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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Pearl Harbor (2001)


Cause I’m proud to be an American, where Michael Bay makes crappy movies.

It was the morning of December 7, 1941, and as usual, everything was practically the same. Except, only a couple moments later, Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbor, killing thousands and injuring more, thus beginning America’s own, official involvement with WWII. However, despite the movie being named after that horrific event in our history that we will soon never forget, the story isn’t too concerned with that. What the story is concerned with is the life-long friendship between two pilots, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett). They’ve both been through thick and thin together from an early age, so they feel as if joining the U.S.A.’s Army Air Corps won’t even come close to putting a stranglehold on their friendship, however, they’re wrong. Dead wrong, to be exact and ironic. Because once Rafe volunteers to help out things for the British on their turf-war against the Germans, things go bad and Rafe winds up killed on the battlefield. This leaves Danny devastated, just as much as it leaves Evelyn Stewart (Kate Beckinsale), the little Navy nurse that Rafe shacked-up with before he went off to-duty. Now that Rafe is gone from both of their lives, the only thing that Danny and Evelyn can do is move on, which ultimately means that they have to start banging one another. Which is fine for quite some time, that is, until Rafe turns out to be alive after all! Dun dun dun!

And I do promise you that the Japanese planes do eventually come into play and start bombing the hell out of Pearl Harbor, however, you’ve got to wad through almost two hours of poor character-development, horrendous acting, a cheesy love-triangle that couldn’t be any less unemotional or compelling, obvious propaganda, war movie clichés where fellow soldiers make dirty sex jokes to one another, Japanese army generals looking as if they only sleep, eat and breath death and destruction, and Jon Voight in a rubber double-chin.

Yawn. Where's the explosions?

Yawn. Where’s the explosions?

And even then, yes, the movie still gets a slight recommendation from me.

I know, I know, I know! The flames from hell will rise up with that statement, but please do let me explain. I assure you: If I do not convince you that this is an “okay movie” in the most respectable, reasonable sense-of-the-word, then I give you the right to just automatically block my blog from your mind, for the rest of your natural-born life. Deal? Okay, then. Let’s get started, shall I?

Honestly, it makes sense why this movie was made: A similar, star-crossed lovers romance flick, that just so happened to take place around a disastrous time, in a certain place, Titanic, made a lot of big bucks and brought home almost every statue imaginable, so why not try to emulate that success once again, but this time, with an even more tragic event in our country’s history, the attack on Pearl Harbors? Better yet, why not get an auteur who can not only bring us the emotional-cues we need to fall in love with these dream-boats, more so than they’re falling for each other, but also give us a realistic, jaw-dropping look at what the bombings most likely did feel like: Michael Bay? Yeah, that decision just never sits right with me and while I can see why they did nab him for this movie (more on that later), there’s still apart of me wondering about better, more able choices out there. I can’t really come up with any on the top of my head that would have been able to handle both the romance side of the story, as well as the action-spectacle surrounding it, but Michael Bay is nowhere near one of those names, except for maybe the later aspect (like I said, more on that later).

That’s probably why this movie gets its ass kicked so much by viewers and critics, because while it may promise you an endless array of shit blowing up to pieces, it doesn’t occur for quite some time and instead, we’re left with a romance that’s as titillating as watching you’re grand-parents celebrate their 60th anniversary together. It’s dull, it’s dry, it’s uneventful and as much as I hate to say it, but the only thing that makes these scenes a whole lot better to get through, is that you know the Pearl Harbor attack is only right around the bend. Terrible thing to think about a real-life event and actually to be looking forward to it, but when you put your mind through something like a Michael Bay movie, where all sorts of strangeness takes precedence, then you just have to hope for the best and wait to see what comes around.

Which is exactly why when the Pearl Harbor attacks happened, even though I’ve seen it about a hundred million times now (two of those times were actually watching the whole movie, all over again), it still was able to send chills up my spine, scare my shorts off and make me realize that for what it’s worth, Michael Bay can still direct the hell out of his action scenes and have them come off as something that’s close to the real thing. I know a lot of people will probably get on this movie’s case, as well as my own for even recommending it in the slightest bit, about how certain things that are portrayed in these attacks, didn’t really occur in real life, but to me, that didn’t quite hurt my feelings about this movie. I understand that with a Michael Bay movie, you have to sort of expect all types of craziness to happen, regardless of it is real or not. I know it sounds crazy to say that about the Pearl Harbor attacks, but seriously, it didn’t get into my brain as much because it was a Michael Bay movie. If it was anybody else like say James Cameron, or Steven Spielberg, or anybody else for that matter, then it would be a totally different story and predicament. However, when you have a Michael Bay movie on your hands, you sort of have to treat it like you would a five-year-old who doesn’t get their way: Just let them act-up, piss, moan and do whatever else it is that they do, just as long as you remember to make sure they get back on the right path.

May be a terrible analogy, may not be, but what I’m trying to get across is that while Michael Bay can, and does make many, many mistakes with this movie, the fact that he was able to show the Pearl Harbor attacks in the best way humanly possible back in the beginning of the New Millennium, more than makes up for those said mistakes. In fact, I’d wager that if you were really that interested in seeing what these Pearl Harbor attacks are all about and how they look, especially without even watching the rest of the crap that comes before it, then just check it all out on YouTube. Probably easier and better for your mind, eyes, soul and time-management. But I’m a movie critic and I watch full-length movies, in their entirety. Which, in essence, means that when I watch a movie, I watch the full she-bang just in case I may miss something that I do, or don’t like.

And believe it or not, there’s actually one more aspect surrounding this movie that I did in fact like: The cast.

That's more like it! I guess? I don't know?

That’s more like it! I guess? I don’t know?

Actually, let me rephrase that better by saying, “the supporting cast”. See, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck (pre-directing days, people, so it’s alright to bash him if you want), though with their best intentions, absolutely suck the life out of this movie. Affleck is barely around since he “dies” in the first twenty or so minutes, only to show up an-hour-and-a-half later and do nothing else other than yell, shoot down Japanese soldiers and try to teach his best-buddy a lesson about banging his girlfriend while he was away, so I guess he doesn’t totally count. Which then leaves us to be stuck with Beckinsale and Hartness who have no chemistry whatsoever, can’t seem to get through even the shittiest of lines without struggling a bit and show no charisma at all. They just seem like they were thrown on a platter, told to talk to one another by their chaperon Michael Bay and did what they had to do so that they could collect that paycheck, go on home to their significant other, sweet-talk them into the next morning and get back to the day’s next events. Which, most likely, consisted of the same, meandering crap of boring us to death.

But since they suck so much, this does leave plenty of room for the supporting cast to charm the hell out of us, and that is exactly what most of them do, for better and definitely for worse. Alec Baldwin gets the “Affleck treatment” here as well, where he shows up for no more than five minutes in the first-half, does his bit, makes us laugh, and practically is non-existent for the next two-and-a-half hours, until he shows back up and does the same thing as before: Act nutty and steal the show. Cuba Gooding Jr. gets to do the same kind of stuff, except for the fact that he feels criminally underused in a film that could have used his warmth and charm to help the movie move along. However, he’s still fine. Same goes for Tom Sizemore who, once again, plays a gritty, raw and unfrightened military sergeant who isn’t afraid to bring out the big guns in the heat of the battle. Then we have Jon Voight as the previously-mentioned, rubber double-chin president, FDR, and is fine for giving us somebody that is obviously Jon Voight playing FDR, but is still enjoyable enough to give him a pass. Same goes for the likes of Jennifer Garner, Ewen Bremner, Michael Shannon, Colm Feore and heck, even Jamie King, who never does anything for me, EVER in any other flick. She’s just another set of beautiful, bright eyes and nice……talents, which probably made her the love of Michael Bay’s life for the whole time they were shooting. All until she got creeped out, told him to piss off and he was about done with her. Hey, not like it hasn’t ever happened!

Consensus: Undeniably hokey, badly-written, hollow and laughably idiotic at times, and yet, Pearl Harbor is still okay enough to watch, if only for the amazing Pearl Harbor sequence itself, and some supporting performances that have you forget about the awful leads practically doing nothing with what they’re given, which is even worse considering it’s a Michael Bay movie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Convince you yet? Probably not, but so be it! Michael Bay rules!

Convince you yet? Probably not, but so be it! So I’ll just let it all out: Michael Bay rules!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

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25 responses to “Pearl Harbor (2001)

  1. ninvoid99 December 7, 2013 at 4:16 am

    If you ever wonder why I fucking loathe Michael Bay. It’s because of this film. It is absolutely the worst film ever made. It is filled with too many historical inaccuracies, some of the worst visual effects ever, the way the attack is presented is extremely insane in the worst way, and it has a scene where it’s shot from the viewpoint of a bomb. The dramatic elements of the story isn’t up to snuff as the romance is extremely hokey. If you ever wondered what a bad history term paper looked like. This piece of shit is the perfect example.

  2. thomasjford December 7, 2013 at 8:33 am

    “cause Pearl Harbour sucks, and so do you” Not YOU Dan!

  3. teny December 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

    I remember not liking this movie, despite the fact that it was so much hyped here! Great take! :)

  4. jjames36 December 7, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I don’t know that you convinced me this movie is good. But I won’t your block your blog from my memory anyway. :-)

    I do agree the Pearl Harbor is solidly put together.

  5. ckckred December 7, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    Nice review. The movie is a mess, and the attempted tear jerking scenes are unabashedly sentimental and sloppy.

  6. poppeelings December 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    This film is a piece of shit and basically vintage army porn.

  7. Pingback: LATE NIGHT SPILL 13: film? what film? | Films and Coke

  8. Tom December 8, 2013 at 1:50 am

    Good to see you taking a stand for this film in any way you can. That’s more than I can do for this film!! lol. I admit that some of the destruction of the Harbor was pretty dramatic and heartbreaking but the rest of the story was simply god-awful. You mentioned up top how it might be different and possibly better with another director in place. I wonder what this could have been with Cameron directing. . . I didn’t like a lot of the romantic subplot of Titanic (because it wasn’t a subplot at all), but a lot of it worked for me.

    • CMrok93 December 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm

      This was just another attempt at something like Titanic, and while it obviously didn’t reach that movie’s success, it still had some fun moments. “Some”, being the key word.

  9. Three Rows Back December 8, 2013 at 8:54 pm

    Ha ha, good write up Dan. It felt like this movie went on as long as the Second World War.

  10. Zoë December 9, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Sheesh haven’t seen this in years. You have convinced me to look into it again though.

  11. Jordan Richardson December 10, 2013 at 5:57 am

    Oh goodness, this movie is so terrible. So, so terrible. At least you braved the waters again and managed to get something out of it. Nice review, bro.

  12. 55theintimidator55 December 12, 2013 at 12:09 am

    This movie is NOT terrible!!! I couldn’t disagree with you more!!! This is a great movie. You’re lucky I don’t take you up on that bet to unfollow you. The blasphemy!!!

  13. stephen1001 March 14, 2014 at 3:01 am

    “pearl Harbor sucked…and I miss you” – one of the great songs in recent movie memory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z3GJiZqDCI

    But I agree – the film itself, not magic but not completely unwatchable!

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