May 26, 2001
Sitting through "Pearl
Harbor" felt like sitting through three other, better, movies:
"From Here to Eternity," "Tora, Tora, Tora" and
"Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo." As with just about all
movies these days, you can say, "The story sucked, but the effects
were good." Since I will always believe that special effects
exist strictly as an aid to storytelling, if the story sucks, but the
effects are good, that still means that the film sucked. Good
effects will never make a good film.
The subplots are so slim as to be almost nonexistent. The story of Cuba Gooding, Jr., the black cook who took over a 50-caliber machine gun and shot down several Japanese planes, is actually a better story than the main plot, but gets totally short-shrifted. We meet him once and he is very improbably having a boxing match with some big white guy on the deck of a ship. I can just see the little wheels spinning in the minds of Bruckheimer, Bay, and writer Randall Wallace, "We have to set up Cuba as a real fighter, but we don't want to waste any time on this since we only have three hours." "Hey! What if he's in the middle of a boxing match when we first meet him? That way we don't really have to bother with any of that annoying character development stuff and we know he's a fighter." Then there's a chorus of "Yeahs!" and "Rights!" as though they just had a good idea.
We never really get to know any of the other fliers or sailors or nurses, so killing them doesn't mean anything. When one of them dies, I had to strain my memory to try and recall if this was character I'd actually met before. This is "Pearl Harbor's" biggest downfall -- getting the audience to care about the characters is absolutely imperative if you're going to spend most of the movie almost killing them, or actually killing them. Without characters to relate to it's all a lot of Sturm und Drang. Boom, boom, boom. This may be sufficient for the modern audience, but for me it was a crashing bore. I'd say the key word in describing this film is: Interminable.
Also, casting Jon Voight as FDR is pretty weird. He certainly doesn't look like him, no matter how much make-up they apply, and he doesn't really sound like him, either. (Where's Ralph Bellamy when you need him?).
Yes, the digital effects are state-of-the-art and quite impressive -- everything blows up real good. But I'd personally much rather see all those effects used to blow up our enemies instead of ourselves.
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