Pearl Harbor: Director's Cut (2001)

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Released 19-Aug-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Booklet
Menu Animation & Audio
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Audio Commentary-Michael Bay (Director) & Jeanine Basinger (Film Historian)
Audio Commentary-Jerry Bruckheimer, Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin & Josh Hartnett
Audio Commentary-J Schwartzman, N Phelps, Michael Kaplan, M Laing, H Zimmer
Featurette-Production Diary (10, 7 +/- commentary)
Featurette-Super 8 Montage
Music Video-Faith Hill
Featurette-Oral History: The Recollections Of A Pearl Harbor Nurse
Featurette-One Hour Over Tokyo
Featurette-Interactive Timeline - When Cultures Collide (5)
Multiple Angles-Interactive Attack Sequence (4 angles + 7 audio tracks)
Featurette-Deconstructing Destruction-A Conversation On Visual Effects
Featurette-Animatic Attack
Featurette-Boot Camp (2)
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 176:57 (Case: 184)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:40)
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Bay

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Ben Affleck
Josh Hartnett
Kate Beckinsale
Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Tom Sizemore
Jon Voight
Colm Feore
Alec Baldwin
Case Gatefold
RPI $54.95 Music Hans Zimmer

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German Titling
German Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
German Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, it is 1940 after all.
Annoying Product Placement Yes, watch for those coke bottles.
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Pearl Harbor is a strange movie. Demolished critically, it was not exactly an enormous success at the box office. However, this film just gets better with each subsequent viewing - this is now the third time I have viewed the movie on DVD and I now consider it to be quite good.

    The biggest problem for Pearl Harbor is that it is a movie of two very different and contrasting styles. Initially (and that means for the first seventy five minutes or so), it is essentially a pure romance. The story is about two life-long friends, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), who have joined the army together to fly planes. While stationed on Long Island, Rafe meets army nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale) and woos her. These early scenes are very well put together, and not only look gorgeous, but demonstrate the innocence of the period. They also provide the only real opportunity for comedy in the movie, and contain some quite good laughs. The pairing of Ben Affleck with Kate Beckinsale is absolute movie dynamite, and the two make a great screen couple.

    But then the first twist (more a gentle bend really) occurs, as Rafe's transfer to England's Eagle Squadron comes through, and he can go and fly for the Royal Air Force against the Germans. Obviously this is not exactly the news that Evelyn was looking to hear, and even Rafe admits that until he met her he had no regrets about going to England, but now he does. From there the love-triangle/romance plot goes into a few rather predictable turns - although made eminently watchable thanks to the calibre of the actors involved - before we arrive at December 7th, 1941.

    For forty five very full on minutes, the Japanese attack is recreated in intricate detail. Zeros swarm the harbour and the island, and soon ships are blowing up left, right, and centre, and people are being ripped to shreds by strafing bullets. The attack comes in waves - first the ships, then the major airfields, then the smaller airfields. Each wave is just as intense as the last, and by the end of the forty five minutes, it feels as if you have run a marathon with a brick tied around your neck. These are, without a doubt, the greatest action sequences ever put on film, and the fact that it is based on something real, where many people died only makes it carry more weight. Then the post-attack sequences show the aftermath and the true tragedy of the situation, with sailors trapped in their sinking ships banging to be let out, and the many wounded and dying overflowing the hospitals. While this sequence is unsurpassed for action, it does feel very out of place given the seventy five minutes of romance that precede it. The first time you see this movie it is easy to become bored with the romance just waiting for the action, but if the effort is put in to really get into the romance, then when the attack sequence begins, it can be quite jarring. Maybe this is intentional - certainly the real attack was very much a surprise - and if that was the case, it works very well. However, as part of a film it makes it seem very disjointed and broken up.

    The end of the attack sequence is where the movie should have finished. That is the point where, after just over two hours, the story seems to have come to its tragic conclusion, but this being a Hollywood movie, it had to go on, it had to end on a positive. That positive is the Doolittle raid on Japan. Using the contrived device of including all the Hawaiian fly-boys in the raid, we get to ride along and see the characters we follow through the romance portion, then through the Pearl Harbor attack, get some revenge. Revenge may well be sweet, but this story line really does feel a little tacked on, and makes the movie too long.

    Also very much "tacked-on" is the plot line following Dorie Miller (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), the first African American to win the Navy Cross, and one of the few real historical characters in the film. The extent of this can be seen by the fact that he only appears in the movie for just over half its running time, from the 43:00 minute mark in the run-up to the attack, to the 129:00 minute mark as he farewells his shipmates, and during that time he would be lucky to get more than ten minutes of actual screen time - not just a waste of a respected actor, but a complete waste of a plot line.

    This is the "Director's Cut" of the film, but it is only a mere one minute and twenty seconds longer than the previous releases. Almost all of that time is taken up by inserting extra gore shots into the action mix (this version of the film is rated MA while the previous version is only M), and making more extensive use of Stan Winston's special make-up effects. Unfortunately, the new shots tend to jar with the rest of the effects, as they are more stylised, compared to the ultra-realistic CGI attack shots.

    Overall, Pearl Harbor is a very enjoyable movie. Sure, it is no Titanic and some of the scenes are bordering on the exploitive, but the romance plot is played out by very talented actors that are also very good looking, and very charismatic, and the action sequences are some of the best ever committed to film. Sit down, let the lush visuals carry you away, and be caught up in the epic that is Pearl Harbor.

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Transfer Quality


    While this is the third time I have covered Pearl Harbor on DVD, we are presented here with a slightly different transfer to the previous rental and two-disc editions (they shared the same transfer). In general it is still very good, but the need to compress an extra minute, and a few more soundtracks onto the disc has meant a slight drop in video quality compared to the previous releases.

    Presented at the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness present here is on the whole good, and occasionally excellent. A deliberate choice was made during much of this film to use high-grain film stocks, and this does serve to soften the image somewhat at times, but where this is not having an effect there is more than sufficient detail present on the screen. Shadow detail is almost beautiful in its excellence - the night scenes here look better than the day on many occasions, as the night stock tends to be low grain and is extremely sharp at the same time as exhibiting brilliant shadow detail. There is no low level noise present.

    Colours are excellent, handling both the deep blacks of night, the highlights of Hawaiian clothing, and the unique requirements of battle with equal aplomb. The colours, like the film stocks, are also used to a certain extent - through the use of lighting - to set the tone for given scenes, and this never causes a problem.

    Compression artefacts are the area in which this transfer is not quite as good as its predecessors. There are two problems. Firstly, and more noticeably, is the presence of what appears to be the Gibb effect around the fast-moving plane at 5:25. Secondly, the overall look of the film is just not quite the same as that of the previous transfers - it is slightly softer and exhibits slightly less clarity than them. While it is not a specific artefact, the effect of squeezing such a long movie into less space has had a small effect. There are a few instances of aliasing, and although some are noticeable, the fact that there are so few within such a long film means they are very uncommon. Probably the worst instance is the mission board at 142:31, and again between 143:04 and 143:07, which is the same as for the previous transfers. Aside from a few examples in the historical newsreel footage, there are no film artefacts present in this transfer.

    The subtitles are word-for-word accurate, are well paced, and attractively rendered. This is a nice turn indeed. An even more positive move is that the English subtitles of the Japanese dialogue have been vastly increased in size from the previous transfers, making them considerably easier to read. Unfortunately, they are still burned into the print (meaning that the foreign language subtitles appear at the top of the screen), but it is a vast improvement nonetheless.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring at 85:40 during chapter 22. While this is earlier than in the previous transfers, it is still during the attack, and if possible is even worse than before, as the audio cut off interrupts the noise of a plane buzzing the naval headquarters.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Despite any difference of opinion regarding either the merits of the movie, or the quality of the visual transfer, there is absolutely no question as to which movie contains the pre-eminent Dolby Digital audio track - it is right here on Pearl Harbor.

    There are five audio tracks present on this disc. First up is the English dialogue track in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 Kbps), whilst the Turkish dub present on the previous two releases has made way for a German dub in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 384 Kbps). There are also the three commentary tracks, all presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 (at 96 Kbps). Additionally, there are German subtitles for all commentary tracks.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times. This is an especially impressive effort, as during the battle scenes there can be enough going on to easily become confusing if the mix was not exactly right. Audio sync is also spot on and is never a problem during the transfer.

    The music is provided by Hans Zimmer and is a top notch effort. The stirring battle music is well integrated with the more reserved music from the romantic portions of the film. The general theme is a very pretty piece of music on its own, and features heavily throughout. The score is one of the best aspects of this film.

    Surround presence is a bit of a mixed bag during this movie. This Director's Cut mix seems to have beefed up the surround use during dialogue-driven scenes somewhat, however they are never going to match the intensity of the battle sequences. During the battle sequences, sound assaults from all directions - every speaker screams with the sound of planes flying low, bullets tearing through metal and people, and bombs blowing anything and everything apart. The score also swells and intensifies during these sequences, coming heavily from the surrounds, and serves to further ensconce the viewer in the middle of the sound-field. During the dialogue sequences however, there is only the subtle use of the surround for ambient noise. While they are not used to the extent that they otherwise might have been during some scenes (indoor scenes especially are quite front-heavy), they are still almost constantly in use, and so still serve to impress. Overall, the battle scenes make reference-quality demonstration material, while the rest of the movie is good enough in its own right to still not let its end down.

    This is a film where having a subwoofer is almost a necessity. From the very first scenes where the crop duster flies overhead, every time a plane, car, train, or any other type of machine goes past the screen, the big bass rumble given off by the subwoofer is incredibly impressive. During the battle scenes, however, it only gets better. When the Arizona explodes, the bass is enough to bring the walls down, and that is one of the very first explosions. From there the attack sequence continues to provide rubble-inducing rumbles that make other films look like gramophone recordings in comparison.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This collection of extras is absolutely second to none. There has never been a set as lavish as this, and until the extended edition of Fellowship of the Rings is released, Pearl Harbor is a no-contest leader for quality DVD packages. There is one thing lacking however: while in depth coverage is given to the history of Japanese and US relations, to the Doolittle raid, and to the making of the movie, there is little further information about the attack itself.


    The menus are 16x9 enhanced, feature Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, but surprisingly - excluding the movie disc - are static following animated introductions. They are themed around the era more than the movie, and are very impressive.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary - Michael Bay (Director) and Jeanine Basinger (film historian)

    This commentary features the director with his film school professor, Jeanine Basinger, which seems not unlike doing a commentary with your mother. While a little strange, it is interesting enough if not exactly consistent. Essentially, Bay tries to talk up his movie while Basinger plays the role of interviewer.

Audio Commentary - Jerry Bruckheimer (Producer), Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Alec Baldwin (Actors)

    This commentary features three commentaries spliced together. Jerry Bruckheimer - recorded separately - is quite reserved, but talks generally about making movies, and the processes behind the movie making rather than the movie making itself. Affleck and Hartnett are recorded together, and have a great time both insulting the movie and joking with one another. This is probably the best of the commentaries, being both entertaining and quite intelligent and has a surprisingly large amount of acrimony, which is quite refreshing for a Hollywood commentary. Finally, Alec Baldwin, also recorded separately interjects from time-to-time with what are usually relatively uninteresting comments.

Audio Commentary - John Schwartzman (Cinematographer), Nigel Phelps (Production Designer ), Michael Kaplan (Costume Designer ), Martin Laing (Art Director ) and Hans Zimmer (Composer)

    This commentary is more focused on the film making itself rather than the general discussion of the other two. The participants were recorded in a number of different groups, and as such the inter-cutting of the comments can be a little confusing although the accents of Nigel Phelps, Martin Laing and Hans Zimmer help by making them easy to pick. In general, John Schwartzman and Michael Kaplan (recorded together) are the main commentators, with the rest cut in between them. The information imparted is probably the most interesting from this track. It is at the same time however, the least accessible due to the increased technicality.

Disc 2

    This disc is divided into three sections: The Film, The History, and Interactive Timeline

The Film

    This section provides a number of extras loosely grouped around the film itself.

Production Diary (62:19)

    This is actually a collection of ten behind-the-scenes vignettes, covering every aspect of the production, as follows:

    Presented at around 1.85:1, the frame has been moved up slightly to allow captions and facts to be placed under the view, meaning that the presentation is actually 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. All feature the on set audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, and those marked with an asterisk (*) also feature optional commentary from director Michael Bay. As a nice touch, most of the segments finish with the final film footage of the scene we have just been behind. These are some of the best behind-the-scenes segments available, as they show pure on-set setups, and nothing else (excluding the commentaries), allowing an in-depth look. The vignettes are divided across four pages, and each page has a "play all" button, however the button only plays all on that page, and it is still necessary to manually move to the next page and "play all" again. Also somewhat annoying is the fact that there is no way back to the "Film" menu from within the production design section, requiring returning to the main menu, then heading back in again. This is, unfortunately, a trend for the rest of the extras discs.

Super 8 Montage (4:39)

    This, as the name suggests, is a montage of all the footage shot with the Super 8 camera. This camera uses only 8mm film (compared to normal film that is 35mm) and is usually of fairly poor image quality, but was popular at at the time of the second world war as a newsreel camera (for a number of reasons) Edit: I have been informed (see comment "Super 8" below) that this is not the case - Super 8 cameras were not in existence in 1941. The filmmakers instead used the Super 8 camera to represent the "look" of newsreel footage. The segment is, as expected, fairly poor visually, but provides some disturbing visuals nonetheless. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring a Dolby Digital 2.0 musical audio track.

Music Video: Faith Hill - There You'll Be (3:47)

    This is the only extra to return from the 2-disc edition of Pearl Harbor. It is presented at 2.35:1, is not 16x9 enhanced, and features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

The History

    This section provides some more information about the events surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Oral History: The Recollections of a Pearl Harbor nurse (5:42)

    This is a reading of a diary entry written on the day of the Pearl Harbor raid by nurse Ruth Erickson. It is set to a montage of photographs from the time of the attack. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. Note the running time of this extra is not the 3:36 stated on the disc, but rather 5:42.

History Channel Documentary: One Hour Over Tokyo (45:53)

    This is a fascinating documentary about the Jimmy Doolittle lead raid on Tokyo (and other major Japanese cities) in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As is the way of the History Channel, it is in depth and extensive. Presented at 1.33:1, not 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Interactive Timeline: When Cultures Collide - From Perry to Pearl Harbor (68:53)

    This is the most extensive and interesting extra present on this disc. It is actually a documentary (When Cultures Collide - From Perry to Pearl Harbor) that has been chopped up and given chapter stops through the chronological order literally going from Perry through to Pearl Harbor. While this is actually more annoying than anything, a "play all" option has kindly been provided even if it is somewhat hidden. From the main menu before starting the timeline, select "Timeline Index" rather than beginning the timeline, then select "Continuous Play" to see the entire documentary in one go.

Disc 3

    This disc is again split into three sections, being Visual Effects, Gallery, and Boot Camp.

Interactive Attack Sequence (27:45)

    This, for those who are only interested in the action sequences in Pearl Harbor, is the money extra. It features all attack sequences placed back-to-back (none of those namby-pamby nurses in between) and even has the full Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track present. For everyone else, it also has a wealth of other options. There are no less than four angles present for this sequence being:

  1. The Film
  2. On The Set
  3. Storyboard & Animatics
  4. Composite of Angles 1, 2, and 3

    But wait, there's more. There are also seven audio tracks present, being:

  1. Final film audio (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  2. On The Set (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  3. Music Only (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  4. Sound Effects Only (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  5. Audio Commentary - Eric Brevig (Visual Effects Supervisor) (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  6. Audio Commentary - Robert Consing (Storyboard Artist) (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  7. Audio Commentary - Pearl Harbor survivors (Dolby Digital 1.0)

    So with more options here than a stick can be poked at, there is something for everyone. The commentaries are rather good, although all contain large gaps, with the commentary from Robert Consing being the best. The survivors track is actually just spliced together from interviews of many of the survivors, and is therefore not a "live" commentary. A slightly strange decision was to only put captions for the names of the speakers on the survivors audio track on the fourth angle - maybe the producers just assumed that everyone would end up watching in that angle (certainly the commentators from the first two tracks seem to have been watching that angle).

Deconstructing Destruction: A Conversation on Visual Effects with Michael Bay and Eric Brevig (21:26)

    This featurette consists of Michael Bay and his visual effects supervisor (and second unit director) Eric Brevig sitting in front of a monitor and discussing the process of creating the visual effects for the film. This is the most valuable of the technical extras, as it contains a lot of information, and almost all of it is interesting. Presented at 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced, and it features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Animatic Attack (5:45)

    In order to sell the idea of Pearl Harbor to both Disney and the US military, Michael Bay produced an "animatic" (a basic computer graphic representation) of the attack sequence to show how he envisaged it would look. This is that presentation. It is set to commentary by various members of the crew, and is presented at around 2.1:1 (again using the black bar underneath the image for captions), not 16x9 enhanced, featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.


    This is an over-sized version of the usual photo gallery. It consists of the following sections:

    In case you are wondering, that is a staggering 504 images in total!

Boot Camp

    This contains two segments, one for the boot camp attended by the actors playing general soldiers, and one for the camp attended by Alec Baldwin. They are as follows:

    These segments are probably the most "fun" of all the extras, and it is worth watching the Soldiers' camp just to catch the look Ben Affleck directs toward the drill instructor (if looks could kill...)

Other (no-disc)


    The booklet gives a brief description as to the packaging, and contains a "letter" from Michael Bay. It also doubles as a comprehensive index to all the features across all the discs. It would have been more useful however, had the extras from each disc been placed in order, instead of shuffled among each other.

Roosevelt's Address To Congress

    This is a copy of the short paragraph said by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to congress on December 8th, 1941 - the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is a nice touch that helps set the tone for the set.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are almost as many versions of Pearl Harbor available across the word as there are geeks at a computer show. For this comparison, the Region 1 Vista Series version will be compared against the local two and three disc releases.

    The Region 4 3-disc version of this film misses out on;

    The Region 4 2-disc version of this film misses out on;

    The Region 1 4-disc version of this film misses out on;

    While the list seems long the only really extensive extras that this version misses out on are the additional History Channel documentary, and the branching footage within Deconstructing Destruction. The other obvious lack is the dts track, but given that the Region 1 has been split over two discs to allow enough space, the worth of its inclusion is questionable. It really is up to personal preference if the added benefits of dts (keeping in mind, this is a fantastic Dolby Digital track) are sufficient to warrant getting up half-way through the movie. Regardless, given the plethora of options available on the Region 1 that are not available here, it still wins the comparison hands-down.


    Pearl Harbor is a good movie that was unfairly treated due to the "tall poppy" syndrome. It is certainly not perfect, but it presents an interesting romance with talented and charismatic actors, and the greatest action sequences ever placed on film.

    The video quality is very good, although it does suffer a little from the high-grain film stock used in the production.

    The audio quality is very good, and becomes outstanding during the battle sequences.

    This is the greatest collection of extras ever presented on DVD - bar none. This really is a case where the extras may well be more appealing than the film itself. Even without ever inserting the film disc there are around 5 hours of extras, then there are the three commentaries. And don't forget for the action junkies - the interactive attack sequence runs all the attack scenes back-to-back with all that pesky story cut out. Can you say "demo disc"?

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, September 09, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Super 8 - Anthony H (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
widescreen comparison - Anonymous
a fantastic package - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
Finally Touchstone use 448kbs! It's about time! - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
i believe in freedom of speech, but... - orangecat (my kingdom for a decent bio)
It says a lot though - Caliginous
Does that mean we can have a NEW POLL?!? - Chris Young (you don't want to read my bio)
Re: Jesus/Nick/whoever - Anonymous
Dear jesus christ - Sean B (There is no bio.)
RE; Finally Touchstone use 448kbs - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
RE: It says a lot though - Jesus Christ
JC... - Cameron R (read my bio)
Well said.... - Alex H (My 500 words or less!)
Hey JC... - G-Man
Jesus, your a true moron. - CS
New Poll *PLEASE*/Jesus - Steve Horan (hi ho, hi ho, I have a crap bio)
Jesus Chris is a f***ing moron - kakio
Easter Eggs ARE there - Ben Gourlay (read my bio)
Can I suggest a new poll? Removing Jesus Christ! - Rodda (This... is my *bioom* stick!)
Rush Hour 2 ROX - A non, a mouse (lee)
cut the crap - Mike REPLY POSTED