The Battle of Pearl Harbor
The Battle of Pearl Harbor
The surprise attack by the Japanese Air Force on Pearl Harbor, the American naval base located in Hawaii made history as one of the disastrous assaults during World War II. Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the international relations between Japan and USA had gone sour leaving both factions dissatisfied with the dialogue. The Japan side was particularly tired of the endless diplomacy and resorted to violent means to sort the impasse concerning expansion into Asia that had been halted by the United States. This was essentially the cause of the war between the two states although other minor elements contribute towards making war inevitable. It is important to observe that the attack on the Pearl Harbor was intended to serve as a warning and impede America from interfering form Japanese military activities in Southeast Asia. The events leading up to the actual battle have been documented by several film producers and book publishers with varying themes such as diplomacy, international politics and economics. One of the film producers who successfully captured all these events from both the US and Japan perspectives was Richard Fleischer in his movie titled Tora! Tora! Tora! That was released in 1970. This movie will form the basis of the analysis on the media reproduction of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Summary of the movie Tora! Tora! Tora!
Tora! Tora! Tora! Was the name of the war film created by a joint effort production between Japanese and American filmmakers and released in 1970 that illustrated the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor. The main director was Richard Fleischer who selected an assembly of excellent cast, including E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jason Robards, Joseph Cotten, James Whitmore and Sō Yamamura. The film starts with a congratulatory party aboard Nagato, a Japanese battleship to celebrate the appointment of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto as the Commander-in-chief in 1941 (Marston, 2005). During the time, the topic within Japan’s military circle revolved around the effects of the American embargo.
During a discussion among military heads, the possibility of going to war with the United States was brought up and this triggered the pressure among politicians and aggressive military heads to formation of an alliance with Germany. With the inclusion of Germany that provided financial and technical support, Admiral Yamamoto began plans to execute an anticipatory strike. The plan was to launch a preemptive assault by obliterating the American Pacific fleet located at Pearl Harbor. When preparing for the strike, there were concerns over the potential impact of the torpedoes that would be dropped from fighter jets on the pilots and crew (Fleischer et al. 2001).
Given the depth of the Pearl Harbor, Americans assumed that they were safe from any attacks from underwater but the Japanese altered their torpedoes to counter this flaw. The disastrous strike was orchestrated by the renowned Air Staff Officer Minoru. Even though the American fleet was aware of the potential threats posed by the Japanese and the imminent attack, they were caught off guard and thoroughly defeated in the short battle. However, comments by the Admiral towards the end of the film showed that America was not informed of the declaration of war until the raid had started.
Production of the film Tora! Tora! Tora!
The preparations for the production on Tora! Tora! Tora took approximately two years while the essential photography took seven months of prepare. Surprisingly, the movie was shot in two separate sections the first one being in the USA and coordinated by Richard Fleischer while the other section was done in Japan. At first, the Japanese section was directed by Akira Kurosawa but was later substituted by Toshio Masuda who finished the remaining sets. In his comments, Richard Fleischer stated that Kurosawa’s withdrawal from the movie set was for the better since he was ill fitted for the position owing to his tendency to work independently. The screenplay for the film was written by Larry Forrester and Hideo Oguni and was based on earlier printed versions on the same event. The film used four renowned cinematographers and many other camera operators who managed to achieve a high level of quality when shooting complex scenes such as the flying airplanes. In the scene shoots, the crew used two Jima-class assault ships while the other ammunition and weapons were modified to have greater visual and audio effects. The cinematographers even crashed an actual plane to make a special scene be as realistic as possible. However, most of the props used in the shooting of the film were replicas made out of fiberglass.
Even though directing and casting a film means using current resources, Richard Fleischer was able to replicate most of the historical events in 1941 with uncanny accuracy. However, several areas were slightly altered to suit the movie production. The scenes located in the waters involving Japanese aircraft taxiing were replaced with an Essex-Class aircraft carrier. The producers had to lease the aircraft carrier that was used to shoot scenes where attack aircraft were being launched. However, the design and shape of the Essex-Class carrier was nothing similar to the Japanese version (Fleischer et al. 2001).
These differences were noticeable in the angled deck and the large bridge islands that were additions made on later American models. In the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, the producers also made an error in choosing the Japanese carrier, Akagi because the carrier had a bridge island on the port side and this was very rare (Marston, 2005). Secondly, the film producers made a mistake in the markings of the Japanese aircraft. While the aircraft in the movie bore Akagi’s emblem that was one vertical red stripe and a sphere (Japanese sun), the actual aircraft bore this emblem and the identification numbers (Fleischer et al. 2001). The producers also combined some of the events in the film while the actual events were four different incidents.
Reception and Awards
Initially, when the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! Was released, it performed dismally within North America. The poor performance in the United States could be contributed by the poor casting that had no celebrities and partially because of the film had a mixed perspective tat combined American and Japanese issues. The performance could not be compared to other films having the same subject matter such as The Longest Day that chose a star-studded cast of Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, John Wayne and other stars. However, Fleischer chose many accomplished actors who were less popular such as Martin Balsam. The approach that he took in making the film made the production seem very official and restrained tone that focused strictly on the historical facts and avoided any excitement. This approach made the film highly popular among academics and the older generation but was less desirable to the larger public who preferred a more striking approach on the attack on Pearl Harbor such as the film, In Harm’s Way produced by Otto Preminger
However, the film it made great inroads into Japan where many viewers were interested in watching the events that unfolded in the past. The criticism from several quarters was far from encouraging. Movie specialists such as Roger Egbert commented that the film was ‘…one of the deadest, dullest blockbusters ever made” and suffered from not having “some characters to identify with’ (Marston, 2005). In his critique, he mentioned poor acting and lack of film effects as the main negative aspects. In terms of actual figures, the movie earned $13.5 million in rentals during its preliminary launch that was highly dismal concerning the movie used about 22 million dollars to produce. This failure made it the most expensive Hollywood film during the time and flopped in a manner similar to Cleopatra (1963) (Fleischer et al. 2001). The underperformance of the film compounded the problems facing Fox after consequent movie failures. Finally, the movie was relegated to the level of a home video where it found the most viewers.
Vincent Canby who reviewed the movie on behalf of the New York Times commented that the 25 million used to make the film had been wasted and that the film was boring. Other reviews such as those made by the Variety Magazine praised the film for being well planned but made negative remarks on the boring nature of the film. Most of the positive reviews cited the stunning action scenes, technical and historical accuracy. Several top review websites such as Rotten Tomatoes also gave the film positive reviews. The film was used as the basis for other films and television miniseries such as Midway, Pearland The Final Countdown.
Fleischer, R., Williams, E., Masuda, T., Fukasuka, K., Forrester, L., Oguni, H., Kikushima, R., Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc. (2001). Tora! Tora! Tora! Beverly Hills, CA: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Marston, D., & Marston, D. (2005). The Pacific war companion: From Pearl Harbor to Hiroshima. Oxford: Osprey.