Are you ready for the exciting and emotional "Empire of the Sun?"

By: Olivia Cantor
Image: tmdb

About This Quiz

"Empire of the Sun" is one of Steven Spielberg's masterworks. It tackles how children deal with extraordinary situations, and how innocence is lost. If you want to test your knowledge of the heartwarming movie and the human condition, then take our quiz now!

When we first meet Jamie, our lead character, how can we describe him?

Jamie, in the beginning of the movie, is best described as a product of his own upbringing. He is smart, and technically a good boy, but he is also an entitled rich brat.

What is Jamie's family doing in Shanghai?

In those days, British expansionism was waning, but still present. It wasn't surprising that Jamie's family would be in Shanghai, if business opportunities for trade were there.

What is one of Jamie's rather bad habits?

Jamie falls into the rich, brat stereotype when it comes to making things difficult for the hired help. This is both a cultural and economic class issue.

One of the actors, Eric Flynn, could probably give good pointers for acting on the set. Why is this so?

Eric Flynn was in a POW camp as a child. For him, the movie isn’t just a story.

Early in the film, what is Jamie's obsession?

Jamie's hobby - or obsession - are airplanes. Given the era, it would gravitate more towards warplanes.

What is it about Jamie that troubles his dad?

Jamie is fascinated by the Japanese military, and the airplanes in particular.

While attending a costume ball, what does Jamie stumble onto?

While playing with his glider, Jamie happens comes across a camp of Japanese soldiers. He's lucky that his father and the party host came to get him, before more trouble happened.

If Jamie looks familiar, that's because you know him now as the actor who played this role. What is that role?

Jamie is played by a very, very young Christian Bale. It's interesting to note that in "Empire of the Sun" and the "Batman" franchise, Bale plays a rich boy who has to deal with the darker aspects of humanity.

After the incident with the Japanese soldiers during the party, what advice did the host give Jamie's father?

Mr. Graham receives advice from Maxton, the host of the costume ball, that he and his family should get out of Shanghai. And he should do it soon, preferably by sea.

What was the major disaster then happens in the movie?

The first major tipping point in the movie is when Japanese forces invade Shanghai. It's Jamie's first loss of innocence, as his sheltered lifestyle is shattered.

What command did Jamie's mother give to him as they were separated in the chaos?

Because Jamie wanted to keep his glider, he lost his grip on his mom's hand. As they are separated, she tells him to meet up at the mansion.

In one part of the movie, we see a bomber come in from the sky. What special effect was used for it?

In "Empire of the Sun," the B-29 bomber used for some of the scenes was a very large, radio-controlled model. It may have been hard to use, but with the right camera lens, angles, and lighting, it wouldn’t be noticed.

How does the invasion get up close and personal for Jamie?

After the general shock and chaos of the invasion, Jamie sees a man die right in front of him.

As Jamie finds his way back home, what happens to him that counts as a karmic balance?

As he finds his home in utter chaos, he tries to stop the people who are looting his home. One of them, the servant Jamie mistreated, comes up to him and slaps him. Karmic ouch!

What happens to Jim as the initial part of the invasion ends?

Jamie was left to his own devices for a few months. In fact, the only time he leaves home is when water and food supplies in the local area are exhausted. That's when he takes the trip back to Shanghai.

Why was Amy Irving, Steven's Spielberg's ex-wife, important to "Empire of the Sun?"

Amy Irving had worked with Christian Bale in an earlier project, and suggested him to Steven Spielberg, her husband at the time. Spielberg took Bale on after the audition.

What happened to Jamie when he tried to properly surrender to the occupying Japanese forces?

The Japanese forces ignored Jamie whent he tried to surrender to. It reinforced that without privileges, he was just another lost child.

First, his servant slapped him, and now this. What reinforced even more that he wasn't so high and mighty to the "natives" anymore?

Jamie, after his "surrender" fails, is chased and beaten up by a Chinese boy, and whatever he has of value is taken from him. However, this incident is also what saves him, in a way, thanks to subsequent events.

Who finally takes Jamie in?

Jamie almost literally stumbles into Basie's hands. Basie sees some worth in the kid, and welcomes him into the "team."

Given the limitations for method acting and kids, what wasn't Christian Bale allowed to do, which he did to the extremes in his future roles?

Christian Bale became known later on for changing his physical appearance by gaining or losing weight as needed for the role. As a boy in "Empire of the Sun," however, there was no way they would allow him to look emaciated.

This should have already been a warning to Jamie that Basie was a bad influence. What did Basie try to do?

Basie tried to sell Jamie off as manual labor, but when nothing happened, they wanted to abandon him. And still the kid wanted to stay with them. Talk about missing the point!

What happens when they try to go back to Jamie's house?

After offering Basie pickings of whatever items of value are left in his old neighborhood, Jamie comes home to find that his house is now occupied by new Japanese owners. Basie is beaten up by Japanese forces.

You may know the actor playing Basie from the "Red" movie franchise. Who is this actor?

Basie is played by John Malkovich. He is an accomplished actor who specializes in unusual roles. Playing an opportunistic American survivor in war-torn Shanghai is normal for him. In "Red," he plays a retired and wonky secret agent.

Joe Pantoliano, who plays Basie's sidekick, Frank, is probably more known for the big sci-fi role he had. Which movie was he in?

Joe Pantoliano had a notch up as Cypher, one of the human agents in" The Matrix." However, in both movies, he is a sidekick of sorts, though as Cypher, he wanted to have an upgrade, so to speak.

How did Jamie prove himself useful enough to get on the truck to the official refugee camp?

Since the official camp was near a country club where his parents used to go, he knew how to get there. He offered this knowledge to the driver, and found a place in the truck.

What became Jamie's specialty in the camp?

Scrounging for stuff to trade became Jamie's specialty in the camp. Now known as Jim, he was very good at the complex system of trading that went on.

Because of Jamie's fascination, what nearly kills him in the camp?

Jamie saluted pilots, and the camp guards nearly killed him. He was just lucky they saluted back. This action showed that Jamie was still somewhat naïve when it came to the realities of war, even after all that he'd been through.

If you look closely, one of the American POW's is now a famous movie comedian. Who is he?

Ben Stiller had a small role as an American POW in "Empire of the Sun." Supposedly, a lot of his screen time was left on the editing floor due to time and story limitations.

What was Jamie's new personality weakness, as he matured in the camp?

In the scenes after the time gap, we can see Jamie becoming a bit too cocky. While it's a good thing for what he does, he sometimes makes the mistake of applying it in the worst way possible.

How much did J.G. Ballard approve of this film adaptation of his work?

J.G. Ballard, the author of the novel from which "Empire of the Sun" was based, appears as a guest at the costume party. The role was uncredited.

What was Basie's real reason for asking Jamie to set up snares?

Basie wanted to find out if there were mines in place, so he asked Jamie to set up snares. Either way, he would win with that setup, and all he would have to do is appeal to Jamie's ego and idolization.

What friendship did Jamie strike up while in the camp?

Jamie struck up an odd friendship with a Japanese boy who was preparing to become a kamikaze pilot.

Who is Jamie named after?

Writer J.G. Ballard, also known as James Graham Ballard, is the root of Jamie's name. It's no surprise, since "Empire of the Sun" is said to be a work partly based on real life.

What was so important about the scene where Jamie was tucked in by his parents?

The scene where Jamie's parents tuck him in is lifted directly from the Norman Rockwell painting, "Freedom from Fear." With Rockwell paintings symbolizing an ideal life, it's no surprise that Spielberg included this, so he could use a copy of the actual painting later on in Jamie's wall in the camp.

Towards the end, what was Jamie's breaking point?

Jamie has a sort of breakdown when he realizes that he doesn’t remember what his parents look like anymore.

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