Pearl Harbor (2001/Blu-ray)
B+ Sound: B+ Extras: C Film: C+
Bay’s Pearl Harbor was also an
obsession of sorts for Michael Eisner, who was determined to make this an epic
that everyone would love and that meant both a huge commercial and critical
success. It was not received that well
critically and a sizable block of voices called it reactionary and too
militaristic in the months before the events of 9/11. However, it was still a sizable hit and
managed to benefit from a then-recent revival of the War genre.
time has not treated the film well, with its melodrama more obvious than before
and some of its political tendencies (screenplay by Randall Wallace, but who
know how much it might have been altered) more obvious and even a sense of the
condescending nature to it. The later
was sometimes mistaken for being old-fashioned, but that would qualify as
old-fashioned talking down. Then there
is Ben Affleck, who was being pushed in everyone’s face at the time before more
awful films and media marriage overexposure caused his career to at least
and Josh Hartnett are friends who become competitors for a beautiful nurse
(Kate Beckinsale, who is underappreciated in general) when the Japanese Militarists
go after the U.S. in a supposedly “surprise” attack (something the film oddly
glosses over) and all hell breaks loose.
Terror follows, though the film picks up at its best when the
little-discussed immediate U.S. response led by Lt. Col. James Doolittle (Alec
Baldwin once again hitting the nail on the head) fly into Japan and return the
favor by bombing them in kind. Jon
Voight is very good as FDR and when the film is true to the history it covers,
it kicks in and works nicely.
when it gets to its fictional characters and tries to pull off what James
Cameron did in Titanic (1997) in
effectively telling the story through interesting fictional characters. Too bad they are all underdeveloped. The most telling of these characters is Cuba
Gooding Jr. as a ship’s chef who gets involved in the action despite racism
against African Americans to participate in anything at all. He gives it his best, but it is a role that
is token, wastes his underappreciated talents and epitomizes the kind of second-best
mentality that permeates and sabotages the film throughout.
the money is often on the screen, including in visual effects and sound design,
so its performance (bells & whistles) also saved the film at the box office
and that explains why Disney would want this out as an early Blu-ray
release. So, how dies it hold up?
digital 2.35 X 1 High Definition image was shot in real anamorphic Panavision
by John Schwartzman, A.S.C., but has early digital work and stylizations that
do not hold up well. I also wonder if
the source is a bit dated and one of Disney’s earlier HD masters, though it
could be that and/or the space on this disc.
Otherwise, it looks very good for its age and is far better than the
various disappointing DVD editions that we have been saddled with.
was a SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) 8-channel bonanza in its original
theatrical release and the PCM 48kHz/24Bit 5.1 mix here even outdoes the DTS
mixes on the better DTS DVD editions, offering the kind of audio impact that
previous mixes could not. It is so good
in fact that I think the PCM is limiting the performance and I bet better
results yet would come from a Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio track would
deliver even more amazing results with their up to 192/24 capacity, though many
titles released since may not be using the capacity fully. However, this is a long film and any version
like that would require a double Blu-ray set.
Still, the money was put into this sound mix and it shows holding up with
some character 5+ years later against many a showy 5.1 mix that soon implodes
as the film goes along.
are not as much as the deluxe DVD editions, but you get the Blu-ray’s advanced
access to the film, teaser & final theatrical trailer, Faith Hill Music
Video, making of featurette Journey To
The Screen and interviews with Unsung
Heroes of WWII. No bad fitting all
on one disc.
- Nicholas Sheffo