On December 7, 1941, the Japanese Navy executed a surprise attack to one of the United States Naval bases of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This is one of the most devastating attacks against the United States in history, along with it, the Americans entered WWII. In the 2001 film “Pearl Harbor”, these events are portrayed by the love triangle between three characters; Rafe McCawley, Danny Walker, and Evelyn Johnson. Like all films based on actual events, the story has been altered to be made more appealing to viewers. In this particular film, many elements have been changed.
First of all, the love story that is the basis for this movie is completely fictional. Evelyn is not even based off a real character, meaning there was no conflict between Rafe and Danny, and there was no pregnancy. All these factors were added for dramatic affect. Even though the love story is not real, Rafe and Danny are based on actual Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, who shot down six Japanese planes during the attack. This scene of the movie is also slightly changed from what actually happened.
In reality, there were more planes fighting off the Japanese with Welch and Taylor, but none had actually shot any planes down except these two. In the film, Rafe and Danny were the only ones who went airborne and took out more than six planes. Another error is seen when, Dorris Miller, the African American cook, did not deliver Captain Mervyn S. Bennion’s orders during the actual attack. He actually tried carrying the captain to the first aid center, who refused and stayed in his post to give orders until he passed away. In reality, Miller did man a machine gun but was not actually credited with a kill as portrayed in the movie.
Another flaw of the film was when Rafe volunteered for the British Eagle Squadron without surrendering his place as an American Army pilot. He couldn’t have kept both positions because it would have been a violation of the neutrality acts. Another error of this cinema is when Rafe folds an origami swan and gives it to Evelyn. It is not likely Rafe would have known how to do this because origami was discovered by occupation troops and brought back to America after the war. Before the war Americans had little understanding of Japanese culture.
The bombing of Pearl Harbor and all other action scenes in the movie were portrayed realistically. The explosions and fighter plane scenes looked very realistic. Although it is not likely that Rafe would have been shot into the ocean and survive. The two main events were the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raid, which was in chronological order. Overall, the settings, details, and design of the movie were accurate. The locations of this movie were correct, the main one being Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and also Tokyo, Japan during the Doolittle Raid. Costumes also reflect the time period correctly.
You can see the women dress like flappers when they are about to go dancing. The women also wear very old fashioned nurse uniforms when on duty. Men’s air force costumes are also depicted correctly as a dark green jumpsuit, brown flight jackets, and toboggans with flying goggles. There were not many buildings in the movie, but the ships at Pearl Harbor looked smaller than some pictures I have seen. The ships in the pictures looks more rusty and old-fashioned compared to those in the movie. The planes in the movies look very similar to the ones in pictures I have seen.
The way they style their hair, the war technology, cameras, the way they dressed, and the type of music Americans listen and dance to all reflect the 1930s time period in this film. A few details the filmmakers have added to enhance the historical atmosphere is black soldiers not having great positions in the Navy. For example, Dorris Miller was a cook. There is also a scene where some soldiers and nurses go to dance and are listening to swing music, which gives the viewer an understanding of what type of music people listened to in the 1930s. The characters in this movie do speak and act like people in their time period.
Rafe and Danny both speak in a southern accent because they are from Tennessee. Most of the other characters speak in normal accents. You often here the characters say things that may seem corny in this generation but probably normal in that time period. The young men and women in this movie act like regular young men and women since the beginning of time and are eager to find a relationship. The bravery that is shown by the nurses and air force members in this film, accurately portray the actual soldiers and nurses ready to defend their country. Gender relationships are for the most part accurately portrayed.
All the women that serve in the U. S Army are nurses, and all those in the air force are men. Although it does seem like in relationships at this time, men would feel more dominate, and the women for the most part let them feel that way even though they might not think so. It seemed like the relationship roles of men and women are accurately portrayed in this movie. Some values that underlie this film, is the fortitude of our American soldiers, the devastating impact left by the attack at Pearl Harbor, and the effect of WWII on those serving our country.
One way of influencing the viewer’s emotions is by adding this love ordeal between Rafe, Evelyn, and Danny. This intrigues movie watchers and spices up the film. Events like Rafe coming back after he was assumed dead, Danny entering a romantic relationship with Evelyn, and Evelyn being pregnant with Danny’s child intrigues the audience. Another factor that hurts the hearts of the viewers is when Nurse Betty dies and especially when Danny dies. One can feel a fraction of the heart-ache of the attack on Pearl Harbor when a character they get to know is killed.
The message that filmmakers want to convey is that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a detrimental impact on America, and those servicemen and women who fought the Japanese and aided the injured were true heroes. The film does give off the effect that Pearl Harbor was a devastating blow to America, but I was not distraught when any of the characters died. I feel like I didn’t get to know them well enough, especially Danny, which is why I was not very sad when Danny was shot. I think the love story in this movie does add drama but does not help us understand or relate to the characters in the film.