Pearl Harbor (film)

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Pearl Harbor
Image:Pearl harbor movie poster.jpg
promotional poster for theatrical release
Directed by Michael Bay
Produced by Michael Bay
Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by Randall Wallace
Starring Ben Affleck
Josh Hartnett
Kate Beckinsale
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Jon Voight
Alec Baldwin
Jennifer Garner
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date(s) May 21 2001 (USA premiere)
Running time 183 min.
Language English/Japanese/
Budget $132,250,000 US (est.)
IMDb profile

Pearl Harbor is a war film released in the summer of 2001 by Touchstone Pictures. It stars Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Jon Voight, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Cuba Gooding Jr., Dan Aykroyd, Jaime King, and Jennifer Garner. It was a dramatic re-imagining of the attack on Pearl Harbor, produced by the team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, who had previously directed such summer mega-blockbusters as Armageddon and The Rock. The final section of the movie relates the Doolittle Raid, the first American attack on the Japanese home islands in World War II.


[edit] Production, release, and critical response

Pearl Harbor was released Memorial Day weekend in 2001. Despite its dazzling special effects and a massive promotional campaign, the movie received negative reviews, as its 25% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer indicates. Many critics dismissed the film as visually polished but historically insensitive, also citing such literary flaws such as the banal dialogue, underdeveloped love triangle plot, and the shallow nature of the lead characters.<ref></ref>

Critic Roger Ebert summarized Pearl Harbor as "a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on December 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle," and claimed that, "The filmmakers seem to have aimed the film at an audience that may not have heard of Pearl Harbor, or perhaps even of World War Two."<ref></ref>

Director Michael Bay has said that Roger Ebert's criticism of Pearl Harbor has to be the most offensive of his entire career. According to Michael Bay: "He commented on TV that bombs don't fall like that. Does he actually think we didn't research every nook and cranny of how armor-piercing bombs fell? He's watched too many movies. He thinks they all fall flat — armor-piercing bombs fall straight down, that's the way it was designed! But HE's on the air pontificating and giving the wrong information. That's insulting!"<ref></ref>

The grandiloquent tone of the film was frequently cited as the polar opposite of the 1998 Steven Spielberg film Saving Private Ryan[citation needed].

Although the movie cost approximately U.S. $132 million to film and promote, it grossed a modest U.S. $200 million at the domestic box office, but it soon earned a respectable $450 million worldwide. Despite many believing it was a disappointment, the film was actually one of the highest-earning pictures of 2001. Pearl Harbor was released on DVD on December 4, 2001, three days before the actual 60th anniversary of the attack.

At the 2002 Academy Awards, Pearl Harbor was nominated for four awards, winning one for Sound Effects Editing. Its other nominations were for Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Song. [citation needed]

At the 2001 Golden Raspberry Awards Pearl Harbor was nominated for six awards: Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Couple, Worst Actor (Ben Affleck), and Worst Remake or Sequel (presumably of the 1970 film Tora! Tora! Tora! [citation needed])—but lost to Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered in all but the latter category, wherein it lost to Tim Burton's version of Planet of the Apes. [citation needed]

In addition, many Pearl Harbor survivors dismissed the film as grossly inaccurate and pure Hollywood, and the film's depiction of James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle as a loud, arrogant egotist as opposed to the warm, genial, brave, and modest man he truly was drew the wrath of everyone who had known the man in his lifetime.

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) remain the acknowledged best cinemactic treatments of the Pearl Harbor attack and the Doolittle Raid.

[edit] DVD release

A two-disc Commemorative 60th Anniversary Edition was released on December 4, 2001. This release included the feature on disc one, and on disc two, Journey to the Screen, a 47 minute documentary on the monumental production of the film, Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor, a 50 minute documentary on little known heroes of the attack, a Faith Hill music video, and theatrical trailers.

A Pearl Harbor DVD giftset that includes the Commemorative Edition two disc set, National Geographic's "Beyond the Movie" feature, and a dual-sided map was released concurrently on December 4, 2001.

A deluxe Vista Series director's cut of the film was released on July 2, 2002. The extended cut of the film included the insertion of additional gore, Doolittle addressing the pilots before the raid, and the removal of a campfire scene; it runs at 184 minutes compared to the 183 minutes of the theatrical cut. This elaborate package includes four discs of film and bonus features, a replication of Roosevelt's speech, collectible promotional postcard posters, and a carrying case that resembles an historic photo album. The bonus features include all the features included on the commemorative edition, plus additional footage.

[edit] Replacing real figures

The roles that the two male leads played by Affleck and Hartnett have in the attack sequence are analogous to the real historical deeds of U.S. Army Air Corps Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, who took to the skies during the Japanese attack and, between the two pilots, shot down between six and 10 (depending on source) Japanese fighters. However, the movie itself makes no mention of or allusion to Welch's and Taylor's existence in history, and the movie's plot involving the leads, aside from their roles in the attack sequence, does not match any other historical account of Welch or Taylor.

Because Bay's movie makes no mention of or allusion to Welch's and Taylor's existence, some consider the very presence of the two fictional main characters in their steads a blatant usurpation of the true historical figures' roles. This point, when coupled with what many critics feel is an arbitrary and ill-conceived love triangle plot involving the fictional replacements, makes some regard Pearl Harbor as an abuse of artistic licence.<ref></ref>

[edit] Historical inaccuracies

Like many historical dramas, Pearl Harbor provoked debate about the artistic licence taken by its producers and director. Mark Carnes, history professor at Barnard College and general editor of Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies (ISBN 0-8050-3759-4), commented on this subject in general terms during a NewsHour interview broadcast three years before Pearl Harbor was released:

The difficulty is this. The truths of the movie tend to be clean and pure and powerful and simple. And history never is; history is complex, muddy, difficult. Movies make good guys too good, bad guys too bad. They adopt narrative lines that are too simple, all in an effort to reach a broad audience. The more expensive the movie, the greater the need to reach a huge audience, an audience that can quickly apprehend its themes. You know, this emphasis on simplicity and power and immediately hitting your audience means that the movies are much too simple compared to the past. I don't think there's any harm in that.<ref></ref>

Nevertheless, there have been historical epics such as the films The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, and Gettysburg that depicted the events with commendable accuracy and eschewed sensationalisim and love triangles. These three also were based on best-selling books or historical novels as well.

National Geographic Channel produced a documentary called Beyond the Movie: Pearl Harbor<ref></ref> <ref></ref> which covers some of the ways that "the film's final cut didn't reflect all the attacks' facts, or represent them all accurately"<ref name="cnnstudent"></ref>.

Inaccuracies include, but are not limited to:

  • Early childhood sequences:
    • Stearman biplane (the crop-duster aircraft) was not produced until 1935. The opening scene of the film is set in 1923. Many Hollywood movies in the 1960's and 1970's used a Stearman as their stock 'old biplane'. A more appropriate aircraft would be a Curtiss JN 4 'Jenny', but very few are available for this sort of work.
  • Battle of Britain sequences:
    • A four-bladed Supermarine Spitfire is shown during the Battle of Britain in the film. It is a Spitfire model that was not available until 1942, though the Battle of Britain took place during 1940 (specifically July through October). Most early-mark restored and airworthy Spitfires are usually brought up to Mk IX standard with a series 41 or 61 Rolls Royce/ Packard Merlin, which requires a four bladed propellor to absorb the power of the engine. Spitfires used during the Battle of Britain had a three bladed Rotol two pitch propeller. Another Spitfire shown during the filming in Europe was a Mark 22. This version of the Spitfire had four 20mm cannons, a "bubble" canopy and a 2,000hp Rolls Royce Griffon engine with a five bladed Rotol propeller. This version did not become operational until late 1945. It was very inacurate for the time period the film makers wanted to recreate.
    • Ben Affleck's character is portrayed as joining the Royal Air Force (RAF) as part of the Eagle squadron; U.S. servicemen were prohibited from doing so, though American civilians were allowed<ref name="cnnstudent" />. His eyesight would have been checked for RAF service.
    • Ben Affleck was based at RAF Oakley. This base was actually a training base in the war, not a fighter base. Historians point out that during the hot August summer of 1940, such expedients invariably did take place from time to time, and even for squadron training exercises.
    • Affleck's character flies with a Royal Air Force squadron (which used Supermarine Spitfires), but the planes actually featured in the movie bear the RF code letters of the No. 303 Polish Fighter Squadron and are, in fact, Hawker Hurricanes.
    • During the Battle of Britain flight sequences, the British Spitfires are shown flying in the standard American four-ship formation. The British actually flew in the three-ship Vee or "VIC" formation. Again this is open to dispute, because by the time of the late Battle, the RAF had adopted the German Luftwaffe 'Rotte' and 'Schwarm' system, known in RAF parlance as the 'Finger Four', which the USAF itself adopted as 'Four Ship' formation.
  • Pearl Harbor sequences:
    • The USS Arizona Memorial, which straddles the sunken USS Arizona, can be briefly seen in a pan shot. The memorial was dedicated in the 1960's.
    • President Roosevelt did not receive the news of the Pearl Harbor attack by an aide or advisor running into the room. He was having lunch with Harry Hopkins, a trusted friend, and he received a phone call from Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Hopkins refused to believe the report. The President believed it. <ref></ref>
    • Admiral Kimmel had received warnings about an attack but, thinking them vague, did not put his forces on full-scale alert. This contradicts the film's portrayal of Kimmel as a leader railing against Washington's apathy about the Japanese threat.<ref name="cnnstudent" />
    • Even though he specifically asked for, by dispatch and in person, all information, Admiral Kimmel never received the secret or "magic" dispatches that showed vital information. He also never received the famous 14-part message that the Japanese were delivering in response to the U.S. "ultimatum" of November 26. Especially not the 14th part which indicated the 1:00 p.m. (EST) delivery of the message and ordering the destruction of the "coding" equipment, even though this had been decoded some 9 hours before the attack.<ref name=Kimmel> Admiral Kimmels Story, Henry Regnery Co., 1955.</ref>
    • The reports that were given to Admiral Kimmel led him and his staff (as well as General Short, the Commander of the Hawaiian Army units) to believe that if Japan did attack, it would be somewhere in the southwest Pacific and not Pearl Harbor. In fact, they concurred when he deployed his task forces away from Hawaii. Before Pearl Harbor was attacked, he had deployed them around Wake and Midway Islands.<ref name=Kimmel/>
    • The so-call "War Warning" dispatch that Admiral Kimmel received on November 27, 1941, did not warn the Pacific Fleet of an attack in the Hawaiian area. It did not state expressly or by implication that an attack in the Hawaiian area was imminent or probable. It did not repeal or modify the advice previously given me by the Navy Department that no move against Pearl Harbor was imminent or planned by Japan. The dispatch warned of war in the Far East. The number and equipment of Japanese troops and the organization of Naval task forces indicates an amphibious expedition against either the Philippines, Thailand, or Kra Peninsula, or possibly Borneo.<ref name=Kimmel/>
    • Admiral Kimmel was not on a golf course on the morning of the attack, nor was he notified of the Japanese embassy leaving Washington, D.C., prior to the attack. The first official notification of the attack was received by General Short several hours after the attack had ended. Also, the report of attacking an enemy midget-submarine, in real life, did not report sinking the sub.
    • At the time of the attack, the battleships in Battleship Row were tied directly together, not spaced apart as they were in the movie.
    • In the movie, in excess of eleven Mitsubishi A6M "Zero" fighters were destroyed or downed. In reality, only nine Zero fighters were destroyed by any means in the real bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    • Japanese aircraft of that period were painted light grey, not green.
    • Navy Nurse Betty dies during the Pearl Harbor attack, but no Navy Nurses died as a result of enemy action during the entirety of World War II, including the attack on Pearl Harbor.
    • The ward dresses of the nurses have a different style than the ones Navy Nurses actually wore during WWII, and no nurse would have worked with long hair falling freely about her shoulders.
    • Some of the bombed ships are actually mothballed Knox-class frigates, Ticonderoga Cruisers and Spruance-class destroyers, with the box launchers for anti-submarine rockets, known as ASROCs, visible. That technology was not available until the 1960s.
    • The FF-1062 USS Whipple can be seen clearly in a background shot of the boxing scene on the USS Arizona.
    • One of the intelligence photographs taken by the Japanese spies shows a North Carolina class battleship none of which were in Pearl Harbor at that time.
    • A retired Iowa class battleship was used to represent the USS West Virginia for Dorie Miller's boxing match. However, the main gun barrels are corked, which is unusual during wartime or training exercises. Furthermore, Iowa battleships have a 3x3 main gun configuration versus the 4x2 layout of the West Virginia. Also, the West Virginia did not have the WWII-era bridge and masts found on newer U.S. battleships until reconstruction was finished in 1943.
    • In the film, the P-40N model of the P-40 Warhawk U.S. fighter aircraft is shown. However, the 'N' model of the P-40 was not available to the United States until 1943.
    • In reality, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, although he planned the attack, was not present on any of the carriers that bombed Pearl Harbor. He was aboard the battleship Nagato in Tokyo Bay, where he heard reports of the attack and supposedly made his famous "sleeping giant" statement.
    • Yamamoto's "Sleeping Giant" quote is not only mis-quoted (In the film, he says "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant" when the full version is "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.") but almost certainly an invention by the screenwriter of Tora! Tora! Tora! Larry Forrester. Neither he, the director nor producer of that movie could produce the documents to support the claim. Pearl Harbor screenwriter Randall Wallace readily admits he took the line from the earlier film.
    • P-40 and Zero fighters are shown doing tight manuvers and incredibly dangerous stunts, almost like X-Wing fighters from Star Wars. Neither plane was that nimble, although the Zero was the most feared fighter of the Pacific War until the F6F Hellcat debuted in 1943.
    • Dorie Miller's actions during the battle are altered. In the film, Miller comforts Captain Mervyn S. Bennion and is with him when he dies. Miller then delivers the captain's last orders to the ship's executive officer and then mans a machine gun. In reality, Miller helped move Bennion to a safer location. Bennion continued to direct the battle until he died of his wounds just before the ship was abandoned. Miller is credited with shooting down two enemy planes.
    • The USS Texas doubles for the USS West Virginia during the sequences featuring Dorie Miller. The Texas is considerably different in design than the ship she portrays, most notably lacking the 'cage' masts that distinguished West Virginia and California-class battleships. During these sequences, the West Virginia appears moored by herself, but in reality the battleship Tennessee was moored inboard (between the West Virginia and Ford Island) at the time of the attack.
    • In the attack, a sailor is shown jumping clear of a falling Battleship "tripod" main mast. No Battleship lost a tripod mast in such a manner. Even with the sinking of the USS Oklahoma which capsized did a mast fall in such a way as shown in the film.
    • In the film, Dorie Miller is shown firing a twin Browning M2 Air Cooled 50 caliber machine gun. In reality, the .50 caliber machine guns found on the USS West Virginia were water-cooled with a large water cylnder around the barrel for cooling in a similiar manner to the .303 Vickers Heavy machine gun.
  • Doolittle Raid sequences:
    • In preparation for the attack, Doolittle (Baldwin) is show training the pilots on land in a flat, sparsely wooded valley near moutains somewhere in the American Southwest. The actual training was done at the airfield known today as Columbia Metropolitian Airport in West Columbia, South Carolina. Is is a far more verdant and mountainless area in the state's "Piedmont" topography. In fact, it continued to be training site for B-25 crews during the war which would use islands in the nearby Lake Murray for target practice. A crashed B-25 was recovered from the lake in the 1990's, restored and is now on display in the state museum.
    • Several shots of the USS Hornet aircraft carrier depicted it as having an angled flight deck, a technology that was not implemented until after the war. The Japanese carriers are portrayed more correctly by comparison—a few of them did have their bridge/conning tower superstructure on port side rather than the more common starboard configuration.
    • Affleck and Hartnett's characters are shown taking part in the Doolittle bombing raid over Tokyo which, as fighter pilots, they would not have been allowed to participate.
    • The B-25 Mitchells shown participating in the Raid are "J"-models, when the models used in the actual Raid were "B"-models.
    • Several crewmen on Affleck and Harnett's B-25's are killed in the firefight with the Japanese, including Harnett's character. In fact, no members of the raid were killed in this manner. Three airmen died in the crash landings in China, three were later executed as POWs by their Japanese captors, and one died of starvation in captivity. (Four other POWs were recovered alive near the end of the war).
  • Other inaccuracies:
    • Mitchel Field is incorrectly spelled "Mitchell Field."
    • Despite Long Island's flat, level surface, mountains are visible in the flying shots over Long Island.
    • Navy Nurse Betty claims to be 17 years old and that she has cheated with her age to be accepted, but Navy Nurses were required to be registered nurses to join the Navy Nurse Corps, which meant three years of prior training and passing a state board examination, very unlikely qualifications for any seventeen year old. The minimum age to join the Navy Nurse Corps was 22.
    • President Roosevelt is seen rising from his wheelchair to inspire his staff after the attack. There is no record of him having done - or even being capable of - this in real life.
    • The observation car seen in the train station was made for the California Zephyr, which did not appear until after WWII.
    • Hartnett's line "I think World War II just started". Time Magazine used the term World War II, to describe the conflict, within a week after Germany invaded Poland in 1939. The war did not start when the U.S. became involved; it started 2 years prior (although the character could simply be stating his view of the matter). Prior to the American involvement in World War II, World War I was still referred to as "The Great War" and didn't get the distinction of being called World War I until America joined World War II.
    • The sequence where Josh Hartnett's and Ben Affleck's characters 'play chicken' with their P-40's at the U.S. airbase is cited in the film as taking place in late 1941. This is prior to Affleck's departure to the UK to join Eagle Squadron in time for the Battle of Britain. There is no error here. Although the "Battle of Britain" (proper) took place from July through October, 1940, a lesser air battle continued thereafter. The first Eagle Squadron was formed in September 1940. Eventually, there were three Eagle Squadrons, right up until the U.S. entered the war (virtually the same timing as the Flying Tigers in China).
    • The Queen Mary is seen in New York Harbor in full Cunard colours. It is more likely that she would have been painted grey and would have served in war duties as either a troopship or hospital vessel. By late 1940, the Queen Mary was on her way to Sydney to be fitted out as a troopship.
    • The radar monitors shown in Pearl Harbor are of the more modern type which show the rotation of a dish. This type of radar was not in use at the time.
    • It is obvious that none of the characters in the movie smoke, which would have certainly been unusual in the early 1940's. Director Michael Bay chose to have a "no smoking policy", trying to push the fact that smoking is not good for people's health.
    • Steam catapults are used during carrier scenes, which were not implemented into aircraft carriers until the 1950's.
    • In a wide-angle shot, the distinct outline of a U.S. Kitty Hawk class aircraft carrier can be made out, the first of which was not commissioned until 1961. In the same shot, the sail of a modern submarine can be easily made out.
    • There is no reason that U.S. Navy nurses would be assessing whether pilot candidates in the U.S. Army Air Corps are fit to fly. It is reasonable to assume that the Army would use its own medical staff.
    • Doris Miller is shown receiving his Navy Cross on the deck of a battleship. He actually received his medal in a ceremony aboard an air craft carrier, the USS Enterprise, shortly before the Battle of Midway.
    • Prior to the attack, Admiral Yamamoto turns a Japanese calender to Sunday December 7 to make note of the date of the operation. In reality, when the attack started at 6:37 am Hawaii time, it was 1:37 am on Monday December 8 in Japan. The date December 7 was used because it is noted by Americans as the date of the attack. The Japanese version shows Yamamoto making note of the December 8 as the operation date.
    • The dollar bill with the overprint of Hawaii, did not come out until the summer of 1942.

[edit] Trivia

  • Matt Damon has an uncredited cameo as a gunner during the battle of Pearl Harbor. He did this for free, as a favor to Michael Bay.
  • During pre-production, the original name of the film was Tennessee, in which Rafe and Danny were Navy fliers based on the USS Tennessee (BB-43). Cuba Gooding's Dorie Miller character was to have a larger role in this draft as a friend of the main three characters and a mentor to Evelyn following Rafe's supposed death.
  • Ben Affleck agreed to take a pay cut in his salary, in case the movie went over budget.
  • Ashton Kutcher lobbied hard for the role of Danny Walker before he lost it to Josh Hartnett.
  • In nominal dollar terms, the production of this movie cost more than the then-current dollar value of damage caused by the actual attack in 1941.

[edit] References

General reference:

  • The Aviation Factfile: Aircraft of World War II, Edited by Jim Winchester. Grange Books, 2004.

Specific footnotes: <references />

[edit] External links

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Pearl Harbor (film)

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