Discussing the old school DVD’s that still sound and look great in the era of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD technology.
On paper, 2001’s Pearl Harbor must have had the studio big wigs licking their chops. Randall Wallace (Braveheart) was penning script. Action director Michael Bay (Armageddon) was going to finally direct something serious. Hot stars Ben Affleck, Josh Harnett and Kate Beckinsale were cast as a love triangle set against the back drop of the historic Japanese sneak atta…k on the Naval base at Pearl Harbor. The film was green-lit with the biggest budget of all time. How could this go wrong?
Pearl Harbor opened up on every screen in the country — or so it seemed — and then reality set in. It just wasn’t any good. The most glaring problem with the film was the blatant attempt to copy the formula that made Titanic the biggest movie in the history of cinema success, which stole $600+ million dollars from 14 year-old girls over the course of three months in 1997 and 1998.
You had the love story set against a historical event. You had an epic running time. And you had a manufactured love song that was incorporated into the film’s score. The problem was that the three stars never established any chemistry with one another, the film slogged on for what seemed like forever, and Faith Hill’s cheesy love song was no “My Heart Will Go On.”
Another large problem with the film was the PG-13 rating. Whereas Titanic was a natural disaster, Pearl Harbor was about war — and sanitized war films immediately lose their integrity. Cutting away from gruesome scenes of war violence will make almost any film appear to be a pro-war film. The battles and the scenery may look fun and pretty — but people are getting slaughtered in truly gruesome ways. I don’t think you can have one without the other, which is why Saving Private Ryan is the most effective war film of all time.
Pearl Harbor mostly crashed and burned at the box office, failing to make a third of what Titanic had done so easily. What was supposed to be the biggest film of the summer season was forgotten about a few weeks later.
On DVD, the film saw somewhat of a renaissance, given some very nice specs. The DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks were among the best ever. Granted, you had to wait roughly 80 minutes before the battles began and the home theater rumbled to life, but the wait is well worth it. The picture also complemented the film nicely — as Pearl Harbor was always a pretty film. The original DVD release was a double disc edition, so it also came with a slew of extras. Shortly thereafter, a 4-disc Director’s Cut edition was released with a little more violence to make the film the equivalent of an R-rated film, and even more special features. However, no added footage was able to improve upon Pearl Harbor’s many flaws.
In the end, Pearl Harbor has become somewhat of a Hollywood punch-line. There have been much worse films released upon the masses, but never has such a highly anticipated film been met with such indifference. Luckily, the DVD specs were able to improve the viewing experience, but the film, unfortunately, was still the same.
So when people mention Pearl Harbor nowadays, it’s mostly about the film’s specs rather than the quality, and rightfully so. Pearl Harbor was and is mediocre — much like a high paid sports team that disappointingly hovers around the .500 line for the entire season — and misses the playoffs.