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Pearl Harbor (2001)

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In a year that foreshadowed the trend of branded franchise box office domination that would come to dominate the industry, the most industry-hyped film was actually a 3 hour long World War 2 movie. Hannibal, The Mummy Returns, Tomb Raider, Jurassic Park 3, Planet of The Apes, Rush Hour 2, Scary Movie 2, American Pie 2, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings were all coming out in 2001 however in the prerelease build up, none captured the publics attention quite like the Memorial Day media monster that was Pearl Harbor. 

 

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Fresh off the resounding success of 1996's The Rock and 1998's global box office champion Armageddon, Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer knew their next project would be a big deal. Other than Armageddon's big dollar gross, the dominant industry storylines of 1998 were unprecedented the success of TITANIC and along with the critical and commercial acclaim for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Retro nostalgia was back and in a tentpole-historical-epic way. Disney CEO Michael Eisner himself pitched Bay that Pearl Harbor would be a hybrid of TITANIC and SPR- action-packed military battles in paradise starring lots of hot young actors/actresses in the leading roles, patriotic overtones, an event so famous that it would practically sell itself- it sounded like the most surefire hit in town at the time. Additionally, Bay had stung by the critical ravaging that Armageddon had received, even if its box office proved it was beloved by audiences. He was eager for a project that would allow him to flex his artistic muscles to win critical acclaim in addition to generating massive dollars. Bay and Bruckheimer agreed to film based on a script from BRAVEHEART scribe Randall Wallace. Disney announced the film for a 2001 release along with the note that it was the most expensive film ever greenlit. A slew of young, expected to be stars - Armageddon star and Oscar winner Ben Affleck would lead the film, Kate Beckinsale beat out Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow for the female lead, while Halloween H20 star Josh Hartnett beat out Ashton Kutcher and Wes Bentley for the 2nd male lead. Cuba Gooding Jr would star as famous cook-turned-hero Dorrie Miller. Other famous industry veterans like Jon Voight, Alec Baldwin, and Dan Ackroyd joined in supporting roles. The years premiere release date - Memorial Day - was claimed. Many in the media began openly calling it "the next TITANIC", a claim that many should have viewed as ridiculous for many reasons but regardless, it stuck. 

 

It boasted one of the all-time great film trailer and marketing campaigns full of money shots & epic lines which actually made this look like a potentially award-caliber film. This is first known high-profile film to use the now replicated JOURNEY TO THE LINE theme by Hans Zimmer. If you watched the trailer, see it below - an incredible combination of action shots mixed with Zimmer's music and Voight recreating the famous FDR "Infamy" speech - it is a piece of art itself.  

 

 

 

 

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Though its release marked a screen count record, its opening was marred by theater complaints that it's 3 hour run time limited the number of showtimes allowed given many theaters were still doing robust business from SHREK and MUMMY RETURNS. It's $75m opening 4 day weekend was massive but underwhelming given many had pegged it to top $100 million for the weekend. Over this time, a much bigger problem emerged - critics hated the film, and unlike ARMAGEDDON, it seemed a decent number of audience goers agreed. The action scenes received universal acclaim and many felt the friendship between Affleck and Hartnett's characters resonated, many found the romantic angle shockingly bad and its dominant storyline left viewed with a bad taste in their mouth. Add in the 3 run time and repeat business was very low. An industry insider noted in a mid-June report recapping Disney's disappointment that the film didn't turn out be quite the TITANIC clone they hoped for, " they can be proud that this one of the rare movies that everyone has heard about and seen. The problem for Disney is, for most people, once was enough".

 

The movie finished $198 million domestic and $450m globally, turning a nice profit. However, its final reputation is a decidedly mixed bag. The failure to meet insane expectations puts the film in the company of other 2000s epics such as King Kong, Superman Returns, and Planet of the Apes that are generally regarded as disappointments despite substantial grosses. Adjusted for inflation, PEARL's domestic gross is in the $350m ballpark and its global gross, factoring market development, is likely in the $900m to $1 billion range- truly mysterious numbers for a world war 2 film. The movie was also the highest selling DVD ever for a tune. The movies bigger cultural impact was also noticeable -  didn't slow Ben Affleck's burgeoning star at all and turned Josh Hartnett into a household name for a period of time. On the other hand, the next few Michael Bay projects - Bad Boys 2 and The Island - were not close to as media hyped. It would not be until 2007's Transformers that Bay would return to his crowd pleasing form.  

 

Now nearly 20 years old, the bombing scene have many millions of viewed on Youtube & the overall attack scene is viewed is one of the greatest action sequences of the millennium. Everything else beyond those scenes is essentially deemed unwatchable. 

Edited by excel1
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The Actual attack is well worth watching, the rest of the film sucks, frankly. Much of it is the worst thing a film can be:Boring.

It made money 450 Million on a 180 Million budget....but not the numbers that Eisner was expecting. It made a good profit for Disney, but Eisner was expecting a cash cow. I can't help but think that WOM hurt the film.

As somebody said, If you want a good drama about the US military in Hawaii in the days before the attack watch "From Here To Eternity".

If you want a good film about the attack, watch "Tora,Tora,Tora".

If you want to be bored, watch "Pearl Harbor".

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Even the people who made Titanic didn't think it would become such a phenomenon. Not smart to spend that kind of money on Pearl Harbor, expecting to replicate even half of its success. There You'll Be was supposed to be the great love anthem a la My Heart Will Go On, but it's just so blah:

 

 

I was pleasantly surprised Pearl Harbor was released as a summer movie, given that the 60th anniversary was that December, though I suppose it was on DVD by then and got a sales boost that way. 

 

I just remember this movie being very slick/stylized, with everything seeming very modern, but the romance was so boring. It didn't need to be a love triangle. Overall, it's about as good as you can expect for Michael Bay tackling history + romance.

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Dramawise, the friendship angle and patriotism stuff works pretty well. It's the romance/'Affleck dies and then comes back' storyline that is just shockingly bad. It's hard to believe this wasn't caught in there screenwriting phase. 

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On ‎11‎/‎29‎/‎2020 at 3:20 AM, snarkmachine said:

i'm glad this movie exists if just for the best opening line of a review roger ebert ever wrote: "Pearl Harbor" is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle."

All it does is remind you of how much better "Tora! Tora! Tora!" was.

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Despite the hideous romance angle, this movie's run is fascinating -  primary the release and opening weekend stages - as this is really among the last of Hollywood's true "manufactured blockbusters". As far as I can tell, this is the last "original" film to open in the top 5 all time at time of release. 

 

1. Lost World: Jurassic Park - $72m

2. Mummy Returns - $68m
3. Episode 1 - $64m

4. Pearl Harbor - $59m 

 

Everything else that came after it & opened huge was based on some preexisting IP of some kind.  Troy was the same vain but obviously not close to as successful.  Inception was 9 years later. We don't get movies like this any more, certainly prime time summer months. 

 

The idea of an original, 3 hour film based on World War 2 opening to $200m+ in today's market is beyond nuts. 

Edited by excel1
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On 12/1/2020 at 11:14 AM, excel1 said:

Despite the hideous romance angle, this movie's run is fascinating -  primary the release and opening weekend stages - as this is really among the last of Hollywood's true "manufactured blockbusters". As far as I can tell, this is the last "original" film to open in the top 5 all time at time of release. 

 

1. Lost World: Jurassic Park - $72m

2. Mummy Returns - $68m
3. Episode 1 - $64m

4. Pearl Harbor - $59m 

 

Everything else that came after it & opened huge was based on some preexisting IP of some kind.  Troy was the same vain but obviously not close to as successful.  Inception was 9 years later. We don't get movies like this any more, certainly prime time summer months. 

 

The idea of an original, 3 hour film based on World War 2 opening to $200m+ in today's market is beyond nuts. 

I am a big World War 2 buff, and I hate this movie because most of it is boring.

Watch a double feature of "Tora Tora Tora" and "From Here To Eternity" instead.

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On 12/6/2020 at 5:47 PM, dudalb said:

I am a big World War 2 buff, and I hate this movie because most of it is boring.

Watch a double feature of "Tora Tora Tora" and "From Here To Eternity" instead.

 

On 11/30/2020 at 7:33 PM, dudalb said:

All it does is remind you of how much better "Tora! Tora! Tora!" was.

 

Tora! Tora! Tora! has a massive energy and soul problem. The movie is so by-the-numbers that there is zero emotional connection to anyone outside of maybe the conflicted and well-portrayed Yamamoto. It is absolutely more historical accurate the Bay movie but color me shocked when I realized it wasn't even going to attempt building some type of emotional connection between anyone. Casual moviegoers will almost certainly prefer the Bay film to it. From Here To Eternity is the polar opposite and has nearly nothing to do with the attack other than it happens. 

 

I still look at this event/film and think there is so much untapped commercial and critical potential here. The only thing the Bay movie reached maximum potential with was marketing and opening weekend figures - truly one of the best ad campaigns of all time. But that's it. The right Director with a name ala Michael B. Jordon as Dorris Miller and a few other veterans? This could a gigantic hit. If Dunkirk can do $521m and 1917 can do $400m, a proper telling of the overall Pearl Harbor story - which would have to end with the rousing American reaction - would no doubt be a $1 billion challenger and awards contender. 

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