Pearl Harbor Blu-ray Review
PictureScreaming in with a richly detailed and gloriously wide 2.35:1 image, in 1080p, Pearl Harbor's BD incarnation is a colourful delight. The source print is immaculate and the transfer is boosted by high levels of detail. The many panoramic vistas are extremely well captured and fill the picture with information, from people in the foreground to objects way, way back in the distance. The multitudes of action scenes offer absolutely splendid detail for aircraft, ships, vehicles and sailors and there is no problem with fast motion. Planes whip across the image without any trailing save for their own slipstreams, smoke and any bits blown off them. The wide shots of the chaos being wrought throughout Battleship Row is beautifully accurate should you want to scrutinise the frame. There may be some occasional instances when the CG effects - which are blissfully few for a film such as this - don't quite gel so successfully with the live-action, but you would be hard-pushed to pinpoint any glaring errors with image stability or edge delineation.
Blues are a tad over-saturated and there was evidence of slight banding in the skies during some early sequences. Soft grain is revealed against the primaries, though it is predominantly kept in check. Post-processing has certainly enhanced the colours of the film, though for my money, the spectrum allows for an image that often looks as though it has been painted on. Just check out those Hawaiian sunsets and the many cruising shots of the lush foliage and cloud-speckled mountain-tops. Oranges and reds bask during the intensely fabulous explosions and insignia on the soldiers, sailors and airmen is always highly polished, bright and pin-sharp. Blacks are very good, although there are some moments when finer detail may be lost, such as in the dance-club, or at the train station. Flesh tones have that Hollywood sheen to them, that overly-healthy orange glow but, to be honest, I have seen a lot worse and, considering the very rich and flamboyant colour scheme that the film employs, they seem to fit right in.
The three-dimensionality that high-resolution can produce is, thankfully, very much in evidence here. All of the combat sequences provide amazing depth of field - Zeros flying between ships, refugees fleeing across middle-sections whilst wreckage burns in the foreground and enemy fighters wheel around again in the background skies - and there are many frames that stretch further and further back with accuracy and a level of depth that is quite astonishing. Even some subtle moments provide good three-dimensional pop, such as the parade on deck which sees naval officers striding down towards us between two ranks of white-uniforms, whilst more NCOs loiter further back at the start of the line. Good, immersive stuff, folks, that really brings the film to life.
With the over-saturation and evidence of some slight artefacts taken into consideration, Pearl Harbor earns itself a good solid 8 out of 10 for its image.
SoundWhilst definitely more dynamic and exciting than the DD 5.1 mix, the PCM Uncompressed track for Pearl Harbor is still not quite up there with the better incarnations that I have heard on other discs. But, don't worry, this is not a major failing because the mix sure delivers the goods when the bombs are dropping.
The obvious showcase for the audio is the attack on the base, and there are momentous instances of sub-heavy activity to send you bouncing across the floor of the lounge. Bass levels have a tremendously deep foundation that envelops you with guttural roars for each and every explosion. Even far-off impacts have a real weight and presence. But the gut-rumbling thrust of the many up-close- and-personal missile penetrations, aircraft eruptions and thudding debris is sure to please. Explosions and gunfire are always clear and sharp and realistic, the frontal array really taking the brunt of the aural assault with good separation and no elements of mush or vocal swallowing. The shotgun blasts from Sizemore's grizzled grease-monkey sound great and there are some nice ricochets that tumble and ping around the surrounds during the hand-to-hand combat during the tacked-on finale. But, my problem with the track - well, it is more of an observation, really - is that it seems to lack the necessary sweep and whip-around steerage that this material really screams out for. The planes - which do sound authentic, loud and ferociously kinetic - don't provide much in the way of overhead movement or front-to-back whooshing. The effects for them are wildly active, yes, but somehow not as acoustically aerodynamic as those to be heard in other mixes. Likewise, the bullets that dance across the airfields, or slam into the fuselage of planes or the steel of the big ships do not seem to have quite the directionality that I had expected from a well-produced and put-together bombastic display of mayhem.
Zimmer's score has no such problem, however. The music swells and sweeps around the set-up with warmth and full immersion, rushing in from all sides and searing the highs with heartstring-plucking precision and filling up the lower levels with size and weight. So, without a doubt, the PCM is a fine track and certainly the one to opt for. And sub-lovers (let's face it, who isn't?) are sure to get a kick out of it.
ExtrasSpeeding over the music video for Faith Hill's “There You'll Be”, this release offers only a couple of documentaries and the theatrical and teaser trailers for the film. Journey To The Screen - The Making Of Pearl Harbor runs just shy of 50mins and is the typical glossy, loud and full-on filler-piece that seems, at first, to cover a lot of ground by involving lots of participants and allowing for heaps of behind-the-scenes footage. In reality, though, this feature skips very quickly through a lot of the elements that went into the production of the film. The makers are clearly proud of what they are attempting and at pains to reveal just respectful they want to be, with a lot of veterans on-hand to offer guidance and advice and pop up from time to time throughout to endorse the project. Everybody involved is determined to tell us how emotional, important and noble their interpretation of the tragedy is and the nagging feeling is that somewhere in here is a pretty thorough and informative documentary. We do, however, benefit from the copious on-location filming that went into the piece and there is some great stuff about the stunts and the explosive effects. But, on the whole, this is fast, flashy and full of its own sense of worth. It may feel quite generous, but this doc really only scratches the surface.
Better by far is the second feature, called Unsung Heroes. Running for about the same length of time, this takes us back the real Pearl Harbor of 7th December 1941. Using comprehensive archival film, photographs and even artist impressions, as well as many eye-witness accounts from those who survived, this History Channel documentary follows the exact events of that fateful day as they really happened. It's riveting stuff, too. There are harrowing accounts of experiences from those who were trapped below the decks of capsized ships and lots of tales of bravery about those who attempted to fight the Japanese with the meagre firepower that could be mustered amongst the carnage and the flames. The US defence was actually a bit better mounted than the film would have you believe, in that several more planes were able to get off the ground and retaliate. The genesis for Rafe's and Danny's daring last-ditch dogfight can be found in the true story of two genuine pilots who managed to take the battle back to the Japs and shot down possibly eight enemy aircraft between them. Even the car-ride beneath the strafing fighters is apparently true. The only thing that lets this feature down is the overly portentous and melodramatic narration from actor Fritz Weaver but, otherwise, this is well worth watching.
Finally, we get a Movie Showcase feature to enable you to jump to three of the disc's most dazzling episodes of high-definition glory ... in case you weren't able to notice any yourself. I'm not a fan of this gimmick.
VerdictLove it or loathe it, Pearl Harbor remains majestic eye-candy from one of the most spectacularly shallow filmmakers of our times. With dialogue so bad it recalls Harrison Ford's alleged retort about George Lucas' screenwriting abilities, and a procession of pin-up superstars running rampant through one of history's bleakest turning points, it would be easy to dismiss this release altogether. But the fact is that Michael Bay's lesson in how to blow things up on a really big scale is still downright entertaining. I know I shouldn't really enjoy such superficial set-dressing as this, but once those amassed Zeros fill the skies and the chaos begins, Pearl Harbor is pretty hard to beat in the thrill-a-minute department. Thus, we have a long film that survives its first act by virtue of a combination of bare-assed cheek and pure cheese, effortlessly coasts through its second act with whiz-bang ferocity and then sinks itself with a deplorable, jingoistic final act. My advice is to just switch it off after America finally commits to war.
Disc-wise, the transfer is certainly colourful and packed with detail, but somehow I expected a little more from the PCM Uncompressed track. The extras, meanwhile, are obviously no substitute for the 4-disc edition that appeared a while ago, but what has made the trip to BD is reasonable enough addition for those primarily after a richer looking high-definition experience.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £21.67
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