Midway (2019) movie review
Summer, 1942. The world is at war, and the struggle in the Pacific Theater between the United States and Japan are looking worse than ever. Now, the United States will make one last attempt to best the Japanese fleet when they believe an attack on Midway Island is inevitable. Directed by Roland Emmrich, Midway tales the story of the Battle of Midway in the second World War, looking at the men who played a key role in the battle, as well as the events in the Pacific leading up to it. The film is also a retelling of the 1976 war drama of the same name starring Charlton Heston.
After the trailer for Midway, I definitely rolled my eyes a little. The film looked like a big blockbuster by a well-known action director that was capitalizing on real events for the sake of making money. (Which is why I’ve seen so many people reviewing Michael Bay’s film World War II, which I believe was called “A Long Love Story, and also Pearl Harbor Happened.”) I also like the original Midway quite a bit. It’s not amazing, and for an older war film, I dare say it’s a bit forgettable compared to stronger outings like 1970’s Tora! Tora! Tora! However after a while, I started to settle in and enjoy the film, and in the end, yeah it wasn’t bad! So will you like it, ah if you like the original Midway but wish it were twice as exciting, but half as compelling. Other than that, it’s a sub-par war film, and there are so many better ones out there. Just know what you are getting into is all. It’s a decent watch, just not a great film overall.
So a major issue we both had with it was probably a very noble choice. The film tries to be very inclusive of the events leading up to and surrounding the battle of Midway. However while some did play a key part in pitting the two navies, the film often detours to smaller, irrelevant subplots, as if they were writing the film and said, “Hey, what about this?” “Oh yeah, we have to make sure we include that too! Otherwise people will feel left out!” This is noble, but ends up hurting both the concise storytelling, and at times, the pacing. The film also features more than ten important characters through at least four major events in the Pacific including the battle itself, which in the end means you get a good history lesson, but don’t really connect to the characters as well. Granted the original film has a very similar approach, but I wouldn’t have minded the film settling in with maybe one or two pilots instead of four or five.
All that being said, the tone feels significantly more reverent than I thought it would. This was aided by a level of historical accuracy that I absolutely did not expect from this movie. One other big problem I had with Midway though (before I get to some positives at least) were the visual effects. At times, especially as the film went on, they were fine. But for most of the film, they seemed very mid-2000s; shiny and incomplete. The background work never blended with the characters right, the fire looked composited, ect. I’m sure for most people, this won’t be a big problem. For me, ah I think I just miss practical effects and miniatures like the original film. As far as quality goes though, the rest of the film was up to snuff. The sound work was really good, the costumes and makeup work were solid, and despite missing a strong theme like John Williams’ score from 1976, Harold Kloser and Thomas Wanker’s pulse-pounding score was pretty fitting.
Now knowing that almost every character in the film were based on real people, and many of them have been depicted before, I don’t envy the cast for living up to either. However while the cast of the original Midway are just along for the ride, this cast really gives it their all! Ed Skrein and his arguably too-heavy accent was really good, Patrick Wilson and Woody Harrelson were perfect for Edward Layton and Chester Mimitz, Luke Evans and Aaran Eckhart were really great, Nick Jonas was very good for his amount of screen-time, and Dennis Quaid and Etsushi Toyokawa absolutely kill it as William Halsey and Isoroku Yamamoto. The only performance I didn’t really like was Keean Johnson, who was as flat in Midway as he was in Alita: Battle Angel (2019).
So when compared to war blockbusters like Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor (2001), Midway is not too bad! The action is exciting, the characters are interesting, and the events and accuracy are engaging. The film had me on the edge of my seat more than once, and that was something I did not expect, nor would not have expected even if you pitched me the idea and said ‘big budget.’ That said, it’s story it too diluted with facts and events that honestly don’t matter for the overall narrative of both the film and the battle. Plus, as honest and inclusive as the intensions of the film are, like Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017), it is very hard to connect to any of the characters. The actors all do a good job, and the film’s runtime honestly does help, but it still jumps around too much and tries to cover just too much for its own good. Midway isn’t bad, and I’d probably watch it again one day. But there are just so many other war films that are better, even if you just want something set in the Pacific! In the end, it’s decent, but not all that memorable. 6/10.
So Midway? Did you see it? Which do you like better, the 1976 or the 2019? Want a review on the 1976? Whatever your thoughts, be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know!
-review by Ryan Prince