'90s, "Titanic" came and broke every record in sight. It was a mammoth
success and is still the number one box office champ 4 years after its release.
James Cameron, the film's writer/director, hasn't done a movie since, which is
of his own
choice, because after the success of "Titanic," Cameron could have gotten a
$200 million dollar movie made about a pen sharpener and no one would raise a
hand in protest.
That brings us to what I have termed the Trivial Love Triangle
During a Major Historical Event movies. "Titanic" was most responsible
for the popularity of said genre, and every epic or would-be
epic has followed its formula ever since -- or so it seems. Two of the more notables
films in the genre are "Enemy
at the Gate" and this film, "Pearl Harbor."
Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, "Pearl Harbor"
followed "Titanic's" formula right down to the casting of a young English
woman to play an American who falls in love with the plain "farm boy"
American who charms her with "good ol American charm." (I put that
last phrase in quotes simply because the "charm" in question was
in the screenplay but not present onscreen in both movies.)
had Kate Beckinsale in the Kate Winslet role (same first names!) and Ben
Affleck in the Leo DiCaprio role. Josh Hartnett takes up the Billy Zane role,
although Hartnett is neither evil nor a bastard, despite sleeping with
Beckinsale when Affleck's character is believed to have been killed in action. He's a
"good" bastard, I suppose, is the right word. (This, incidentally, has
him more in common with the "other guy" character in "Enemy
at the Gates.")
"Pearl Harbor," as the name implies, is
about the surprised Japanese bombing of the Pearl Harbor Naval Base during World
War II. But the movie is more than that. The attack on the Harbor itself takes
up only 40 minutes of the film's nearly 3-hour running time. The first hour is
devoted to the sappy (and unconvincing) romance between Affleck and Beckinsale, then
later between Beckinsale
and Harnett (which proves just as unconvincing). The attack on Pearl Harbor takes up the second hour, and the third
hour involves the American retaliation, involving Doolittle's famous raid
The film is really one big music video by director Michael
Bay ("Armageddon"), who has always been accused of (and quite rightly
so) of being more style than substance. The dialogue in "Pearl
Harbor" is corny as hell, and it's a surprise Randall Wallace ("Braveheart")
had anything to do with this film. But I suppose it
makes sense to see Wallace's name in the credits. Wallace has made a career out
of writing historical epics, first with "Braveheart"
and then directing his own Vietnam epic, "We
Heavily aided by special effects, the attack on Pearl
Harbor is easily the film's highlight -- and my oh my what highlight it
is! When hundreds of Japanese Zeros (attack
planes) fill the sky while kids are playing baseball in a field, it's a sight to
behold. In that sense, Bay knows his stuff. But when it comes to the romance
angle, there's just nothing there to really get excited about. Kate Beckinsale
is appropriately stunning as the love interest, and it's easy to see why both
Hartnett and Affleck's characters are falling all over themselves to get her in
the sack. Unfortunately stiff dialogue and a general lack of chemistry between Beckinsale
and her male co-stars doom any sense of believability.
Nevertheless, there's still the action to hold onto. No one
can claim Michael Bay can't film action. Every frame of "Pearl Harbor"
is beautiful, and the man seamlessly integrates CGI bombs and Japanese planes
with the actual surroundings. Although I have to admit that it's a little disconcerting
that the best part of
the movie is the spectacular destruction of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. I know
the film itself is based around that subject matter, but I'm not quite sure how
I, as an American, am supposed to feel about such gleeful re-creation of one of
days in American history.
really doesn't deserve all the bad press it has received. It's an American film,
about an American subject matter, and all critics of its "pro"
American stance is, to put it frankly, blowing in the wind. Accusations of
"jingoism" is unwarranted, unfair, and narrow-minded. "Pearl
Harbor" may not be a fine example of moviemaking, but it's certainly a
spectacular example of action moviemaking.