Midway is, unfortunately, a rather mid-tier World War II movie that makes the Battle of Midway feel oddly secondary in a movie bearing its name.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Summary: The story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.
When it comes to World War II movies there is a huge range when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. The ones that do tend to be moving dramas that truly help people understand the costs of war while the bad ones are so laughable and over the top that they become legendary for that reason alone. Director Roland Emmerich also tends to swing radically in one direction or another when it comes to his movies but they are rarely just fine. Midway is the exception to that rule and it all comes down to structure.
Emmerich is one of the best directors to shoot battle and disaster scenes and that is just a fact. For all that we might say about the rest of his movies that is something that cannot be argued with. So it makes sense that he would take on a battle like Midway for a movie adaptation. However, it seems that Emmerich also really wanted to shoot his version of the Invasion of Pearl Harbor as well. There is no one better to shoot Pearl Harbor than Emmerich but the problem is the timeline. There is a full six months of the United States mostly losing between the two battles and to jump from one to the other without any break would be odd.
The problem is that the script and Emmerich seem to get stuck in those six months for most of the movie. Granted those times are also used to try and make you can about all of the people involved but despite these being very real people they are portrayed very two-dimensionally here. Midway feels like about 75% of the movie is the second act with a small first act, Pearl Harbor, and a small third act, the actual battle at Midway. For a movie called Midway, the movie is very much structured to make that battle feel secondary or even inconsequential which is just odd. The movie completely bypasses any of the action that happened on the island itself when they could have shaved time off of the six-month time gap and went all in for an extra long third act.
There is also the extremely odd decision to talk about the attack on Toyko and the six American pilots that get stranded on mainland China. This not only wastes the talents of Aaron Eckhart but is also dropped without notice only to come back when we go through the final credits to reveal everyone’s fate. The fact that 250,000 Chinese were slaughtered for helping those pilots escape is something that some people might not know it was just another part of padding out that second act. It’s history, it happened, and it’s important, but it’s not why we’re here.
The extremely large cast is doing their best but there is only so much they can do with what they were given. As previously stated despite being based on real people with real lives they don’t seem that way in the movie which is a real shame. These men did some amazing things and they probably deserved a better movie. That’s not to say any of it is bad it’s just fine. It’ll make the rounds on cable TV and maybe even get picked up for high school history teachers to show during off days because of the PG-13 rating.
Midway isn’t a bad movie, not by a long shot, and the two major battles featured are extremely well shot by Emmerich, but the rest of the movie is a bit of a structural mess that makes the title battle feel much more insignificant and smaller than it actually was.
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