[Spoilers ahead for a movie that was released 12 years ago.]
I have the distinct memory of being 12 years old in a packed theater watching Ben Affleck die in Pearl Harbor and thinking I would never cry that hard again in my life. And then, of course, Josh Hartnett died. And things got a lot worse. I mean, deep, guttural, weeping sobs. I am not over, and will never be over, the heartbreaking Affleck-Beckinsale-Hartnett love triangle in Pearl Harbor.
At that vulnerable-but-naive point in my life, I could not imagine anything sadder than Ben Affleck dying, and I could not imagine anything cuter than a slightly mussed Josh Hartnett in a perfectly clean white tee and dog tags (the latter still gets me a little). In a movie where I should have been focused on the tragedies of war, all I could think about was if it was wrong to be OK with Evelyn getting down in the parachutes with her dead boyfriend’s best friend. I blame Michael Bay for that focus issue.
And then Affleck came back from the dead and Kate Beckinsale was stuck between a rakish rock and a studly hard place, and my hormone-ridden preteen mind was blown. How would she choose? Love triangles are generally a pretty easy choice. There’s a guy who’s cute and never had a shot in hell at getting the girl. And there’s a devilishly handsome fellow who gets most of the screen/page time that the majority of an audience will really root for.
In Pearl Harbor, there is no such clear answer, because that guy dies and then the cute guy becomes the hot guy and Evelyn gets to temporarily have them both! Now, if the movie had ended with Nurse Evelyn and the littlest lieutenant, Danny, getting together after Rafe’s demise, I could have gone to Chili’s with my friends after our moms picked us up and lived happily ever after. But that’s not what happened. Captain Rafe, literal war hero, former dead man, came back to find his beloved – the woman whose visage willed him to live – now totally in love with his best friend.
Oh, and then do you know what happens? THAT GUY DIES TOO, unaware that Evelyn is pregnant with his child and most likely unaware that his recently reacquired best friend, Rafe (I’m also still not over that his name was really Rafe), is going to swoop back in there and reclaim her widowed heart. The heart that she already explicitly told him she had given wholly to Danny before they left for their secret mission in Japan. What, Danny dies and she magically gets her heart back to give to Mr. Second Fiddle? This is not how love works! You can’t just bounce from love of your life to love of your life depending on who dies and who comes back to life.
Even at a young age, I did not feel good about the final scene of Rafe and Evelyn back together, raising a precious little boy who looked just like Danny (also named Danny; so subtle, this film). I just felt bad for Ben. He would always know that, given the choice, she chose Danny. The supposed happy ending in Pearl Harbor left me totally depressed; luckily, 12-year-olds bounce back about as quickly as Evelyn.
What do you think, PopWatchers? Did you find the Pearl Harbor ending as sad as I did? What movie love triangles really messed you up? And where on earth did Josh Hartnett and his dreamy tooth gap go?