ⓘ Pearl Harbor (film)

Pearl Harbor (film)

ⓘ Pearl Harbor (film)

Pearl Harbor is a 2001 American romantic war drama film directed by Michael Bay, produced by Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer and written by Randall Wallace. It stars Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, Colm Feore, and Alec Baldwin. The film presented a heavily fictionalized version of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, focusing on a love story set amidst the lead up to the attack, its aftermath, and the Doolittle Raid.

The film was a box office success, earning $59 million in its opening weekend and, in the end, nearly $450 million worldwide, but received generally negative reviews from critics, who criticized the story, screenplay and dialogue, pacing, its many historical inaccuracies and many of the performances particularly Affleck and Hartnetts but praised Hans Zimmers musical score, the visual effects and the attack sequence. It was nominated for four Academy Awards, winning in the category of Best Sound Editing. However, it was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture. This marked the first occurrence of a Worst Picture-nominated film winning an Academy Award.


1. Plot

In 1923 Tennessee, two best friends, Rafe McCawley and Danny Walker, play together in the back of an old biplane, pretending to be soldiers fighting the German Empire in World War I. When Dannys drunk father comes and attacks Danny, Rafe defends him and calls Dannys father a "dirty German", in which he reveals that he fought the Germans in France during World War I and prays the boys never encounter the horrors he saw.

In January 1941, with World War II raging, Danny and Rafe are both First Lieutenants under the command of Major Jimmy Doolittle. Doolittle informs Rafe that he has been accepted into the Eagle Squadron, a RAF outfit for American pilots during the Battle of Britain. Rafe meets a nurse named Evelyn, who passes his medical exam despite his dyslexia. That night, Rafe and Evelyn enjoy an evening of dancing at a nightclub and later, a jaunt in the New York harbor in a borrowed police boat. Rafe shocks Evelyn by saying that he has joined the Eagle Squadron and is leaving the next day. During a mission to intercept a Luftwaffe bombing raid, Rafe is shot down over the English Channel and is presumed killed in action. A mourning Evelyn finds comfort in Danny, leading to a romance between the two, and they take a romantic night in an army plane up in the clouds, and a romantic swim at the beach. Meanwhile, the Imperial Japanese Navy begins to plot a surprise attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor after the US had cut off their oil supply. They send in spies to survey the naval ships and airfields, modify aerial torpedoes for the shallow harbor, and send a series of confusing messages that expressing a hope for peace.

On the night of December 6, Evelyn is shocked to discover Rafe standing outside her door, having survived his downing and been picked up by a French fishing boat and spending the ensuing months trapped in Nazi-occupied France. Rafe, in turn, discovers Dannys romance with Evelyn and leaves for the Hula bar feeling betrayed, where he is welcomed back by his overjoyed fellow pilots. Danny finds a drunken Rafe in the bar with the intention of making things right, but the two get into a fight. They drive away, avoiding being put in the brig when the military police arrive at the Hula bar.

The next morning, on December 7, the Imperial Japanese Navy begins its attack on Pearl Harbor. The US Pacific Fleet suffers severe damage in the surprise attack, and most of the defending airfields are obliterated before they are able to launch fighters to defend the harbor. Rafe and Danny manage to take off in P-40 fighter planes, and are able to shoot down several of the attacking planes. They later assist in the rescue of the crew of the capsized USS Oklahoma, but are too late to save the crew of the sinking USS Arizona. Meanwhile, Evelyn and the other medical staff are overwhelmed with the amount of wounded and dying patients and one of her fellow nurses, Betty, is listed among the casualties.

The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his Day of Infamy Speech to the nation and requests the US Congress declare a state of war with the Empire of Japan. Later, Danny and Rafe are both assigned to travel stateside under newly promoted Lt. Colonel Doolittle for a secret mission. Before they leave, Evelyn reveals to Rafe that she is pregnant with Dannys child, and intends to stay with Danny even though she will always love him deep down.

Upon their arrival in California, Danny and Rafe are both promoted to Captain and awarded the Silver Star for their bravery while shooting down the enemy planes, and volunteer for a secret mission under Doolittle. During the next three months, Rafe, Danny and other pilots train with specially modified B-25 Mitchell bombers. In April, the raiders are sent towards Japan aboard the USS Hornet. Their mission: bomb Tokyo land in allied China after. The mission is successful, and Rafe and Danny crash-land into a rice field in China where Japanese soldiers are present. Danny is shot in the crossfire. Rafe reveals Evelyns pregnancy to the dying Danny. But before he dies, Danny tells Rafe that he will have to be the father. After the war, Rafe and Evelyn, now a couple, visit Dannys grave with Danny and Evelyns son, also named Danny, at Rafes fathers old farm house. Rafe then asks his stepson if he would like to go flying, and they fly off into the sunset in the old biplane that he and his father once had.


2. Production

The proposed budget of $208 million that Bay and Bruckheimer wanted was an area of contention with Disney executives, since a great deal of the budget was to be expended on production aspects. Also controversial was the effort to change the films rating from R to PG-13. Bay wanted to graphically portray the horrors of war and was not interested in primarily marketing the final product to a teen and young adult audience. Budget fights continued throughout the planning of the film, with Bay "walking" on several occasions. Dick Cook, chairman of Disney at the time, said "I think Pearl Harbor was one of the most difficult shoots of modern history."

In order to recreate the atmosphere of pre-war Pearl Harbor, the producers staged the film in Hawaii and used current naval facilities. Many active duty military members stationed in Hawaii and members of the local population served as extras during the filming. The set at Rosarito Beach in the Mexican state of Baja California was used for scale model work as required. Formerly the set of Titanic 1997, Rosarito was the ideal location to recreate the death throes of the battleships in the Pearl Harbor attack. A large-scale model of the bow section of USS Oklahoma mounted on the worlds largest gimbal produced an authentic rolling and submerging of the doomed battleship. Production Engineer Nigel Phelps stated that the sequence of the ship rolling out of the water and slapping down would involve one of the "biggest set elements" to be staged. Matched with computer generated imagery, the action had to reflect precision and accuracy throughout.

The vessel most seen in the movie was USS Lexington, representing both USS Hornet and a Japanese carrier. All aircraft take-offs during the movie were filmed on board the Lexington, a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas. The aircraft on display were removed for filming and were replaced with film aircraft as well as World War II anti-aircraft turrets. Other ships used in filler scenes included USS Hornet, and USS Constellation during filming for the carrier sequences. Filming was also done on board the museum battleship USS Texas located near Houston, Texas.


3.1. Release Marketing

The first trailer was released in 2000 and was shown alongside screenings of Cast Away and O Brother, Where Art Thou?, with another trailer released in Spring 2001, shown before Pokemon 3: The Movie.

Disney chose to premiere the film inside Pearl Harbor itself, aboard the active nuclear aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, which made a six-day trip from San Diego to serve as "the worlds largest and most expensive outdoor theater". More than 2.000 people attended the premiere on the Stennis, which had special grandstand seating and one of the worlds largest movie screens assembled on the flight deck. The guests included various Hawaii political leaders, most of the lead actors from the film, and over 500 news media from around the world that Disney flew in to cover the event. The party was estimated to have cost Disney $5 million.


3.2. Release Box office

Pearl Harbor grossed $198.542.554 at the domestic box office and $250.678.391 overseas for a worldwide total of $449.220.945, ahead of Shrek. The film was ranked the sixth highest-earning picture of 2001. It is also the third highest-grossing romantic drama film of all time, as of January 2013, behind Titanic and Ghost.


3.3. Release Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD on December 4, 2001. In its first week, it sold more than 7 Million Units and made more than $130.000.000 in Retail Sales.

The film was also released in 2002 as an R-rated four disc Directors Cut DVD, which included about a minute of additional footage.


4. Reception

Pearl Harbor received generally negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, The film holds an approval rating of 24% based on 192 reviews, with an average rating of 4.52/10. The sites critical consensus reads: Pearl Harbor tries to be the Titanic of war movies, but its just a tedious romance filled with laughably bad dialogue. The 40-minute action sequence is spectacular, though." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 44 out of 100 based on 35 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film one and a half stars, writing: Pearl Harbor is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how, on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality. The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them". Ebert also criticized the liberties the film took with historical facts: "There is no sense of history, strategy or context; according to this movie, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor because America cut off its oil supply, and they were down to an 18-month reserve. Would going to war restore the fuel sources? Did they perhaps also have imperialist designs? Movie doesnt say."

A. O. Scott of the New York Times wrote, "Nearly every line of the script drops from the actors mouths with the leaden clank of exposition, timed with bad sitcom beats". USA Today gave the film two out of four stars and wrote, "Ships, planes and water combust and collide in Pearl Harbor, but nothing else does in one of the wimpiest wartime romances ever filmed."

In his review for The Washington Post, Desson Howe wrote, "although this Walt Disney movie is based, inspired and even partially informed by a real event referred to as Pearl Harbor, the movie is actually based on the movies Top Gun, Titanic and Saving Private Ryan. Dont get confused." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "Affleck, Hartnett and Beckinsale – a British actress without a single worthy line to wrap her credible American accent around – are attractive actors, but they cant animate this moldy romantic triangle". Time magazines Richard Schickel criticized the love triangle: "It requires a lot of patience for an audience to sit through the dithering. Theyre nice kids and all that, but they dont exactly claw madly at one another. Its as if they know that someday theyre going to be part of "the Greatest Generation" and dont want to offend Tom Brokaw. Besides, megahistory and personal history never integrate here".

Entertainment Weekly was more positive, giving the film a "B−" rating, and Owen Gleiberman praised the Pearl Harbor attack sequence: "Bays staging is spectacular but also honorable in its scary, hurtling exactitude. There are startling point-of-view shots of torpedoes dropping into the water and speeding toward their targets, and though Bay visualizes it all with a minimum of graphic carnage, he invites us to register the terror of the men standing helplessly on deck, the horrifying split-second deliverance as bodies go flying and explosions reduce entire battleships to liquid walls of collapsing metal".

In his review for The New York Observer, Andrew Sarris wrote, "here is the ironic twist in my acceptance of Pearl Harbor – the parts I liked most are the parts before and after the digital destruction of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese carrier planes" and felt that Pearl Harbor is not so much about World War II as it is about movies about World War II. And whats wrong with that?"


5. Historical accuracy

Like many historical dramas, Pearl Harbor provoked debate about the artistic license taken by its producers and director. National Geographic Channel produced a documentary called Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor detailing some of the ways that "the films final cut didnt reflect all the attacks facts, or represent them all accurately". The film was ranked number three on Careeraftermilitary.coms "10 Most Inaccurate Military Movies Ever Made," which also included The Patriot, The Hurt Locker, U-571, The Green Berets, Windtalkers, Battle of the Bulge, Red Tails, Enemy at the Gates and Flyboys on its list of falsified war movie productions.

Many surviving victims of Pearl Harbor dismissed the film as grossly inaccurate and pure Hollywood. In an interview done by Frank Wetta, producer Jerry Bruckheimer was quoted saying: "We tried to be accurate, but its certainly not meant to be a history lesson". Historian Lawrence Suids review is particularly detailed as to the major factual misrepresentations of the film and the negative impact they have even on an entertainment film, as he notes that "the very name of the film implies that audiences will be witnessing a historic event, accurately rendered".

The inclusion of Afflecks character in the Eagle Squadron is another inaccurate aspect of the film, since active-duty U.S. airmen were prohibited from joining the squadron, although some American civilians did join the RAF.

One of the films scenes show Japanese aircraft targeting medical staff and the bases hospital. Although it was damaged in the attack, the Japanese did not deliberately target the U.S. naval hospital and only a single member of its medical staff was killed as he crossed the navy yard to report for duty.

Critics decried the use of fictional replacements for real people, declaring that Pearl Harbor was an "abuse of artistic license". The roles the two male leads have in the attack sequence are analogous to the real historical deeds of United States Army Air Forces Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, who took to the skies in P-40 Warhawk aircraft during the Japanese attack and, together, claimed six Japanese aircraft and a few probables. Taylor, who died in November 2006, called the film adaptation "a piece of trash. over-sensationalized and distorted".

The harshest criticism was aimed at instances in the film where actual historical events were altered for dramatic purposes. For example, Admiral Kimmel did not receive the report that a Japanese midget submarine was being attacked until after the bombs began falling, and did not receive the first official notification of the attack until several hours after the attack ended.

The scene following the attack on Pearl Harbor, where President Roosevelt demands an immediate retaliatory strike on the soil of Japan, did not happen as portrayed in the film. Admiral Chester Nimitz and General George Marshall are seen denying the possibility of an aerial attack on Japan, but in real life they actually advocated such a strike. Another inconsistency in this scene is when President Roosevelt who was at this time in his life, stricken and bound to a wheelchair due to Polio is able to stand up to challenge his staffs distrust in a strike on Japan, which never really happened. In another scene Admiral Yamamoto says "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant", a quote which was copied from the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora!, even though there is no printed evidence to prove Yamamoto made this statement or wrote it down.

The portrayal of the planning of the Doolittle Raid, the air raid itself, and the raids aftermath, is considered one of the most historically inaccurate portions of the film. In the film, Jimmy Doolittle and the rest of the Doolittle raiders had to launch from USS Hornet 624 miles off the Japanese coast and after being spotted by a few Japanese patrol boats. In actuality, the Doolittle raiders had to launch 650 miles off the Japanese coast and after being spotted by only one Japanese patrol boat. In the film, the only raiders shown in the raid are depicted as dropping their bombs on Tokyo, with some of the bomb blasts obliterating entire buildings. In actuality, the Doolittle raiders did bomb Tokyo but also targeted three other industrial cities, and the damage inflicted was minimal. Prior to the raid a chalkboard containing plans for the raid does accurately reflect other destination cities, but this is mostly obscured from view and never discussed in the dialogue. The same chalkboard does mostly contain the names of the actual Doolittle Raiders in all but the 6th and 9th aircraft where the fictional names of the two main characters are substituted. The film shows the Doolittle raider airmen in China overcoming the Japanese soldiers in a short gun battle with help from a strafing B-25, which never happened in real life.


5.1. Historical accuracy Other inconsistencies and anachronisms

Numerous other inconsistencies and anachronisms are present in the film, and it appears that "little to no effort was used to try and hide or disguise modern warships to match the early 1940s setting."

Some other historical inaccuracies found in the film include the early childhood scenes depicting a Stearman biplane crop duster in 1923; the aircraft was not accurate for the period, as the first commercial crop-dusting company did not begin operation until 1924, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not purchase its first cotton-dusting aircraft until April 16, 1926. The crop duster in the first scene set in 1923 was not commercially available until the late 1930s.

The later series cannon armed Spitfires used in the film were inaccurate, as the RAF had chiefly machine gun-armed Spitfire Mk I/IIs during the Battle of Britain. Limited number of early cannon-armed Spitfires Mk.IB served for brief time with No. 19 Squadron RAF, but these proved to be too unreliable and were soon withdrawn from active service. They also differed slightly from later cannon-armed Spitfire versions, which possessed both autocannons and machine guns, as their armament consisted of single 20 mm British Hispano cannon in each wing only Yet another flaw: Ben Afflecks Spitfire has insignia "RF" – this is an insignia of No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron.

A sailor has a pack of Marlboro Light cigarettes in his pocket, not introduced until 1972. In the beginning of the movie, a newsreel of 1940 is presented with combat footage in Europe, showing a M-26 Pershing tank fighting in the city of Cologne, which did not happen until March 1945. Earlier, a newsreel of the Battle of Britain in 1940 shows a Focke Wulf 190, which did not see active service until 1941.

Actor Michael Milhoan is seen as an army major advising Admiral Kimmel about island air defenses on Oahu. On the morning of the attack, he is seen commanding a radar station. While playing chess he is addressed as "lieutenant" but, in a further inconsistency, is seen wearing the insignia of an army captain.

Four Spruance -class destroyers tied abreast of each other at their pier are seen being bombed by the Japanese planes, although this class of ship only entered service with the US Navy in the 1970s. The retired Iowa -class battleship USS Missouri was used to represent USS West Virginia for Dorie Millers boxing match. West Virginia did not have the modernized World War II-era bridge and masts found on newer U.S. battleships until her reconstruction was finished in 1943, while the Iowa class did not enter service until 1943 onwards. In one shot, the USS Arizona memorial is briefly visible in the background during a scene taking place several months before the attack. Miller is shown as a Petty Officer Second Class; but he was actually a Petty Officer Third Class.

Countless other technical lapses rankled film critics, such as Bays decision to paint the Japanese Zero fighters green most of the aircraft in the attack were painted light gray/white, even though he knew that was historically inaccurate, because he liked the way the aircraft looked and because it would help audiences differentiate the "good guys from the bad guys".

One of Doolittles trophies in a display case depicts a model of an F-86 Sabre, which was not flown until 1947.

Late production models of the B-25J were used instead of the early B-25B.

Several shots of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet depicted it as having an angled flight deck, a technology that was not implemented until after the war, although no U.S. straight flight deck carriers exist anymore. While Hornet was portrayed by a World War II-era vessel USS Lexington, Hornet was a Yorktown -class aircraft carrier two members of the Yorktown -class were lost in the war and the survivor was scrapped, whereas Lexington was a modernized Essex -class aircraft carrier. The takeoff sequences for the Doolittle Raid were filmed on USS Constellation, a Kitty Hawk -class aircraft carrier which did not enter service until 1961. As a supercarrier, Constellation has a much longer flight deck than the Yorktown or Essex -class carriers, giving the B-25s a substantially longer and safer takeoff run. The Japanese carriers are portrayed more correctly by comparison -, Akagi and Hiryū did have their bridge/conning tower superstructure on the port side rather than the more common starboard configuration. In the movie it was done by maneuvering an Essex -class aircraft carrier backwards to act as Akagi.

An establishing shot of the US Department of War building is clearly a shot of the exterior of the US Capitol Building. In 1941, the War Department was housed in the War Department Building in Washingtons Foggy Bottom neighborhood renamed the Harry S Truman Building in 2000 and in the Munitions Building on the National Mall. Neither structure bears any architectural resemblance to the building shown in the film.


6. In popular culture

The soundtrack for the 2004 film Team America: World Police contains a song entitled "End of an Act". The songs chorus recounts, Pearl Harbor sucked, and I miss you" equating the singers longing for his girlfriend to how much "Michael Bay missed the mark when he made Pearl Harbor which is "an awful lot, girl". The ballad contains other common criticisms of the film, concluding with the rhetorical question "Why does Michael Bay get to keep on making movies?"

The 2004 film Churchill: The Hollywood Years, a satire on the Hollywood take on history, references the portrayal of the American contribution to the Battle of Britain early in Pearl Harbor.


7. Soundtrack

The soundtrack to Pearl Harbor on Hollywood Records was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score lost to the score of Moulin Rouge!. The original score was composed by Hans Zimmer. The song "There Youll Be" was nominated for the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.

  • December 7 – 5:08
  • Attack – 8:56
  • Brothers – 4:04
  • War – 5:15
  • .And Then I Kissed Him – 5:37
  • Tennessee – 3:40
  • I Will Come Back – 2:54
  • "There Youll Be" – song performed by Faith Hill
  • Heart of a Volunteer – 7:05
Total Album Time 46:21
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