Empire of the Sun (film)

Empire of the Sun (film)

Infobox Film
name = Empire of the Sun

image_size = 200px
caption = theatrical poster
director = Steven Spielberg
producer = Steven Spielberg
Frank Marshall
Kathleen Kennedy
Robert Shapiro
writer = J. G. Ballard "(novel)"
Tom Stoppard "(screenplay)"
starring = Christian Bale
John Malkovich
Miranda Richardson
Nigel Havers
music = John Williams
cinematography = Allen Daviau
editing = Michael Kahn
distributor = Warner Bros.
released = December 25, fy|1987
runtime = 154 minutes
country = FilmUS
language = English
budget = $35 millioncite news | author = Myra Forsberg | title = Spielberg at 40: The Man and the Child | work = The New York Times | date = 1988-01-10 | accessdate = 2008-09-17]
gross = $22.24 million
amg_id = 1:15759
imdb_id = 0092965

"Empire of the Sun" is a fy|1987 epic war film based on J.G. Ballard's semi-autobiographical novel of the same name. Steven Spielberg directed the film, which stars Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson and Nigel Havers. "Empire of the Sun" tells the story of Jamie "Jim" Graham, who goes through a coming of age from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center, a Japanese internment camp, during World War II.

Harold Becker and David Lean were originally to direct before Spielberg came on board. Spielberg was attracted to directing "Empire of the Sun" because of a personal connection to Lean's films and World War II topics. He considers "Empire of the Sun" to be his most profound work on "the loss of innocence". While Ballard's novel had heroism as a theme, Spielberg once again created a film that dealt with children being separated from their parents. However, although the film was critically acclaimed, it was not a box office success.


The Empire of Japan had occupied China since 1937 before declaring war on the United States, Great Britain and Holland. As a result of the conflict, Jamie Graham, a British upper middle class schoolboy living in Shanghai, is separated from his parents. He spends months living in his deserted house and eating remnants of food. He ventures into Shanghai and finds it bustling with Japanese troops. Jamie is captured with an American named Basie, who renames him "Jim". They are taken to Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center. By 1945, a few months before the end of the Pacific War, Jim has established a good living, despite the poor conditions of the camp. He has an extensive trading network, even involving the camp's commanding officer, Sergeant Nagata, from whom he casually steals a bar of soap.

Dr. Rawlins, the camp's British director, becomes a father figure to Jim. Through the barbwire fencing, Jim befriends a Japanese teenager, who shares Jim's dream of becoming a pilot. Jim still idolizes Basie and visits him in the American soldiers' barracks. He is attracted to the Americans, whose laid-back differs from the dull British counterparts. Basie charges Jim to set snare traps outside the wire of the camp. Jim succeeds, thanks to the help of the Japanese teenager from the other side of the barbed wire. As a reward, Basie allows him to move into the American barracks with him. Basie then plots to escape. His reason to send Jim in the marsh was to test the area for mines, and not to catch pheasants.

Nagata visits Basie's barracks, and finds soap that Jim had stolen earlier. Thinking that Basie stole the soap, Nagata has him severely beaten. After spending several days in the infirmary, the other men steal Basie's possessions. One morning at dawn, Jim witnesses a kamikaze ritual of three Japanese pilots at the air base. Overcome with emotion at the solemnity of the ceremony he begins to sing the same Welsh hymn. As the pilots take off on their suicide mission, the base is suddenly attacked by a small number of P-51 Mustangs, prompting the Japanese to evacuate the camp. Basie eventually escapes. Meanwhile, the last remaining Zero fails to start and take off, the improvised pilot being the friendly Japanese teenager, who breaks down in tears, ashamed. The camp's population marches through the wilderness, where many die. Jim also witnesses a flash from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki hundreds of miles away.

He goes back to Suzhou, barely able to live through starvation. He finds the same Japanese boy he knew angrily slashing at the plants in the marsh with his katana. The boy calms down and offers Jim a mango, but is shot dead by one of Basie's companions, who have arrived to loot Red Cross containers. Jim is furious and throws the man who shot his friend into the marsh and begins to beat him. Basie drags him off and promises to take him back to Shanghai to find his parents, but Jim refuses the offer and stays behind. He is found by a unit of American soldiers and put in an orphanage in Shanghai with other children who lost their parents. Jim, scarred with his experiences from the war, does not recognize his parents. His mother finds him in the crowd, with Jim collapsing into his mother's arms.


*Christian Bale as James "Jamie" Graham: Jamie goes through a coming of age from living in a wealthy British family in Shanghai, to becoming a prisoner of war in Lunghua Civilian Assembly Center during World War II. J. G. Ballard felt Bale had a physical resemblance to himself at the same age. Bale was 12 years old when he was cast. Amy Irving, Bales co-star in the television movie "Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna", recommended Bale to her then-husband, Steven Spielberg, for the role. Over 4,000 child actors auditioned for the role. [cite news | author = Dominic Wills | title = Christian Bale Biography | work = Tiscali | url = http://www.tiscali.co.uk/entertainment/film/biographies/christian_bale_biog.html | accessdate = 2008-09-16] On the experience, Bale reflected, "After I finished the movie I got this really nice mountain bike. Because it was a big deal where I lived that I was in this movie, I had jealous bullies threatening to beat me up and girls who wanted to kiss me. I just wanted to ride my bike." [cite news | title = Christian Bale: 'I Was Bullied Because Of Fame' | work = Star Pulse | date = 2008-07-18 | url = http://www.starpulse.com/news/index.php/2008/07/18/christian_bale_i_was_bullied_because_of_ | accessdate = 2008-09-16]

*John Malkovich as Basie: An American soldier stranded in Shanghai during Japanese occupation. Basie forms a friendship with Jamie, giving him the nickname of "Jim".

*Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Victor: A British woman who was Jim's "neighbor" at Suzhou. She dies in the wilderness, where Jim sees a bright light in the sky to the East. He believes it to be her soul floating to Heaven but finds out later it was the flash from one of the Atomic bombing of Nagasaki, hundreds of miles away.

*Nigel Havers as Dr. Rawlins: Jim's father figure at Suzhou. Rawlins finds difficulty teaching Jim humility.

;Cast notes:
*Small roles in the film by notable actors include Joe Pantoliano and Ben Stiller as American soldiers, with Masatō Ibu and Guts Ishimatsu as Japanese soldiers. Ballard makes a cameo appearance at the costume party scene.Martin Sheen (narrator), Steven Spielberg, J. G. Ballard, Christian Bale, "The China Odyssey: Empire of the Sun" (television Special), 1987, American Broadcasting Company] Stiller conceived the idea for "Tropic Thunder" (fy|2008) while shooting "Empire of the Sun". [cite news | author = Adam B. Vary | title = First Look: "Tropic Thunder"| work = Entertainment Weekly | date = 2008-03-05 | url = http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20182058,00.html | accessdate = 2008-05-27]


Warner Bros. purchased the film rights, intending Harold Becker to direct and Robert Shapiro to produce. Tom Stoppard wrote the first draft, which J.G. Ballard briefly collaborated on. Becker dropped out, and David Lean came to direct with Spielberg as producer. Lean explained, "I worked on it for about a year and in the end I gave it up because I thought it was too similar to a diary. It was well-written and interesting, but I gave it to Steve."cite book | author = Joseph McBride | title = Steven Spielberg: A Biography | publisher =Faber and Faber | date =1997 | location =New York City | pages = 391 | id = ISBN 0-571-19177-0] Spielberg felt "from the moment I read J.G. Ballard's novel I secretly wanted to direct myself."McBride, p.392] Spielberg found the project to be very personal. As a child, his favorite film was Lean's "The Bridge on the River Kwai", which similarly takes place in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Spielberg's obsession with World War II and the aircraft of that era was stimulated by his father's stories of his experience as a B-25 Mitchell radioman in the China-Burma Theater. Spielberg hired Menno Meyjes to do an uncredited rewrite before Stoppard was brought back to write the shooting script.

"Empire of the Sun" was filmed at Elstree Studios in the United Kingdom, and on location in Shanghai and Spain. The filmmakers searched across Asia in an attempt to find locations that resembled 1941 Shanghai. They entered negotiations with Shanghai Film Studios and China Film Co-Production Corporation in 1985. After a year of negotiations, permission was granted for a three-week shoot in early-March 1987. It was the first American film shot in Shanghai since the 1940s. The Chinese authorities allowed the crew to alter signs to traditional Mandarin lettering, as well closing down city blocks for filming. Over 5,000 local extras were used, some old enough to remember the Japanese occupation in Shanghai forty years earlier. Members of the People's Liberation Army played Japanese soldiers. Other locations included Trebujena, Andalusia, Knutsford, Sunningdale and Berkshire.cite book | author= Jeff Walker | title = Air Classics | year = 1988 | month = January | publisher = HarperCollins | pages = 49 | isbn = 3-87911-263-7] Lean often visited the set during the England shoot.McBride, p.394—398] Spielberg attempted to portray the era accurately, using period vehicles and aircraft. Computer-generated imagery was used for the Atomic bombing of Nagasaki. The A6M Zero and P-51 Mustangs seen in the film were a combination of CG-scale models. Industrial Light & Magic designed the visual effects sequences. Norman Reynolds was hired as the production designer while Vic Armstrong served as the stunt coordinator. [Walker, p.63—65]


"Empire of the Sun" was given a limited release on December 11, 1987, before being wide released on December 25, 1987. The film earned $22.24 million in North America, [cite web | url = http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=empireofthesun.htm | title = Empire of the Sun | work = Box Office Mojo | accessdate = 2008-09-16] and $44.46 in foreign countries, accumulating a worldwide total of $66.7 million, a box office disappointment. Based on 31 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 77% of the critics enjoyed the film. [cite web | url = http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/empire_of_the_sun/ | title = Empire of the Sun | work = Rotten Tomatoes | accessdate = 2008-09-16] By comparison Metacritic calculated an average score of 60, based on 17 reviews. [cite web | url = http://www.metacritic.com/film/titles/empireofthesun | title = Empire of the Sun (1987): Reviews | work = Metacritic | accessdate = 2008-09-16] J. G. Ballard gave positive feedback, and was especially impressed with Christian Bale's performance. Richard Corliss of "Time" stated that Spielberg "has energized each frame with allusive legerdemain and an intelligent density of images and emotions." [cite news | author = Richard Corliss | url = http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,966149,00.html | title = The Man-Child Who Fell to Earth: "Empire of the Sun" | work = Time | date = 1987-12-07 | accessdate = 2008-09-16] Janet Maslin from "The New York Times" called the film "a visual splendor, a heroic adventurousness and an immense scope that make it unforgettable." [cite news | author = Janet Maslin | url = http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/09/movies/moviesspecial/09SUN.html | title = Empire of the Sun | work = The New York Times | date = 1987-12-09 | accessdate = 2008-09-16] Julie Salamon of "The Wall Street Journal" wrote that the film as "an edgy, intelligent script by playwright Tom Stoppard, Spielberg has made an extraordinary film out of Mr. Ballard's extraordinary war experience." [cite news | author = Julie Salmon | url = http://www.metacritic.com/video/titles/empireofthesun?q=Empire%20of%20the%20sun | title = Empire of the Sun | work = The Wall Street Journal | date = December 1987 | accessdate = 2008-09-16] Roger Ebert gave a mixed reaction. "Despite the emotional potential in the story, it didn't much move me. Maybe, like the kid, I decided that no world where you can play with airplanes can be all that bad." [cite news | author = Roger Ebert | url = http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19871211/REVIEWS/712110301/1023 | title = Empire of the Sun | work = Chicago Sun-Times | date = 1987-12-11 | accessdate = 2008-09-16]

In his first starring role, Bale received a special citation for Best Performance by a Juvenile Actor from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, an award specially created for his performance in "Empire of the Sun". [cite web | url = http://www.variety.com/profiles/people/AwardsByYear/National%20Board%20of%20Review%20Special%20Citation/1987/29311/Christian+Bale.html?dataSet=1 | title = National Board of Review Special Citation: 1987 Awards | work = Variety | accessdate = 2008-09-16] At the 60th Academy Awards, "Empire of the Sun" was nominated for Art Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Original Music Score, Costume Design and Sound. It did not convert any of the nominations into awards. [cite web | title = 60th Academy Awards | url = http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Academy_Awards_USA/1988 | work = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2008-09-16] Allen Daviau, who was nominated as cinematographer, publicly complained, "I can't second-guess the Academy, but I feel very sorry that I get nominations and Steven doesn't. It's his vision that makes it all come together, and if Steven wasn't making these films, none of us would be here." The film won awards for cinematography, sound design and music score at the 41st British Academy Film Awards. The nominations included production design, costume design and adapted screenplay. [cite web | title = 41st British Academy Awards | url = http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/BAFTA_Awards/1989 | work = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2008-09-17] Spielberg was honored by his work from the Directors Guild of America, [cite web | title = DGA Awards: 1988 | url = http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Directors_Guild_of_America_USA/1988 | work = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2008-09-17] while the American Society of Cinematographers honored Allen Daviau. [cite web | title = ASC Awards: 1988 | url = http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/American_Society_of_Cinematographers_USA/1988 | work = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2008-09-17] "Empire of the Sun" was nominated for Best Motion Picture (Drama) and Original Score at the 46th Golden Globe Awards. [cite web | title = 46th Golden Globe Awards | url = http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Golden_Globes_USA/1988 | work = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2008-09-17] John Williams earned a Grammy Award nomination. [cite web | title = Grammy Awards: 1988 | url = http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Grammy_Awards/1989 | work = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2008-09-17]


Flying symbolizes Jim's possibility and danger to escape from the prison camp. His growing alienation from his prewar self and society is reflected in his hero-worship of the Japanese aviators based at the airfield adjoining the camp. "I think it's true that the Japanese were pretty brutal with the Chinese, so I don't have any particularly sentimental view of them," J.G. Ballard recalled. "But small boys tend to find their heroes where they can. One thing there was no doubt about, and that was that the Japanese were extremely brave. One had very complicated views about patriotism [and] loyalty to one's own nation. Jim is constantly identifying himself, first with the Japanese, then when the Americans start flying over in their Mustangs and B-29s, he's very drawn to the Americans."

The apocalyptic wartime setting and the climatic moment when Jim sees the distant white flash of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki gave Spielberg powerful visual metaphors "to draw a parallel story between the death of this boy's innocence and the death of the innocence of the entire world." [McBride, p.393] Spielberg reflected he "was attracted to the idea that this was a death of innocence, not an attenuation of childhood, which by my own admission and everybody's impression of me is what my life has been. This was the opposite of Peter Pan. This was a boy who had grown up too quickly." Other topics that Spielberg previously concepted with, and are in presented in "Empire of the Sun", include a child being separated from his parents ("The Sugarland Express", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "Poltergeist") and World War II ("Close Encounters", "1941" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark"). Spielberg explained "My parents got a divorce when I was 14, 15. The whole thing about separation is something that runs very deep in anyone exposed to divorce."

Historical inaccuracy

The opening of the movie noted that "In 1941, China and Japan had been in undeclared war for four years". The Empire of Japan had commenced the Second Sino-Japanese War with the Lugou Bridge Incident in July 1937, although the Shōwa regime's propaganda refer to the invasion as "Holy War" ("seisen"); the official name given to the conflict by the regime was China Incident ( _ja. 支那事変, "Shina Jihen"). By using this tactic, the Imperial General Headquarters wanted to avoid intervention by other countries such as the United Kingdom and particularly the United States, which had been the biggest steel exporter to Japan. By 1941, the Battle of Shanghai and the infamous Massacre of Nanking had already taken place.cite web | url = http://ww2db.com/battle.php?list=C | title = The Second Sino-Japanese War and the CBI Theater | author = Peter C. Chen | work = World War II Database | accessdate = 2008-06-20]



Further reading

*cite book | author= Edward F. Dolan | title = Hollywood Goes to War | year = 1985 | location = London | publisher = Hamlyn | pages = | isbn = 0-86124-229-7
*cite book | author= Alun Evans | title = Brassey's Guide to War Films | year = 2000 | location = Dulles, Virginia | publisher = Potomac Books | pages = | isbn = 1-57488-263-5
*cite book | author= Andrew Gordon; Frank Gormile | title = The Films of Steven Spielberg | year = 2002 | publisher = Scarecrow Press | pages = 109—123, 127—137 | isbn = 0-8108-4182-7

External links

*imdb title|0092965|Empire of the Sun
*tcmdb title|74049|Enpire of the Sun
*amg movie|1:15759|Empire of the Sun
*rotten-tomatoes|id=empire_of_the_sun|title=Empire of the Sun
*Mojo title|id=empireofthesun|title=Empire of the Sun
*metacritic film|id=empireofthesun|title=Empire of the Sun
*imdb title|0258494|The China Odyssey ("a film about "Empire of the Sun)

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Empire of the sun (groupe) — Empire of the Sun  Cet article concerne le groupe musical. Pour le film, voir Empire du soleil. Empire of the Sun Pays d’origine …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Empire of the Sun — Cet article concerne le groupe musical. Pour le film, voir Empire du soleil. Empire of the Sun …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Empire of the Sun (soundtrack) — Infobox Album Name = Empire of the Sun Type = film Artist = John Williams Released = 1987 Recorded = Genre = Length = 54:11 Label = Warner Bros. Records Producer = Reviews = Last album = This album = Next album = Empire of the Sun is the… …   Wikipedia

  • Empire of the Sun — infobox Book | name = Empire of the Sun title orig = translator = image caption = Cover of the first edition (hardback) author = J. G. Ballard illustrator = cover artist = country = United Kingdom language = English series = genre =… …   Wikipedia

  • The Sun (film) — Infobox Film name = The Sun image size = caption = Russian poster director = Alexander Sokurov producer = Igor Kallenof Marco Muller Andrei Sigle writer = Yuri Arabov starring = Issei Ogata Robert Dawson music = Andrei Sigle cinematography =… …   Wikipedia

  • The Flintstones (film) — The Flintstones Theatrical film poster by Drew Struzan Directed by Brian Levant Prod …   Wikipedia

  • The Royal Hunt of the Sun — is a 1964 play by Peter Shaffer that portrays the destruction of the Inca empire by conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Performance historyPremiere The Royal Hunt of the Sun had its first performances at the Chichester Festival, prior to its London… …   Wikipedia

  • The Host (film) — Infobox Korean film name = The Host caption = Theatrical poster director = Bong Joon ho producer = Yong Bae Choi writer = Baek Chul hyun Bong Joon ho starring = Song Kang ho Byeon Hee bong Park Hae il Bae Doona Ko Ah seong cinematography = Hyung… …   Wikipedia

  • The Lord of the Rings film trilogy — This article is about the Peter Jackson film trilogy. For other films, see The Lord of the Rings (film). The Lord of the Rings trilogy The poster for the trilogy is a montage that features a range of characters and scenes from all three movies …   Wikipedia

  • The Changeling (film) — For the 2008 film directed by Clint Eastwood, see Changeling (film). The Changeling Directed by Peter Medak Written by …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.