In 2001, Director Michael Bay was a hot, relatively proven property, fresh off the back to back successes of Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon. Keen to move away from being known only as a 'big explosion action director' (a tag which he now revels in), Bay embarked on the war project which sought to meld the romantic touches of Titanic for the ladies, massive action scenes for the boys, and the duo of Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett for the teen girl audience. On paper, the film seemed to have all the right ingredients, but the film became less than the sum of its parts.
It's 1941; World War II has broken out and forces are being mobilized to ramp up the war effort of the United States. When the empire of Japan attacks the United States fleet stationed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, the 'sleeping giant' of the United States is awoken and plans are afoot to retailiate.
A strange fit for Disney, even under its now dismantled Touchstone label, Pearl Harbor was widely savaged for its sanitized and bloodless depiction of war, especially after the realism of recent films such as Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, although these complaints were somewhat rectified in the later DVD released 'directors cut'.
Ten years on, after the 'state of the art' visual effects are no longer so 'state of the art' and the media hype is long since forgotten, what are we left with? Well, it's a reasonable enough war film, a throwback to the romanticised efforts of the 1950's. S
ubsequently, it's one of the few war films produced that are suitable for a younger audience. The acting is still pretty ordinary, the script even more so. Luckily though, the audio and video transfers are still very good, which leads me to a nice segue...
Pearl Harbor is presented in a full screen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (its original aspect ratio), encoded with MPEG-2 compression.
Although one of the first Blu-rays authored soon after the formats inception in 2006, Pearl Harbor holds up surprisingly well. Despite using the older MPEG-2 format and the print featuring a reasonable spread of intentional grain, there is a fortunate lack of encoding artifacts.
As per all Michael Bay films, the colours are bright and bold and translate well to the current crop of LCD and plasma screens. As mentioned, grain is at times quite thick, but is always an artistic choice. There is a bit of chroma noise which I think can be squarely blamed on the MPEG-2 encoding.
In 2006, Pearl Harbor would have been perfect demo material, but now it's been bettered. But, it's still a strong transfer - just a shame it was produced before MPEG-4 was widely used.
The main audio track is encoded in uncompressed PCM 5.1 at 24 bits.
While the video transfer might be showing its age, the same cannot be said for the audio track. Produced at a time when audio mixers were really hitting their straps with multi channel mixes, Pearl Harbor still has what it takes to be a demo worthy audio experience.
Whilst the centrepiece of the movie (the attack on Pearl Harbor itself) is aggressive and impressive as one would expect, with LFE powerful enough to compress air, it's even more striking in scenes where the soundtrack is responsible for bringing you into the environment, with ever present general ambience carving out convincing soundscapes.
The score provided by Hans Zimmer is reasonably good, but I'm not sure his bombast is really suited to the type of film that Pearl Harbor tries to be.
Overall, a very impressive track that belies none of its decade old vintage.
Despite an amazing 4 disc 'Vista series' DVD set that was produced for the director's cut of the film, Pearl Harbor has to make do with a few promotional extra features that mirror the initial DVD that released in 2001. If there is any certainty in life, it's that Pearl Harbor will be re-released in the fullness of time. But in the meantime we have to make do with what's here.
Two reasonably long 40 minute documentaries; Journey to the Screen: The Making of Pearl Harbor and The Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor headline the set. The first is a more general purpose making of that gives a sweeping overview of the production, but unsurprisingly concerned with the filming and post production of the attack scene. It's interesting enough and shows Michael Bays as a fairly aggressive film maker, in a James Cameron-take-no-crap kinda way.
The latter documentary takes a more considered approach to the real life events, interviewing many servicemen who were stationed at the harbor during the attack. It's a nice counterpoint to a movie which is roundly accused of reveling in video game style CG.
The Faith Hill 'There you'll be' music video is presented in basic standard definition quality. At this point, the desire for Disney to emulate the success of Titanic becomes a little too obvious.
Finally, we have two Theatrical Trailers in basic standard definition.
In itself, the disc features some worthwhile extras, but these pale in comparison to the quality and quantity of extras that were produced for the Directors Cut DVD.
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