I stumbled across the existence of this movie just a couple of months ago, 30 years ago after its release. I'm not quite sure how I missed it back in 1987 but based on a score of 7.8 on IMDb and an overwhelming number of its reviews including the word "masterpiece" I was determined to seek it out and mentally prepared for a mind- blowing experience. I was therefore delighted to find it in the "classics" section of the movies on-board a recent international flight. It is not often that movies fail from the first frame, but this one did, literally. It begins with an overlong shot of some dirty water, some petals appear, then some pieces of wood, which in time turn out to be a number of wooden coffins. We zoom out to see a Japanese warship collide with them. So ends the first 2 or 3 minutes of this movie, showing a ridiculous situation which adds absolutely nothing to the story. We might be thinking, OK, well, the director has satisfied his ego and got the arty, gratuitous shot off his chest, now on to the real movie. But, alas, it was not to be so. The "plot" of this movie, and I use that word generously, is the picaresque meanderings of an obnoxious little boy to become an obnoxious slightly older boy over the period 1941 to 1945. This consists of a non-stop string of the most ridiculous, contrived, unnatural, laughable episodes you might have the misfortune to imagine. I made it to an hour and 20 minutes only because I could just not believe what I was seeing - it was, in its own masochistic way, fascinating, like watching a train crash. I will not bore you with the details of particular absurdities, but I am confident that if requested I could make a minute by minute itemised list of cringe-worthy examples. I was somewhat incredulous to find that this movie was based on a well respected "semi-autobiography" (whatever that is) by J.G. Ballard. That surely means that in its original form it had some redeeming qualities and that the author was not in fact anything like the ridiculous character in the film. Surely, hopefully, there has been a titanic "loss in translation" somewhere in the movie making process. I do not know if J.G. Ballard, Tom Stoppard or Stephen Spielberg is to blame but the screenplay is beyond execrable. It is as if it has been written by someone raised in a cave by wolves whose only knowledge of humans is from reading books. No man, woman or child I have ever known has acted, or spoken the way EVERYONE does in this movie. To say that EVERY character is a caricature would be an understatement, they are caricatures of caricatures. The Chinese are caricatures. The British are caricatures. The Americans are caricatures. The Japanese are caricatures. I also did not realise until after watching the movie that the "boy" was acted by Christian Bale. This I found astonishing as there are not so many movies about the 2nd Sino-Japanese war, the only one I know being "The flowers of war" in which Christian Bale also plays the lead role. Apart from staring Christian Bale both these films are similar in that they feature ridiculous characters in ridiculous situations. No offense to Mr Bale, he makes the best of a bad lot, but he does seem to be a bit of a jinx in this historical era. I realise that "Empire of the sun" is based on a "semi-auto biography" but it seems bizarre to me that the only movies of this historical era of China have British or American characters as their leads. Frankly, in an era in which millions of Chinese were being slaughtered or starved to death, why should I give a toss about the privileged treatment of a British boy, and a thoroughly unpleasant one at that? Perhaps one day we will get a real movie on this subject that will finally do it some justice. I do not know if the reverence for the Japanese that is so frequently flaunted in this movie is simply a reflection of J.G Ballard's original book, or something added by Spielberg or Stoppard. While I understand that in these enlightened times all the nations of the World are supposed to sit around the camp fire and sing "Kumbaya", it has to be said World War 2 was not Japan's finest hour as human beings. Therefore it seems not only strange but in poor taste that the Spielberg who recognises the horrors inflicted by the Germans on humanity in "Schindler's List" fails to recognise those inflicted by the Japanese in this movie, and in this respect it is an insult to the millions of civilian and military casualties. In fact, when I think about it, this movie is pretty much an insult to everybody. It is an insult to children, who do not behave like they do in this movie. It is an insult to adults, who do not behave as they do in this movie. It is an insult to every nationality represented. It is an insult to veterans. And it is an insult to the intelligence of the audience.