Sometimes this movie critic thing is just too easy. The new would-be blockbuster "Pearl Harbor" is an even fatter target than the fleet lined up on Battleship Row on December 7, 1941.
You actually can try this at home. Maybe we should have a contest for the best line to introduce this bloated, fatuous bore of a movie. "Pearl Harbor Bombs?" Too easy. "Disney Scuttles History?" Better. How about "A Sneak Attack on our National Intelligence," or "A Dud that Will Live in Infamy?"
After suffering through the dumbest love triangle in movie history, which "Seems to Last From Here to Eternity," my battlecry was "Snore-a Snore-a Snore-a." Even swine would pass on THIS "Pearl"... Okay, I'm done now. On to the details.
"Pearl Harbor" is the latest from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay, who were responsible for such intellectual masterpieces as "Armageddon" and "Con Air." So far, their SMARTEST movie has been the junky, but fun, "The Rock." Subtle, they ain't.
Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnet star as Rafe and Danny, lifelong friends who realize their dreams of becoming pilots by joining the Army Air Corps in 1940. Of course, they are the top guns in their class, driving their instructors, including Jimmy Doolittle (Alec Baldwin) crazy with their stunts.
While undergoing his physical (AFTER flight training, which seems an expensive way to run an army) Rafe, in what is known as a "meet cute" moment in the movie biz, becomes involved with Evelyn, (Kate Beckinsale) a Navy nurse. Along with his cliched group of flyboy buddies who meet an equally cliched group of Navy nurses, they also date cute.
The story follows a ridiculous arc, with some of the most unintentionally laughable dialogue ever. This movie might want to hearken back to wartime propaganda pics, but even in the 40s, they didn't make them this unsophisticated. The real inspiration-- if you can call it that-- is "Titanic," but even that potboiler looks like "Casablanca" compared to this love triangle. And here, they seem to be saying that ALL that matters more than a hill of beans in this crazy world is the problems of three people.
Get this: Affleck is trained by Jimmy Doolittle (who in real life was a civilian test pilot at this time), joins the Royal Air Force Eagle Squadron without resigning his US Army commission; then after he is shot down, (and declared dead, driving Evelyn into Danny's arms) not only does the RAF let him just take off, he gets to Pearl Harbor ahead of his telegram announcing he's alive, (right after Evelyn's first bout of morning sickness) shoots down a slew of nimble Zeros in a heavy P-40 by dogfighting them at low level, then is asked to join the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo as a BOMBER pilot!
As for the vaunted special effects that account for the bulk of the $140 million, do they look real? Perhaps, the planes glisten and seem like they are really there. But the effects are not realISTIC. Torpedo bombers don't fly ten feet above the water, P-40s don't dogfight with Zeros at low level, fighter planes don't fly through alleys in which they have to wing over to get clear-- and the list goes on. The more you know about air combat, the less you will appreciate the central set piece of this movie.
This movie is simply incoherent on every level-- emotionally, historically and politically. There is no sense of what is going on in the world, and the film makers have no idea either. Rafe is flying in daylight Battle of Britain-style raids months after the Germans would have switched to night bombing; (laughably, though he is shot down in the English Channel during daylight, he bobs up AFTER DARK!) FDR invokes Stalin as an ally clamoring for America's entrance into the war at a time when Hitler and Stalin were still ALLIES (the Hitler/Stalin pact is a detail that escaped these peoples' attention); and FDR is presented as a near paraplegic in 1940.
The FDR wheelchair is played for a painful scene in which he (played by Jon Voigt) flops to his feet to prove the impossible-- like a retaliatory bombing raid on Japan-- can be done. This is not only made up, it is completely out of character for the real man.
The events leading up to December 7, 1941 are among the most controversial in American history. But the movie ignores this completely. In fact, it wants to please everyone by making FDR into a plaster saint, AND saying the Japanese had "no choice" but to go to war. This prompts the question, "WHO was leaving them no choice?" There is also no mention that the reason the oil embargo hurt the Japanese so much was that they needed it to continue slaughtering Chinese.
The motto here, to paraphrase another historical quote, must have been, "Millions for effects, but not one penny for research." Oops, there I go again.
There has been a lot of controversy about snippets of dialogue and a final voice over that have been trimmed to avoid offending the Japanese, the world's second biggest movie market. I suppose those critics have a small point, but it would have been nice to lose about an HOUR of the banal dialogue this movie inflicts on its American audience.
The movie demands that we embrace it, as a test of patriotism. There is a palpable sense of jealousy that Hanks and Spielberg became spokesmen for WWII causes after THEIR movie; so now Affleck and Baldwin, two of Hollywood's biggest leftists, want their turn in the patriotic sun.
But when the final shot takes us down to a barnacle covered battleship Arizona at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, it really feels like desecration. What's next for Bruckheimer and Bay-- a story about how the Colombine shooting ruined a cute couple's plans for the prom?