September 27, 2002

The Rant

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There have been accumulations of atrocities and atrophy in the history of our grand planet of love. Humankind has suffered through the most pernicious gloom in our 100,000 years of existence. We have been embroiled in the most horrendous natural disasters and holocausts. But, when that Great Historian in the sky arrives at the juncture at which he must write the last chapter of the obliteration of civilization, only one date will matter: July 2, 2002.

That’s right, kids. While you lollygaggers were out enjoying your summer, an abomination occurred. A nuclear threat, a genoice? No, A four-disc DVD box set of Pearl Harbor.

Now I’m not here to judge the merits of the movie. For example, I’m not going to discuss how it turned 3,000 deaths into Top Gun or how Kate Beckinsale seems more occupied with her wardrobe than, say, an international disaster that was literally a World War. I’m not here to argue that it has the sentimental value of that drag-race scene in High School High. I would never claim that it makes no sense for the RAF to be fighting in Britain prior to Pearl Harbor. Indeed, I even appreciated some of the artistry of the movie, such as the postmodern way in which the movie was almost as traumatizing as the invasion, although primarily because of Ben Affleck’s accent. Nor will I mention that if I was a Japanese citizen, after seeing this movie’s dehumanizing stereotypes, I’d invade again.

All that is meaningless. It detracts from the main insurgence of venom. Just wrap your head around this for a second: At this point in time, you can walk into a Best Buy and purchase four DVDs of Pearl Harbor. Let that nightmare of an option broil i NSur brain for a while. I could easily make a contraption so that whichever way I turned my head there would be three Pearl Harbor DVDs in my peripheral vision, enmeshing in thin DVDs of thin content. Now, I’m not against large, ambitious collections of culture and art. Ulysses was named the number one book of the century. But I doubt that the writer of this movie will be considered for the Nobel with a scene in which Beckinsale watches someone conspicuously pack and then asks, “Packing?” Maybe I’m just not looking at the allegorical layers of the question. True, The Godfather is now a 5-DVD box set, but there’s one difference there –namely, that one is The Godfather.

So how could anyone possibly make the 3-hour Pearl Harbor seem 20 times longer? What do you get for your $40? Three commentary tracks, a short feature called “Why Letterbox?”, documentaries, a production diary, and something called an “interactive attack sequence” — “look kids, now you can pretend to have your skin lacerated by a barrage of bullets, just like history says!” It’s 4 DVDs celebrating how the love between Affleck and Beckinsale is rollicking, shallow popcorn-entertainment, and how, oh, by the way, 60 million people died while it was going on. This is not a movie about World War II and to treat it as though it deserves to be respected as an even adequate movie about World War II by multiplying it by four is downright apocalyptic. Every war movie is about the horror of war. Just rattle off a list of great war movies: Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, and The Thin Red Line. Conversely, Pearl Harbor is now four DVDs about how a bunch of nameless, faceless Japanese soldiers murdered a bunch of trite, boring characters and how, apparently, it looked damn cool. 4 DVDs! Think of how long it takes just to count that.

Archived article by Alex Linhardt