Saturday, June 12, 2010

Movie Review: Imperial Navy

Toho Studios, Japanese. Fairly recent.

I happen to be a fan of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It was a great outfit. The big admirals not so much, they were an odd mixture of overly confident and strangely timid, but in the lower ranks, particularly in the destroyer and cruiser divisions, the crews were superb and they got great results. Great ships too, beautiful and effective.

This is a typical “heroic Japanese warriors” movie, with lots of good special effects of the miniature variety. Lots of sea battles, fleets going here and there, lots of planes. Mostly being blown up, as the movie progresses from the very brief happy-time on to Midway and beyond. It was quite the little Gotterdammerung by the end.

In the beginning, everyone except Admiral Yamamoto is very enthusiastic. You remember him, quoted frequently as having said, “we have awoken a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve.” Truer words . . .

Pearly Harbor goes reasonably well, and it is beautifully presented. The Japanese are a fatalistic people though, and the most beautiful scenes in the movie are devoted to the destruction of Japanese capitol ships late in the war, having left port on impossible, suicidal missions, and been caught on the open sea by planes from one or more of Halsey’s 45 aircraft carriers. One carrier goes down in a beautiful red sunset, amidst its own smoke and fire, with the captain and an admiral tied to the ship’s wheel, after launching a three plane Kamikaze mission that includes one of the main characters, who dies having flashbacks of his marriage, already bloody in his half-smashed plane. “Death and Glory” pornography.

Culminating, as do many of these movies, with the sinking of the super-battleship Yamato. The Japanese are the “Yamato People,” and this ship, to an almost supernatural degree, represented the hopes of the Japanese people. It did, and continues to, personify them. During the Battle of Okinawa, the Yamato sailed into the jaws of the huge American fleet without benefit of escort or air cover, and was almost immediately discovered and sunk. This mass-suicide masquerading as bravery is celebrated in great detail not only here, but in “The Battle of Okinawa,” and “Yamato.” There are probably more. The ship was even revived in an animated sci-fi version, “Space Cruiser Yamato” or something like that.

For my sensibilities, this kind of sentimental crap does not do justice to the memories of the millions of soldiers and sailors who got sucked up in all of that Japanese militarism and fought so effectively and bravely. They had little or no choice but to go along, and they did yeoman service in a losing cause. It’s not my culture, though, and this movie tribute probably suits them to a tee. Hats off to them for demonstrating such great courage and perseverance, even if it was a fool’s mission.

Oh, the review . . . worth watching, I suppose. There’s plenty of good action and even the family background stuff is picturesque and entertaining. Only some scenes of the admirals being haughty and supercilious annoyed me, and that’s just me.

1 comment:

fred c said...

Oh! I missed the opportunity to use one of my favorite words.

These late missions were "Himmelfahrtskommandos." Loosely translated: "trip to heaven missions."