Pearl Harbor Cameron's Titanic goes Hawaiian

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I just came home from seeing 'Pearl Harbour.' All I can say after talking with the DoD consultants and seeing the film on the screen is that I'm glad I wasn't one of the Technical/Historical Advisors.

Now, where did I put my 'Tora, Tora, Tora!' DVD?

After reviews like this, I think I'll wait until it comes out on vidio and rent it for a single looksee. Cheaper that way.

Hell, if I want to fork over big bucks for fantasy, I'll wait for the next Star Wars or Star Trek flick to come out.

Michael H. Standart
Hi All,

Well, like Randy, I've yet to see the movie... but the feedback I'm hearing from those who have pretty much parallels the thoughts of Parks and Shelley.

To be honest with you, I belong in the same camp as Shelley: I'm a stickler for historical accuracy. Nothing irritates me more than seeing a historical event distorted just to make for a blockbuster Hollywood movie (my husband *refuses* to watch 'based on actual events' movies with me... says I gripe and nitpick too much!). In my mind, the events of Pearl Harbor and Titanic, for example, contain more than enough real-life drama without having to add a fictional 'love story'... a story which often detracts from the actual drama and social/emotional impact. (Shelley, I *loved* 'Memphis Belle' too!! Can we add 'Platoon' to the list as well?)

But, as Randy said, if one wants a history lesson, one picks up a book, so I guess those of us looking for accuracy are severely outnumbered. After all, the hoards of teenaged girls out of school on summer break aren't looking for more school lessons (I suspect love scenes involving Ben Affleck may be more along the lines of what they're seeking! lol), and the producers of the film need something to keep them coming back to the box office. So I suppose we'll chalk it up there with the likes of 'Titanic', 'Braveheart', and 'Elizabeth'.... entertaining movies in and of themselves, but sorely lacking in the historical accuracy department. I'll just bite my tongue while in the theater, gnash my teeth as quietly as I can, and pop 'Tora, Tora, Tora!' or 'Saving Private Ryan' in the vcr when I get back home!

Parks, can't help you with your DVD, I'm afraid (and am to the point where I'm ready to break down and buy a player) but I *did* spot the vhs tape today while at Sam's for the dirt-cheap price of $8.99!


You can't resist...haven't you seen all the ads and specials? You must go see the movie. Just don't laugh out loud when all those tripod masts start falling. Or when Oklahoma starts pivoting on her starboard main deck edge. Or....

I'm the wrong person to comment on this movie. I obviously didn't get it.

The most telling comment that I'll take away from this weekend was the mention in one of the TV specials about wall scratchings found in a compartment after they salvaged the Oklahoma that were made 2 weeks after she turned turtle.

I think Ebert (now minus Siskel) can retire! We can start our own critique program. The very sad thing about these pseudo-historical movies is that kids DO believe that this is how it was. I was teaching 8th grade when TITANIC came out and I can tell you how confused those kids were about where reality stopped and fantasy began. It does a great dis-service to tout a film as history recaptured and then wing off into the Hollywood version which often bears no resemblance to actual fact, tells only half the story from a very biased perspective, or completely rewrites certain scenes for visual impact and no veracity at all. One can always say a film "inspired by" or characters "based upon" or get around it all that way. OK- next week we will review TOMB RAIDER- am looking forward to pure cartoon mindless and unhistorical drivel!
Oh hi Parks. Can't say as I've seen many ads at all. Quite a bit of hoopla in the bookstores, but their using this as an event to...what a surprise...sell some books on the subject. Other then that, I haven't really been giving the thing much thought.

Michael H. Standart
Oops...I made a mistake in my last post above. I meant to say port main deck edge. I've got "starboard" on the brain, since I've been spending most of the past week working on a White Paper about the starboard side of Titanic.

I've also heard that the film depicts peofessional American servicemen taking part in the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Er....I thought it was Pearl Harbor that brought America into the war ( but seeing as it is such a small fact I shall overlook it this once!).

God, I wish Titanic had a mistake like that....only three funnels, or hitting a rock or something. We would have such a field day.

Ho Hum


Hello Everyone,

Adding to the Pearl Harbor discussion, I have read that Pearl Harbor was only (LOL)a $140m movie, PG13 for Disney so you can take the kids. The love story was for the women so that they would be drawn and make the men go. (of course)

Now, according to some of the vets that have seen the film, they say yes, very Hollywood, but also, "Thank you for making the film to bring Pearl Harbor to the hearts and minds of the American people". "That the soldiers who lost their lives would be remembered , and that something like Pearl Harbor would hopefully NEVER happen in the US again". This was on the History Channel, Pearl Harbor- History VS. Hollywood, 8PM Sunday, 27 May 01.

I rather enjoyed the movie, I cried, especially when, well, I don't want to give it away to those who haven't seen the film, but it has to do with the USS Oklahoma.

Yes, Tora, Tora, Tora was more accurate, but I still enjoyed this movie. If you want documentary, there have been plenty of them on the tube all weekend long. BUT this is HOLLYWOOD, so remember, they have creative license ya know.

So go, buy the expensive popcorn & soda, relax, and have a good time.



Following on what Beverly has said, I saw on the History Channel tonight a segment of the "This Week in History" show about the movie "Pearl Harbor."

Apparently the Dept. of Defense, a number of historians, as well as actual veterans who survived Dec. 7, all lent technical assistance. The segment also showed scenes of the production in the making and it is obvious it was really shot in Pearl Harbor and a lot of the shots of explosions were really done on requisitioned (is that the right word?) naval vessels.

It all seems pretty impressive to me so I'll be going this week to see it all for myself.

I feel as Beverly does that whether or not specific little shots aren't quite right (something average people would never know!), it's a great thing that the story of the invasion of Pearl Harbor is getting this kind of attention so that the survivors of that nightmare can know how appreciative their countrymen are for their sacrifices that day.

I am thankful that these heroes are being honored.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about "Pearl Harbor", is that the Pearl Harbor sequence could be CUT out of the movie, and make little difference to the rest of it! The move is not 'about' Pearl Harbor.
Looks like the above criticisms are echoed elsewhere, here's an excerpt from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Historians say 'Pearl Harbor's' version of the World War II attack is off the mark

Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic Tuesday, May 29, 2001


"Pearl Harbor" may be scoring at the box office, but it's getting failing grades from historians, who see it as oversimplified and inaccurate.

"They spent 150 million on this thing," says Harry Gailey, author of the acclaimed "War in the Pacific: From Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay." "They should have been able to afford two or three dollars for a historian."

Gailey, who has written seven books on the Pacific theater of World War II, admires the spectacle but doesn't see much history in the new movie. Bruce Reynolds, also a nationally regarded military historian, agrees. The author of "Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance: 1941-1945," Reynolds is an authority on modern Asian history, and he teaches a course on World War II at San Jose State. "History is complicated," he says. "When you try to portray it, facts are distorted, and the context gets jerked around."

In this case, really jerked around. The experts saw plenty of anachronisms, jumblings of fact, odd points of emphasis and mistakes. Some are small. For example, in the first scene, two boys in 1923 play with a crop duster that was not commercially available until the late '30s.

Other mistakes are bigger. "They have Japanese torpedo bombers attacking the American airfields," says Gailey. "What are they going to torpedo on an airfield?"

The film puts 21st century communications technology into 1940s aircraft. The pilots communicate with the ease with men in a control tower; and, in a later scene, a woman in Hawaii is able to hear, as if over the radio, an entire battle play out, thousands of miles away.

"The idea that she can hear the in-plane radios while sitting back in Hawaii is nonsense," says Reynolds. "Planes did not have radios like that. And the control-tower scene is ludicrous. These things are pure Hollywood and have no relation to reality."

The film depicts the commanding officer, Admiral Kimmel, finding out about the attack while on a golf course, and it also shows Americans playing baseball as the Japanese planes fly in.

"But Kimmel hadn't left for the golf course," says Reynolds. "And who plays baseball at 7 in the morning?"

The movie depicts the war as coming as something of a surprise to the American leadership. But Reynolds points out that as early as Nov. 26 the Navy was issuing a "war warning" to all its officers, and the Army said that a "hostile action was possible any moment."

"They knew Japan was going to move," says Reynolds. "They just didn't know where."

When the battle starts, the fighter pilots played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett take off from an airfield that's under aerial assault. Their heroics parallel that of real-life pilots George Welch and Kenneth Taylor, but they didn't take off under those conditions. "They

were at a smaller airfield, to the west," says Gailey.

Later the pilots are recruited by Lt. Col. James Doolittle for a bombing raid over Tokyo. "But this was a bombing mission," says Gailey. "Doolittle needed bombers, not fighter pilots. They're not the same thing."

Both historians expressed doubts about Franklin D. Roosevelt's big scene, in which he pulls a "Dr. Strangelove" and struggles out of his wheelchair in order to show his cabinet that the impossible can happen. It's actor Jon Voight's hammiest moment, but neither historian has ever read of any incident remotely like that.

@break "Roosevelt in this movie was a caricature -- a caricature of somebody who wasn't Roosevelt," says Reynolds. "The movie has him making John Wayne-type speeches. Roosevelt didn't talk like that. It's entirely contrived."

The movie also suggests that Japan had a chance of winning the war, and that if it had pressed its advantage, it could have invaded the United States all the way from California to Chicago. "That's garbage about Chicago," says Reynolds. "Pure fantasy. Japan had no such ambitions or plans."

"There are only so many soldiers you can get on a ship," says Gailey. "Where could they have invaded on the West Coast? It would never have worked."

Though neither historian was @break swept away by the film, Reynolds thinks some good may come of it. "The best thing that could happen is that people will see it, be entertained and come away interested in why this stuff happened."

And Gailey, who was in high school at the time of Pearl Harbor, says the movie at least got some things right.

"They were reasonably accurate about the era," says Gailey. "They were pretty accurate about the attitude of the people. And the automobiles. And the swing music. They did a good job on that."
Good point, Bill. But then they would have to call it "60 Seconds Over Tokyo", and somebody already used that one.

Thank God for Ben Affleck, or we would still be fighting WWII.

Shelley: This one turned me into an old grouch, too. I felt it was an insult to my aunt and uncle, who were there at the time. But knowing my uncle, he would have had a good laugh.

Beverly and Randy do make a good point, though. Maybe it will generate interest in books and documentaries.
I know some people think I nitpick when I say that you could not take any one frame from the new Pearl Harbour movie that involved a ship and say, "This is exactly as it would have looked in 1941," but I'll give you a comparison by way of example of what accuracy means to a portrayal of history.

I don't think I exaggerate when I say that Pearl Harbour did for the history of the attack what the 1953 production of Titanic did for the history of the disaster. The producers claimed while acknowledging the lack of historical accuracy that they "captured the essence of Pearl Harbour." In my opinion, they re-wrote the battle to conform to the 1990s. I didn't recognise much of the "true" Pearl Harbour or the US Navy of the 1940s in the movie. It's not the four screws of the USS Oklahoma, the torpedo hit taken by the USS Vestal or the collapsing tripod masts that bother me as much as the PC-version of the way blacks were treated in the service at that time (which, in my opinion, actually detracted from Doris Miller's true actions), the reduction of real personalities (like CAPT Bannion, CO of the USS West Virginia) to mere caricatures, and the overall look of the battle. And the scene of ADM Kimmel on the launch at the end, receiving the notification from Washington? Grotesque. I watched the movie with my wife's grandfather, who flew P-40s and P-38s in the Pacific theatre during the war. He was amazed at what the "movie" P-40 could him, the aerial scenes were more reminiscent of Star Wars than his own experiences.

What's wrong with me?!? Don't I know Pearl Harbour is just a movie, another summer entertainment blockbuster? That the battle is just a backdrop for a larger romantic tale? Yes, I do. However, how many other people know that? How many learned history by watching Cameron's Titanic? Evidently quite a few, based on questions I have attempted to answer in private correspondence. And trying to change the perception people get from seeing images on the screen is darn near impossible.

So, what's the beef? In telling their love story with the aid of special effects, Bruckheimer & Co. re-wrote the history of Pearl Harbour, updating it with sensibilities from a new century. That's called historical revisionism, and I abhore it because it overwrites the true sense of the time. And, as with data on a computer disc, once it's overwritten, you might never recover it.

Oops...Jan's posting of the historians' comments came up while I was typing my missive. Had I seen Jan's post before I hit the POST button, I wouldn't have reiterated what other historians are already saying.

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