The attack on Pearl Harbor was a devastating blow to the American Government and its people. We all knew at that moment who the enemy was and Pearl Harbor’s aftermath made the U.S. an active participant in World War II until the very end. Midway tells what happened next following our entrance, with U.S. Intelligence reporting that the island of Midway was to be the target of the Japanese’s next major attack to ensure the Axis’ Pacific dominance. Director Roland Emmerich of Independence Day fame brings this battle and the stories of the men who fought there to life, and the results are a mixed bag. Overall, the battle sequences are impressive and the actors do decent work, but the script is where the movie falls short.
Midway is smart for giving the audience two points of view: The Americans and the Japanese. We get to see both party’s plans and how they operate, even showing the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Arizona as part of the Allies’ loss. The explosions and aerial assaults are very impressive and the special effects made me feel as if I was there whilst the battle ensued, even though if you look closely you realize that most of what we’re looking at in this film are special effects.
This movie is loaded with numerous characters based on real-life WWII soldiers, and Midway allows us to follow them around and see ultimately what happens to them during this battle. Patrick Wilson is Edwin T. Layton, an intelligence officer who predicted the attack on Pearl Harbor and also correctly stated the positions of the Japanese Fleet located in the Pacific prior to the Battle of Midway. Ed Skrein is Richard “Dick” Best, a Dive Bomber who helped sink one Japanese Aircraft Carrier and severely damaging another during the aforementioned battle.
These are the two most important characters to follow simply because we see these two the most. That isn’t to say that the other characters involved aren’t important, it was just too much for me to follow. But the list includes some pretty high profile names like Woody Harrelson as Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Luke Evans as Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky and Aaron Eckhart as Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle. Each of these character do share screen time, but the movie treats them almost as secondary characters. They’re just there in the background and, while we follow them for a short amount of time, they really aren’t the main focus of the movie itself.
This barely scratches the surface with all the characters in this movie. Even at an exhausting runtime of 138 minutes, Midway is overlong and overstuffed, taking place before and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and delivering so much information that I forgot a great deal of it once the movie was over. We’re led from one scene to the next, seeing intelligence meetings, hearing about phone calls from Washington, and watching pilots performing test runs before their battle is to take place. Oh, and plenty of dates and times. Even the epilogue details what happened to the characters that we’ve be following. Truth be told, I forgot about several of them while watching! There are some action moments in between that coincide with real events, but if you were to ask me what happened… well then I wouldn’t be able to tell you.
Aside from the plethora of characters, the script is Midway‘s weak point. The dialogue isn’t exactly compelling and, at times, feels like a tired old cliché of war movies from the past. Some new recruits are scared, some are nervous about the mission and there’s always one person to say something to encourage them to go back out and fight. While watching this movie, it reminded me of Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor. Remember that? Well, we do get to see the attack as mentioned before and the brief moments of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, but the film tells this story in roughly less than ten minutes. Yes, I timed it.
Where the movie shines are the scenes that detail the Japanese activity, and I really got caught up in watching those moments. I like stories where we see both sides of the tale so that we can understand both parties that are involved in the conflict. The special effects are impressive, as expected of previous Roland Emmerich films like The Day After Tomorrow & 2012, but the runtime is overwrought and the story itself didn’t really involve me much. There are too many characters to follow and with that, I became less involved by the end.
Score 2 out of 5 Stars
Midway is a movie for people who love war films, especially if you know much about the battle itself. They get a lot right about this conflict and, while the battle sequences are impressive and at times intense, the unfocused script struggled to capture my attention. If the movie stayed on topic of Midway itself and been shorter, then I would give the movie higher remarks but, as it stands, Midway is just ok. It has a big cast that can’t encompass the story it’s telling to keep me looking at the screen with interest. At least it’s an upgrade from the Michael Bay movie, and that’s saying quite a lot.
Other than that, if you really want to learn about the Battle of Midway, just watch a documentary. This is nothing more that watching special effects and people screaming for two hours. It’s decent but, personally, I felt like I didn’t learn anything.