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TSM DVD Review: Pearl Harbor the Director's Cut

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Pearl Harbor



Directed by Michael Bay

Written by Randall Wallace


Starring: Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale


Review by Jason Castleman


When Pearl Harbor was released it became one of those cool movies to hate. It didn't matter if you saw it or not, you just hated it. It made you look cool on the internet if you didn't like Pearl Harbor. Me? I never hid how much I liked the movie. If you've read my review of Black Hawk Down, take all the reasons I hated that movie and reverse them. That's why I liked Pearl Harbor.


Instead of giving a actual review of the movie, which has been reviewed to death by now, let me just take a couple of the reasons I've seen why people hate the movie and address them.


It's a love story. Well, duh. That's all it was ever meant to be. It was a love story set at Pearl Harbor, that's the plot. The attack was just a part of the movie to help tell the story. The horrible marketing on Disney's part was a huge part of the backlash of this movie. For those of us who paid attention to this movie since it's very beginnings you know that this movie was NEVER intended by the FILMMAKERS to be the definitive "Pearl Harbor" movie. It was never meant to be the new Tora, Tora, Tora. Just like Gone with the Wind isn't ABOUT the Civil War. It's a love story set during that time period. It was more about capturing the essence of the time period and how it affected the people around the event; not to teach everybody history lessons. The movie wasn't originally even titled Pearl Harbor. It was called Tennessee. It was the suits at Disney who forced the change to Pearl Harbor and marketed the movie as a straight forward "war" movie. Look at the trailers for the movie. All it shows is a bunch of bombs going off. It doesn't give anybody any sense at all that this movie is a love story. Director Michael Bay left the project 4 times over these problems. But of course the suits won eventually and now even Bay goes around dedicating MTV awards to Pearl Harbor's victims and has lost sight of what the movie was always meant to be.


Accuracy. Along the same lines as the first complaint. This script wasn't written to be the accurate, real life, factual right down to the second story of the Pearl Harbor attack. This isn't a documentary. This is just a movie. They are trying to tell a story and that's it. If something has to be changed to make the story they're trying to tell work better, so what? If you want the real facts, read a book. People even complained that the girls in the movie wore bikinis. The bikini wasn't invented until 1946. Good God. Shut up. Look at the hot girls in the bikinis and just shut the hell up. People complained about people not smoking enough because people smoked more often back then. What does that have to do with the story? There are a lot of things in the movie that ARE true that people don't believe. Such as the Japanese pilot waving at the American kids and yelling for them to get inside. That really happened. People complained that only two pilots got up and fought off the attack. That really happened and those two men are who Affleck and Hartnett's characters are modeled on. It has a lot of little things that are changed. But those things are all pretty petty complaints and they were all only changed to serve the story. And whether you like this story or not, everything in a movie SHOULD be there solely for the story, so whatever needs to be changed to help the story work SHOULD be changed.


People had problems with the dialogue and just the way people acted in general. But the fact of the matter is that this movie is very accurate in that sense. The movie is made in a very 40-ish type of film-making. And since movies from the 40's are my favorite type, this is probably a big reason why I liked the movie. The dialogue was written to sound like people talked back then, unlike movies like Thin Red Line or Saving Private Ryan where guys talk just like people do now. Some of the lines may sound corny to today's movie-goers but if this movie was made in the 40's it wouldn't have any of those complaints thrown at it. A lot of the dialogue came directly out of the mouths of Pearl Harbor survivors during interviews conducted by the writer and director. More dialogue came directly from historical fact. This also causes a big generation gap between those who hate the movie and those who like it. I've seen the movie several times. I've seen it with 5 older people who were all alive when this happened, including some that were in service and some who were still children. I've seen it with 3 or 4 people around my own age. None of my peers liked the movie. They think it's complete garbage. Those 5 people that lived through the experience and the time period themselves? They all loved it. They all think the movie captured the time period perfectly. The way they talked, acted, felt. They didn't sit there and nitpick the movie about every single little detail like the younger jaded crowd did. They raved about how true it was. Even the romance was perfect to them because that's how relationships were back in them days. You fell in love with somebody and you did it quick because your lover could be sent off to die the next day.


But I don't want to take up this whole review defending a movie that most people don't like and never will no matter what. I'm here to review the new Director's Cut DVD. Well, maybe not the DVD itself, just the movie. I haven't had time to watch all these extras or commentaries. It's over 12 hours worth. That'll take 2 years to watch. But as far as this NEW version of Pearl Harbor? You may be surprised after reading everything I just typed, but this is a negative review.


Seeing as how I liked Pearl Harbor to begin with, I was a little skeptical about this new R-rated version. But I was also excited. Hell, it's a movie I liked, I'll take two versions! Maybe I'd like it better, maybe I wouldn't, but I didn't think I'd hate it. But the more and more I let this new version sink in, the more and more I get pissed at it.


What's the difference? Well, when it was announced, they said they were going to cut the love part down some and focus more on Affleck and Hartnett's friendship and the war. That happens to a VERY slight degree. Only a few lines and beats are missing here and there. A lot of little cuts that only people that have watched the movie a few times would notice. Things like in the first movie where you would see a character stand, walk through the room and open the door has been cut to character stands and opens the door with no walking in-between. So it kinda makes the movie a little jumpy or something.


Only two whole scenes have been cut out of the film. The first is when Hartnett and Beckinsale are on a beach in a car talking. The second is the one towards the end of the movie where Affleck tries to convince Hartnett not to go on the bombing run. That scene is pretty important so it's cutting doesn't really make much sense. It has been replaced by a scene of the men playing poker on the ship heading to Japan. A very useless scene.


Really the only major differences between this movie and the original version is the amount of vulgarity and gore. In the first movie Cuba Gooding Jr gets a called a "cook", in the new version he gets called a "nigger cook." In the original version there wasn't a whole lot of racist talk at all against the Japanese. In this movie there are a bunch of comments such as "Jap mother fuckers" or "Slanty eyed cock suckers."


The battle scenes have a lot of little things here and there. Most notably a severed head rolling around on the ground and a Captain's intestines falling out. Mostly it's just extra blood and bullet holes. A guy that might've gotten shot and fell down in the first one, now falls down with his head or chest split wide open.


I've tried to think of a reason why this new version was needed. There's really not one. Except for the fact that Michael Bay pretty much sold out his original vision for the film just to try to please a bunch of people that didn't like the movie. "You didn't like the love story? I'll trim it for you and add in some blood and guts! Now will you like it and give me a cookie?" It seems kinda pitiful to me actually. I always thought the movie would grow in popularity as the years go by. A lot of movies that come out are hated by the people in their time period. But after time goes by people start to realize just how good that movie was and begin to recognize it. Citizen Kane wasn't a success for a long, long time. This is no Citizen Kane of course, but I'm just making a point. This just reeks of Bay begging people to like his movie. The sad thing is that this new version isn't going to change one mind out there. Sure the love story is trimmed, but not enough for most people to even notice. And the one part that EVERYBODY agreed was excellent, the battle scene, is the part he changed the MOST! So none of it really makes any sense to me.


Who is this new version for? Will people that liked the first one like this one better? I don't know. Some might. Some will most likely be turned off by the offensive comments and the completely un-needed gore. Those older people I mentioned before? They sure as hell wouldn't want to see the movie with severed heads rolling around everywhere. Will people that hated the first movie like this new one better? Not in the least. The biggest problem people had it with it seemed to be the love story. Why would those people like it better now that the love story is still there except now it's all chopped up and skips over some helpful lines of dialogue?


I just think this movie was done right the first time. You create three characters and you use those characters to show people how Pearl Harbor was viewed as it happened through those character's eyes. Not in a historical, teaching or preachy way. Just how the normal, average, everyday Joe felt as all of this unfolded. The new version seems to just take an important piece of our history and exploit it for some cheap gore scenes.


Since I wrote this review a few days ago, I've been able to watch most of the extras. I have to mention the gag reel. The gag reel, actually one scene in the gag reel, makes this entire DVD worth owning. There's a scene of Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett remaking the "Animal Crackers" scene from Armageddon with Hartnett playing the Liv Tyler role. So Affleck is laying over him running Animal Crackers up and down his chest and then they start making out. I pissed my pants when they did that. The cast commentary is fun as well. If you've seen Affleck on the Kevin Smith commentaries, it's pretty much the same thing. Affleck and Hartnett pretty much just make fun of the movie the entire time and do lots of bad Alec Baldwin impressions. The rest of the cast are boring and I just skipped them to get back to Affleck and Hartnett who were laugh out loud funny for the majority of their time. The technical tracks are how they usually are. If you can sit and listen to the costume designer talk for nearly 3 hours, well, you're a stronger man than I. The making of docs are middle of the road. Some are interesting, most of them aren't. Lots of fast forwarding during that. A lot of the making of stuff is a rip off. They tell you that it's 30 minutes long, but in reality it's 10 minutes long with 3 different camera angles you can watch, things like that. The boot camp is VERY fun and hysterical. Watching a bunch of pretty boy actors getting their ass whipped is fantastic. It's also great to see how into it Alec Baldwin gets. He looks like he was born to be a soldier, makes it funnier when he's running off at the mouth about the evils of war. Then lastly you get 2 History Channel documentaries which are another waste of time. Why do I need these on DVD when they're on TV every 2 hours?


I dunno, the extras are probably worth watching. If you can check it out from the library for free, go for it. Worth renting? Maybe. Owning? Well, even with the fun parts I did like, I'll never watch any of this again.


Link: The Official Site

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