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The Director's Cut
Rating: R (For Strong War Violence and Some Language)
Running Time: 184 minutes
Starring: Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale, Josh Hartnett, Jon Voight, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore and Alec Baldwin
Written by: Randal Wallace
Directed by: Michael Bay
Retail Price: $39.95
Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Headphone, English Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Chapter Selection (44 Scenes), Four-Disc Set, THX Certified
Released: July 2nd, 2002
Somehow, I missed the onslaught of "Pearl Harbor." Despite all the marketing, all the hype, all the terrible reviews, the horrible reaction from some filmgoers and immense praise from other filmgoers, I never did get my chance to see the film. I do admit I did want to see the film when it opened in theaters during May 2001, but I suppose the three hour running time (sometimes I do have trouble sitting during movies) and all the negative reaction did turn me off a little. And yes, I even missed the film during its first DVD and video release during December 2001. While "Pearl Harbor" has now become an entertainment industry punchline, I still did have some desire to see the film. I figured why not wait for the ultimate Vista Series release? I'd be able to check out the Director's Cut, and see it the way it was meant to be seen: the more intense vision of Michael Bay, an exploration of big budget filmmaking and some preconceived notion that it's one of the greatest movies of all time given what's in the package. If I was going to see it, I was going to see it in some major crazy style.
"Pearl Harbor" is supposed to be some gung-ho historical epic, used as a major backdrop for a fictional character love triangle. It's supposed to bring history alive and make a detailed account of a fatal and sad day in American history, using a mixture of fictional characters and real life historical heroes as an excuse for that. People are interested in seeing major historical events come to life using the money, magic and power of Hollywood, but they also like stories that they get all sympathetic for, trying to connect with the plight of the characters and tug at the heart strings. It has to be some equal balance. You need a story and characters to go in a film, as it just can't be random bits of history slapped together. So, one compliments the other to try and make it work.
We can relate to history (though some more than others, namely, people who've experienced events more closely and direct than other people) and we all do like stories, right? But let's face it, when the public goes to see a film called "Pearl Harbor" they want to see just that: air attacks, explosions, people dying and the madness of war. Yes, Pearl Harbor itself is a backdrop for the film's story, but it's a very important as well: it drives the characters, what happens, the historical portions and in some sense, is one of the hearts in the story and makes the movie what it's all about. But I suppose a lot of what I described just rules for mass market, mainstream Hollywood entertainment, pleasing everyone in the correct way and doing that balance. Of course, while all of those elements are needed, there is a difference between doing it right and doing it wrong. On how it was all done, I'm sorta mixed.
"Pearl Harbor" tells the story of two lifelong friends, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett). The two grow up together and become pilots, who are the best of the best. Rafe is invited to fight in World War II for the British, and at the tests, Rafe meets a nurse named Evelyn Stewart (Kate Beckinsale). They fall in love, and Rafe is called to fight. His plane is shot done, and after he's not heard from, everyone presumes he's dead. Danny comforts Evelyn, and they have a fling going. But then Rafe comes back alive, the tragic events of Pearl Harbor hits, and as their lives will change, so will everyone else's.
A lot of you probably have seen "Pearl Harbor" and have come to your own conclusions. Personally, I really did enjoy it. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't as bad as everyone made it out to be. While the film didn't set any box office records on fire (and to a disappointed Disney, hoping for a monster hit, it only inched its way to nearly 200 million dollars), it still set other records. For one thing, it's gone down in history as the biggest movie ever to be greenlit, with a whopping 135 million dollars or so. And yes, when many people think of other Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer romp, they think one thing and one thing only: mindless popcorn entertainment with big budget special effects, lavish production values and explosions. Major explosions.
There a lot of you out there who probably do despise the work of Michael Bay, but if there's one thing, you can't deny the guy's passion and love of filmmaking. I think the guy really knows how to make a film no matter what, and has some really great skills. The camerawork he employs on the film is very stylish and bold, giving off some fine sweeping shots that are pretty epic and give off a fine sense of the sets, costumes, actors, locations and detail. You get a sense of a lot. There are a lot of shots in this movie, and a lot of really good ones too, and you really have to give the man credit. I felt the three hours actually went by pretty fast, and while the script isn't exactly even, he makes the best of what's offered here. The film's editing is great too.
I thought the actors did a really good job in their roles. Ben Affleck's southern accent is very nice and he puts a strong command and strength behind Rafe, with a bold sense of eagerness. He shares great chemistry with Kate Beckinsale and with Josh Hartnett. Beckinsale's American accent and innocence as a woman who is put between tough choices works, while Hartnett is also strong and noble-hearted as Danny, also with a nice accent. The supporting players are fine too. Jon Voight is quite versatile and even a little inspiring as FDR, while Cuba Gooding, Jr. is fine in his brief role as Dorie Miller. Tom Sizemore and Alec Baldwin (who plays Col. Doolittle) also bring punch and a fine sense to their roles as well. It's a pretty fine, if uneven ensemble.
Given the giant budget, the special effects are the best out there. The wizards behind Industrial Light and Magic re-create the tragic events of December 7th with multiple layers and slick computer animation. The stunts and explosions that are shot and then put together with the special effects are pretty amazing too, making the film a bit amazing to watch, but still rather realistic which is no easy task. The locations and sets are very 1940s and feel realistic too, all with a fine, if somewhat standard heroic Hans Zimmer score to top it all off (but it certainly fits).
When it comes down to it, I guess the blame for the films flaw shouldn't always be on Michael Bay, but screenwriter Randall Wallace. We should cut Wallace some slack... he certainly hasn't written terrible movies ("Braveheart," adapting "We Were Soldiers," among others). Still, a lot of my problems with the movie rested within the story. The dialogue isn't terrible, but the love triangle has been done over and over before... and much better. The triangle's start and finale is quite predictable, but my main problem with the triangle is the middle... there was some, but not enough to fill it in, making it a bit ridiculous and annoying. It felt pretty clichéd. And what's up with the lack of tension between Danny and Rafe? Is it because the war is so much more important? I think there should have been something...
Yes, as you'd expect, the story has its fair share of inaccuracies, but it's a movie, and while the idea is history, I think people complain too much. It's a movie... it doesn't always have to be exact. Some people still don't quite get that. But given that, I like the idea that real characters from history were drawn into the movie with the fictional ones... but it wasn't done quite proper. Paths cross, and that's it basically. There could have been more integration with that.
Still, the film does have its corny moments... really corny moments. I must admit I did laugh out loud at a few of them, thinking they were intentionally meant to be funny... but were actually supposed to be serious. The script itself is also a bit uneven. It does tend to do a good job keeping the focus on the main characters, but it jumps back and forth between real history and the other events. It could have been ironed out a bit more in my opinion, namely, more on the real history and political intrigue there, since there was a lot if you know your history.
All in all, I think "Pearl Harbor" is a somewhat underrated movie. I can understand some people's distaste and dislike for it, but despite its flaws and overused main romance plot, I found it quite entertaining and interesting. Still, it's what you'd expect from Bruckheimer and Bay: action, explosions and the like. Still, I think the movie's heart is in the right place, even if the film is pretty pro-United States. A lot of you have already seen "Pearl Harbor," but being a first time watcher, it wasn't as bad as I was lead to believe. It's not perfect, but a big summer blockbuster, it worked for me, with historical backdrops and all. It's not a masterpiece, but it is a decent piece of work if you ask me. I think everyone owes themselves to check out - or revisit - "Pearl Harbor." And with this four-disc DVD set... you better!
Presented in a THX-certified transfer, this director's cut of "Pearl Harbor" is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I've seen a good deal of live action transfer from the mouse house, but this very transfer is by far the best one I've seen from them for a live action film, or any live action film for that matter, and will most likely remain one of 2002's best transfers. There is so much to like about this transfer, that I'm not sure where to begin. I suppose I'll focus on the great first before getting to the few flaws.
First off, and what impressed me most, was just how sharp this transfer was. It's really sleek and very, very visually attractive. Fleshtones are right on target, they are really perfect and quite fitting. Colors are very well saturated, vibrant and bold. Be it the enemy war planes on the attack at Pearl Harbor, the dullness of the machines, the whites of the hospitals or the greens of the fields, everything here looks very strong. Black levels are excellent as well, while detail is really amazing. And since I've never seen the original, I couldn't tell what was new footage and old footage, so all the new stuff is seamless with the older parts from the movie. Nice!
The flaws are tiny and don't add up to very much, but they're still there. There is some grain which is noticeable, but I think it's supposed to be that way. There is also some really, really slight edge enhancement. At times, there are also some halo edges (I'm a stickler about those, as you should know) and shimmering is found. Very impressive though is I only saw about one or two blemishes and a scratch, which is quite nice if you ask me.
Another kudos goes to Disney for breaking the film up on two discs. It's nice to see them not squeezing a three hour film on a single disc. It's nice to see that they want to ensure video and audio quality to its best and highest form. And while the film is not divided up evenly, it is a nice thought and works nicely so the film doesn't get bogged down in compression issues. And as a result of all of that, you have an amazing, jaw-dropping transfer that pleases on so many levels. Great job Disney!
Quite a few audio options here, and for a movie like "Pearl Harbor," it's something you'd definitely come to expect. And if there's a movie that's meant to show off your sound system, no matter how decent or extravagant, "Pearl Harbor" can't be beat (and you'd probably expect that too, given that this movie has many opportunities for surrounds, namely, those action packed scenes plus it's a giant Bruckheimer spectacle). You're given sound options in English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and English Dolby Headphone, plus English closed captions, English subtitles and Spanish subtitles.
What's great about the tracks on "Pearl Harbor" is that there is such an effective balance. Everything doesn't become cluttered together, but are separated out nicely: dialogue, sound effects and the music. The words coming out of the mouths of the characters are crystal clear and have much clarity to them, giving off a lot of natural activity. Hans Zimmer's moving and finely tuned score is also quite nice to listen to on the tracks, as it has good low ends and is mixed very nicely throughout the channels, to give off some extra dramatic flair.
But when it comes down to it, the tracks take full life due to the sound effects. There are tons and tons of surrounds, and each of them sound magnificent, giving off the full big budget scale and placing you in the war itself. Be it planes zooming up from behind you, the sinking of the ships, the gun firings, the bombings, people screaming, clicks of cameras, the explosions and even softer effects like footsteps, knocks on doors and doors opening. There is a lot (and I mean A LOT) of life to be found in each track. Very enjoyable and it surely pulls you into the movie, especially with some fine subwoofer sounds.
The Dolby Digital and DTS tracks are each fantastic, so no matter which one you choose, you're in for a treat. Still, I slightly prefer the DTS. It envelopes differently throughout and is more subtle in how it sucks you in, something I immensely enjoyed and noticed. The Dolby Digital is a bit more gung-ho and full force at times, but the DTS felt a bit fuller and certainly a lot sharper. Still, each are mixed with much thought and no one should really complain since each one is so impressive.
And finally, we have our "gimmick track," Dolby Headphone in glorious English. I'm all for novelties if they work well, but sad to say, despite the development of this, it's not worth listening to the Dolby Headphone track. I tested it out with my portable DVD player and a good set of phones, and it sounded a bit cheap. It's supposed to give you the full 5.1 effect, but it doesn't sound so great. It's nice and there if you really want it... but pass. You really need to get the full sense by listening to this movie in full, real 5.1 I actually found the DTS and Dolby Digital mixes downcoverted through the headphones a lot more satisfying! On a different note, this is the first DVD from Disney since the "Clerks" animated series where you can switch audio on the fly. Always a little pleasure for me when that is offered when making audio comparisons or wanting to hear someone talk on a commentary right away.
Say what you want about "Pearl Harbor" - does it really deserve a four disc special edition? Do we really need all of what's given here? In my opinion... yes. Despite what your feelings about the movie may be, there's a lot to explore in making a film like "Pearl Harbor," given the major and epic scale of the production. So much was needed to make the film what it was: production designers, technical people, computer artists and many, many more. I'm always interested in how films are made, and the variety of steps that movies must go through in order to complete a vision and deliver it to major audiences. "Pearl Harbor" was a giant film and there's a lot that made it, so there is truly a lot of material and exploration here. Again, think what you want, but if you want to learn all about filmmaking, you can't go wrong with something like "Pearl Harbor" due to so many aspects that it took to create. Disney has put together their best Vista Series title yet, and truly offers an in-depth look at the making of a big-budget feature. If you want to learn something about history, the movie itself and all the little details it takes to make something big or small, you can't go wrong here...
First things first is that this special Vista Series edition presents the Director's Cut of the movie, which was the game plan all along: to show the new cut especially on DVD in a brand new, spankin' edition.This is the director's cut and the director's cut only: you won't find the theatrical edition here. Like I said, this was my first time seeing "Pearl Harbor," so I couldn't really tell you first hand what's new and what's different from the original cut. But this doesn't seem to be one of those major director's cuts, you know, where the whole content and vision of the film is changed to what makes the director happy who was pissed from the studio system (Michael Bay is an ultimate mega studio film director anyway, even if he plans for some more indie films). Reading press materials and comparing the running time from the original theatrical cut, only a few additional minutes seem to be added. But that's enough to change the rating of the movie from a PG-13 to an R. From what I read, over 60 additional shots (many of them quite quick I am led to believe) were added, most of them during the big battle scenes. So, more visuals of people dying, getting hurt, violence and blood are included for your viewing pleasure. With the added violence and gore, I'm assuming it makes it all more tragic and realistic to the audience (all of it is actually pretty grotesque). Enjoy.
On discs one and two (since the movie itself is broken up on two discs), we have three audio commentaries (sweet). Our first Audio Commentary with Director Michael Bay and Film Historian Jeanine Basinger is a solid track that focuses on many different aspects of the movie. Basinger was actually Bay's film professor at Wesleyan University (and I also believe she wrote the liner notes in the Criterion edition DVD of "Armageddon"). The two sound like old friends, and bring a lot of insights and good interaction throughout the film. Bay talks about choices he made when making the movie, working with the actors, special effects and so many little details (not to mention working with the studio on such a big budget). Basinger chimes in with stuff in response to Bay (not to mention sharing some fun laughs with him), but also gives clear, smart views on the film itself. If you're a fan of the movie or want to hear from the mind behind it all, this is one track to listen to. It's quite delightful.
Our second Audio Commentary with Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin and Josh Hartnett is also very good. Affleck and Hartnett seem to be recorded together, while Bruckheimer and Baldwin seem to be recorded separate. Nonetheless, it's really well edited, and it sounds like all four are in the same room actually since it's so seamless. Bruckheimer offers some production tidbits and his own thoughts, while Baldwin's comments are very nice. He brings in his own facts about history, his perspectives as an actor and working on the film, touching on so many various subjects (the man really knows what he's talking about, and I actually sound some of his comments pretty fascinating). Finally, Affleck and Hartnett have some fun and make a few jokes (love the "Armageddon" parallels), but their comments are more screen specific and focus on the real history, filming and what they brought to the movie. Everyone here also gets pretty even talking time which is nice. Quite interesting overall, and worth listening if you're a fan of the movie.
Finally, the third Audio Commentary with Cinematographer John Schwartzman, Production Designer Nigel Phelps, Costume Designer Michael Kaplan, Supervising Art Director Martin Laing and Composer Hans Zimmer is quite interesting, since it combines thoughts from different people on different sides of the production, and what each person did. I like these kinds of tracks, and a lot is offered here. This may be a bit too technical for the average DVD fan, but if you're really into movie and want to know about these artists and what they did in the film, this track can't be beat. Schwartzman focuses on lighting and setting shots up, Zimmer on the score and the others on their respective areas, such as designs and costumes. There's some fun comments here, and even dead silence at points (surprisingly). Still, it's a bit uneven, but very informative and detailed.
Besides commentaries on disc one, we also have Why Letterbox? This feature is hidden, but can be found in the set-up menu under "Audio Options" (just highlight the blank box and a star will appear, then click the star). This lasts a minute and forty-three seconds, and if you have some major pan and scam lovers, then show them this. It's short, but a text intro under a key scenes describes what widescreen really means, and then a colorist for the movie describes what pan and scan does to a widescreen shot, and ultimately ruins the vision. Many examples are shown, and with the scope of a movie like "Pearl Harbor," a lot of the impact is definitely lost and a lot of shots are ruined pretty badly if you watch it in full frame. Nice and simple to educate people.
On disc two, we have the Faith Hill Music Video "There You'll Be" in non-anamorphic widescreen (what an overrated, crappy song that still got an Academy Award® nomination) and a preview for the National Geographic: Beyond The Movie "Pearl Harbor" feature (which was included on the earlier DVD set in a special package). The preview is in full frame, has old war clips and stuff from the movie.
The last thing on the disc, clocking in at forty-seven minutes and twenty-five seconds, is Journey To The Screen: The Making Of "Pearl Harbor." This is basically your promotional featurette advertising the film, but it's longer and features much more, probably since the film had so much massive hype riding on it and they wanted to make something really amazing and to please. It's in non-anamorphic widescreen, and features a slew of interviews with Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Ben Affleck, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and quite a few more. A lot is covered here, including some stuff on the real events of Pearl Harbor, interviews with survivors, film clips, behind the scenes footage and special effects creation. A lot of passion and excitment from the movie can be felt here, and it's a very nice watch overall, if a tad bit superfluous at times. And on the first two discs, you can adjust your home theater with the THX Optimizer.
The real meat and potatoes are on discs three and four, and boy, it is quite a big serving size. On disc three, everything is divided up into two sections: "The Film" and "The History." Under "The Film," we're treated to a Production Diary. These little features last between four to eight minutes and some have audio commentary from Michael Bay. They're in non-anamorphic widescreen, and the commentaries from Bay offer comments on what each part is trying to create. Bay uses some fun humor and interesting stuff to narrate these sequences. The production diary shows Bay in action and the filming of some major sequences. Very cool stuff and nicely edited. The sequences are "Airfield Attack," "Baja Gimbal" (no Bay commentary), "Battleship Row," "Dorie Miller," "Dud Bomb," "Mechanics Row," "Nurse Strafing," "Sandbag Stunt," "Doolittle Raid" (no commentary) and "Arizona dive" (no commentary). Lotta stuff there.
Boot Camp offers two features ("Soldier's Boot Camp with Josh Hartnett, Ben Affleck and Ewen Bremner," lasting a bit over 15 minutes and "Officers' Boot Camp with Alec Baldwin" lasting a little over six minutes) on how the actors prepared for their soldier roles with physical challenges and whatnot. It's pretty fun and entertaining to watch, and just gives the best raw footage the cameras captures. Seems a bit grueling, but overall, fine stuff to watch.
There's also the Super 8 Montage was shot by Mark Palansky, and is leftover footage that wasn't used in the film for the newsreels. It lasts a little under five minutes, but it's nicely done. It's in black and white and played over the film's Hans Zimmer score, and is nicely put together. We also have the Theatrical Teaser and Theatrical Trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen. The teaser has Dolby Digital 5.1, the full trailer offers two channel sound.
Under "The History" we have three things, and some of the best stuff this set has to offer. From The History Channel, we have some great real life stuff that everyone who is a fan of history should check out, and has things that relate to the movie. First up is One Hour Over Tokyo, a 46 minute piece about Doolittle and actually is about a scene that is featured in the film. There are stills, real life footage, newsreel footage from the time and interviews with historians and survivors of the war. Well made and quite informative.
Also very informative and lasting 46 minutes is the other special, Unsung Heroes Of Pearl Harbor. Also featuring interviews with historians and survivals, newsreel footage, real life footage of memorials and the like, this talks about people who made made a difference and impact with their own agendas during Pearl Harbor. Finally, Oral History: The Recollections Of A Pearl Harbor Nurse lasts about six minutes and is a re-enactment of Ruth Erickson's testament on December 7th, 1941 using photographs as it's played. Quite interesting.
Finally, disc four is divided into a few parts. Under "Visual Effects", we have an Interactive Attack Sequence. Lasting about a half-hour, you can watch four angles of the sequence: the film itself, on-the-set footage, storyboard and animatics and finally, all three. The audio options include music only (in 5.1), on the set sounds, Dolby 5.1 only, sound effects only, commentary by visual effects supervisor Eric Brevig, audio commentary by storyboard artist Robert Consing and finally an audio commentary by real Pearl Harbor survivors (wow!). The fourth angle even has some text from people on the events. I could see myself watching all of this over and over... the commentaries are very informative and give different ways to look at the movie, the set only sound is interesting and the editing of the set only stuff is great. Out of all the multi-angle features I've seen on DVD, this is the best way I've seen it handled. Don't miss this.
Deconstructing Deconstruction: A Conversation on Visual Effects with Michael Bay and Eric Brevig features the two talking about the creation of the film's special effects. There's a "white rabbit" like feature on the disc, when you click the red star icon during this feature, you can watch about 30 minutes worth of other clips with talking from Industrial Light and Magic's Ed Hirsh, Ben Snow and Eric Brevig. We see the two talking, and we cut away sometimes to the ILM stuff and sometimes we see both things at once. The two talk like good friends, and ask each other questions in how things were accomplish. This isn't for everyone, but if you like technical film features and special effects, this is worth watching. It's even chapter encoded too.
The Animatic Attack lasts about six minutes and has Bay talking over computer models, as well as John Schwartzman and a few other visual guys on the creation of certain effects on how things were done. Nice stuff. The Interactive Timeline is really nifty, and has several viewing features on mid 1800s historical events up until 1941. It was a little confusing and hard to work. The setup of it is nice and classy, and the clips are in full frame, but it's still interesting and gives more background nonetheless. History students should enjoy this if they need United States info from this timeline...
There's also a Gallery divided into six sections and are quite interesting to observe: "Production Design," "Publicity," "Historical, "Storyboards," "ILM" and "Stan Winston Special Effects Makeup," which are then divided further. Loads of images from so many different ideals to go through... enjoy! While on the DVD-ROM side, you can check out the Pearl Harbor Definitive Bibilography. There are also some well earned DVD Credits for the team behind this wonderful release.
The interactive menus on the discs are sleek, slick and rather elegant. They each capture the movie's feel and authenticate 1941, complete with music, real radio broadcasts and Hans Zimmer's strong score. Finally, and perhaps the most interesting and yet another thing to drop your jaw on with this disc is the packaging. This is quite simply one of the best, if not the best packaging job I've seen for a DVD release. It's very authentic, given off a look like some classic book. Inside it holds all four discs in what is supposed to be like an envelope, has a strap, an amazing booklet giving detail on the film, what the DVD features and the extras, postcards and much, much more. Very impressive and like the film itself, quite epic if you ask me.
After being delayed for a little over six months, "Pearl Harbor: The Director's Cut" Vista Series was well worth the wait. This is simply one of the greatest DVD releases of all time, and will most likely stay that way. The transfer is gorgeous, the sound mixes are explosive and do exactly what they should do and you'll find an incredible amount of supplements that are quite in-depth truly illustrate the filmmaking process, which relate to the movie and the actual history. For you diehard fans of the movie, you must get this set no matter what. If you really enjoyed the film originally and want to see more of Bay's vision, do check this set out, as the director's cut incorporates more violence for a more tragic sense. And finally, if you just love the DVD format, this is a shining example of it all due its presentation in general and supplements.
You've all probably formed your own opinions now about "Pearl Harbor," but being a first time watcher, it wasn't as bad as I was led to believe. By no means is it a perfect film, but I found it very entertaining and it all really works for what it is. It may have been done before, it may be flawed, it may be recycled elements from other films and what have you, but "Pearl Harbor" represents what movies are: sitting down, being enthralled by what is presented and having an overall good time. People are quick to bash Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer, but hopefully in the future people will check out "Pearl Harbor" and realize that the movie actually is a rather decent piece of work and a strong fire of filmmaking, all of which was underrated at the time of is release. This is a fine centerpiece for any film fan's DVD collection.