and seamlessness. There were no stumbles as they shifted from the plight of two star-crossed lovers madly in love with one another to the larger scope of 2200 people's peril in the most famous accident-disaster of the early 20th Century. The two stories (the disaster and the romance) fit hand in glove, and the result was a very impressive movie.

    Pearl Harbor has none of these advantages, none of these strengths. Both script and the romance, they're handled in a heavy manner, without any subtlty or grace. Watching Pearl Harbor is like watching a child play with a room light switch; on-off-on-off. The transition is stark and jarring, impossible to miss. There is no art of direction, no grace of words, no sense of style and 'fitting' in Pearl Harbor's inclusion of the romance angle.

    I wouldn't have minded it if the addition to the historical event was well handled; indeed I would have very much welcomed the inclusion of a properly spun tale of wartime lovers amid the chaos and insanity of the most encompassing war ever fought on this planet. I think it would make a fine movie to emulate Titanic's model of using characters to drive home the reality of the horrific historical events they're trapped within. Pearl Harbor is not that film. It could have been, if only for a proper wordsmith and a better director. Alas 'twas not to be.

    As for the direction, I have come to rather enjoy Bay's style of direction; I feel its very appropriate, stylish, and overall very effective … FOR THE TYPES OF MOVIES HE HAS MADE HIS CAREER ON.

    I understand artists seek to grow their creative boundries, but I feel Bay failed horribly in Pearl Harbor when he attempted to include true storytelling in his rendition of Pearl Harbor. The action, the drama, those elements of the film I felt were handled acceptably, even enjoyably and respectably. The recreation efforts were very enjoyable, the war and the sense of the movement of the war (the world around the characters) wasn't bad. But back to the light switch example, Bay loses his touch when he has to weave 'tender' moments in. That doesn't make him a bad direction, but it does make him NOT a drama or character director, as other excellent directors such as Cameron, Spielberg or Zemeckis are.

    Having said all that, I'm looking forwarding to owning my copy of the Pearl Harbor Director's Cut. My reading on the subject indicates this cut focuses on the war and the war actions, and 'dials down' the romance. Since that moves the film towards its strengths, and away from its weaknesses, as I see them, I feel I will probably enjoy that cut more.

    I'm also looking forward to Bay's next film, so long as he focuses back on his strong suits; big films with energy.

    I will be very unhappy to hear the scriptwriter's been attached to any films I thought sounded interesting however.
     
  7. Danny_N

    Danny_N Second Unit

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    After having read the production notes I don't think that they offer anything of value other than the usual promo stuff. In some cases they even reaffirm the historical ignorance of the people involved in this movie.
    Naval historian Lawrence Suid called this movie "historically inaccurate beyond dramatic license". He also wrote a review of the movie for the US Naval Institute which may contain some eye-openers for some: http://www.usni.org/NavalHistory/art...1/NHsuid8.html
     
  8. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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  9. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I have no problems with the historical accuracy/inaccuracy of PH. I just couldn't buy into the love story, for one, and two, didn't get the true feeling of horror that something like the attack of PH should have shown. Maybe that's not what Bay wanted to show, and that's fine.

    I think movies like SPR do a great job in wrapping a fictitious event (like Ryan and his brothers) and putting it in the proper, hellish context (WWII).

    Even Titanic, as much as I didn't buy into the love story, did an excellent job in portraying the horror of the sinking vessel, and humanity turning its best and worst as the inevitable end approached.

    As Mark said, if Bay had to rely on the liner notes to explain his point, then IMO he didn't do a good job in the crafting of his story and film. I'm not entirely sure of the message I got from PH still, but I wasn't willing to rent or buy it again to figure it out.
     
  10. Bill J

    Bill J Producer

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    In my opinion a good war film needs to be as accurate and realistic as it can get, but not necessarily in a technical way. A war film should capture the essence of the event and give you a good idea about what it was really like. Gore is not the only thing that makes a film realistic, but in the case of Pearl Harbor, I think it needed it.

    Bay spent all of this money on blowing up ships and planes, but he did not show that bullets can rip through flesh and bombs can blow apart people. A movie titled "Pear Harbor" should be about the bombing and what it was really like.

    Pearl Harbor does not represent how courageous they really were to survive through the horror of the bombing.

    I believe that Bay put out a mediocre film and hoped to profit from the deaths of the soldiers who died at Pearl Harbor. Making it PG-13 was his first mistake. He was hoping that this film would break records and make more than Titanic. He thought that a PG-13 film would make more than a R rated film. Pearl Harbor is not the film for the veterans because its targeted audience was nine year olds.

    Hopefully someday a qualified filmmaker will make a good film about this important event in American history.

    Also, I don't understand all of this hype about the director's cut. NOTHING could save that film. The only way that film would be somewhat watchable would be if you cut out Kate Beckinsale's character completelyand added more realism that captures the event, not necessarily gore.
     
  11. Brad_W

    Brad_W Screenwriter

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  12. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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  13. Mark Pfeiffer

    Mark Pfeiffer Screenwriter

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    Mark Kalzer said:
     
  14. Rich E

    Rich E Agent

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    A very well thought out post. I admire the time it took to research and write it.

    For some reason, this film as well as several others just don't play well on the big screen, they make a bad first impression which in the world of the "big opening weekend" usually means box office death.

    I did not like this film in the theater, I thought It was a useless pile of crap as did allot of other people.

    something happened between the theater and watching it at home.

    Let me just say I in no way compare my experiences to anyone who has genuenely suffered. I did not lose anybody dear to me on 9/11, My heart and deepest sympathy go out to those who have and I pray as Americans we will all band together to make sure every last person responsible for that day will burn in hell.

    to quote an unkown broadcaster, "if anyone makes a movie about this in my lifetime I will be very upset".

    Watching pearl harbor again reminded me of what that day was like. The utter confusion, the not knowing what the hell was going on until you gradually learned the horrible truth.

    When the second tower fell i dropped to the floor and cried. Having to regain my composure enough to search the building I worked in to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for.

    Calling my parents in another time zone, leaving a message on the answering machine because the were still asleep, to tell them I was safe, and to tell them to prepare for a shock when they turned on the morning news.

    I remember hearing reports on the radio about two more missing planes, how everyone waited with baited breath until they were found. How nobody really knew what to do because we had suddenly been thrust into a new and frightening world.

    I rememeber standing in the sidewalk feeling completely helpless until I saw the first f-15 streak across the sky over the city I call my home. It was only at that moment did I finally feel safe.

    I can remember leaving work with a group of people, setting out for home on foot. I can remember stopping in a bar to use the bathroom because all the beer I had drank to calm my nerves were taking there toll, how everyone in the place was fixated on the repeating images of death on the tv.

    I remember walking across the 59th street bridge to my home, with a million other new yorkers, with the burning remains of the wtc just to our left. Wondering to myself if the barge passing under the bridge at that moment was packed with explosives, wondering if we were all just seconds away from our deaths.

    I remember going down to ground zero days after. Seeing the cranes dwarfed by the piles of rubble they were perched upon.

    Seeing the tractor trailers cart away beams as long as your house, realizing they were once part of a building.

    Having lunch in a small cafe, just blocks away from the devestation, feeling guily for being alive as you walked back outside and the smell of conrete dust and death choked you to tears.

    Seeing the white powder that covered EVERYTHING down there, and coming to realize that what I was looking at in all likelyhood contained the vaporized remains of what were once people I had probably passed on the streets, stores and in the subways.

    Taking the train to work, wondering why it was less crowded than usual, then realizing why.

    These are memories I will have till the day I die.

    to all those who watched it on tv, you cannot possibly imagine what it was like to be in the city on that morning, something NO TV BROADCAST OR MOVIE COULD EVER DO! I hope you never have to. One day like that in a lifetime is one too many.

    Standing on the street corner, watching the smoke rise into the sky. Watching firetruck after fire truck race down the avenue, then realzing later that some of those brave men lost their lives.

    the time that elapsed between the second plane hitting, realizing what was really happening and seeing the first fighter jets which were our only defense against the unkown were the longest two hours of my life.

    Imagine going to work, war breaks out, and all you can do is stand there, wondering if you and everyone you work with will be next.

    I'm sure this is what people at pearl harbor must have thought. Unfortunately the world will never be rid of evil, it will happen again. Unfortunately it will be our children and our grandchildrens' memories who are affected.

    "pearl harbor" is by no means a great film, but it did in a SMALL way capture some of these feelings and emotions.

    anyway, back to the movie. remember this: "you don't bring history books to the movies, and you don't bring popcorn to history class".

    they have about as much to do with each other as love and sex.
     
  15. Brad_W

    Brad_W Screenwriter

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  16. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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  17. RogerB

    RogerB Second Unit

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    Great post, Edwin. Just a few comments:
    You said:
     
  18. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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  19. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Studio Mogul

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    [cynical mode on]
    Shouldn't this thread be labelled "Bay and Bruckheimer's Truth about Pearl Harbor"? [​IMG]
    [cynical mode off]
    After I saw this film at the theaters, I certainly didn't have the vitriol that many on the HTF have toss its way in the form of reviews. True, it has many flaws, and good intentions, but I fear when it comes right down to it, perhaps B&B had to compromise a little too much in delivering this film under the Disney banner, with the PG-13 rating. Frankly, any decent war film should not garner a PG-13 rating if your intention is to depict faithfully the battles and consequences on human life/casualties of war.
     
  20. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

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