“Midway” meets you, well… midway as it’s not mind blowing but not terrible either. A few things are for sure: this is no “Pearl Harbor”, Roland Emmerich who is typically great with disaster flicks (Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow, 2012) is no Michael Bay and lead actor Ed Skein is no Ben Affleck. “Midway” is the kind of film you’ll see airing on the History channel on a Tuesday night at 7pm.
Roland Emmerich, the German filmmaker known as the master of disaster flicks is back, with his WWII extravaganza “Midway”. Returning after a four year hiatus after his never should have been made sequel “Independence Day: Resurgence”.
Emmerich depicts and honors the real life heroes of “Midway” such as Adm. Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson), Vice Adm. William Halsey (Dennis Quaid), Lt. Richard Best (Ed Skein), and Lt. Cmdr. Wade McClusky (Luke Evans). These are the real men that we should never forget their names or their stories, and be forever grateful for their bravery, service and sacrifice. These men deserve the highest honor they can get whether it’s receiving medals or the Hollywood treatment of having their lives depicted on screen.
With that being said these men deserve a better film than Roland Emmerich’s “Midway”. The film is mediocre at best as “Midway” meets you, well…midway as it’s not mind blowing but not terrible either. It’s the kind of film you’ll see airing on the History channel on a Tuesday night at 7pm. As it premieres right after a documentary about “Midway” that would put out more emotion, more historical facts and more personal accounts than what the master of disaster films have given us this Veterans Day holiday.
“Midway” ends like most real life account films with photos of the real-life figures depicted in the film, and brief bios telling us about their lives and legacies. But here is a spoiler but not a spoiler: the films closing sequence with the photos and bios are more emotional, stirring, powerful and more impactful than anything else in it’s two hour and twenty minute running time.
In true Emmerich fashion, we’re thrown into the action right away as the film opens with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Emmerich is no Michael Bay, while Emmerich’s depiction has devastation that is massive; ships torn asunder and fires raging. His battle sequence doesn’t compare to Michael Bay’s forty minute battle sequence.
Speaking of Michael Bay, those who are not fans of Michael Bay’s unfairly criticized three hour epic “Pearl Harbor” might or might not enjoy “Midway”. Emmerich’s “Midway” is Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” but if it was stripped away of all the emotion, love story, character development and leaving “Midway” with explosive CGI filled video game battle scenes. It feels as though Emmerich is doing battle with Michael Bay for who can create the most explosions. I’m sorry Emmerich as much as I enjoy your films, you are no Michael Bay.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the film slows down as intelligence is gathered that leads up to the battle of Midway. Patrick Wilson plays Intelligence Officer Edwin T. Layton, who is the one to figure out early on where the Japanese will attack next, but has to convince his superiors, including Admiral Nimitz, that the divisive code-breaking tech he’s using is accurate. None of this is compelling or played as thrilling in the least, but Patrick Wilson gives the best performance of the cast.
Meanwhile, other characters are introduced who feel like they serve little purpose. Dennis Quaid’s Vice Admiral William Halsey isn’t around that long enough before being shuffled off with a case of shingles. As much as I’m a hardcore Dennis Quaid fan, his performance in this year’s “The Intruder” was far better than what we get in “Midway”. Jonas brother Nick Jonas who is trying to breakout into acting is so adorable as he tries so hard to be a serious actor. He plays an easygoing soldier in a performance that’s all too brief.
Really the acting all together is bad despite the large Hollywood cast, largely due to a cringe-worthy script from screenwriter Wes Tooke, who devoid’s the script of anything that resembles human emotion.
“Midway” deserves credit for offering an even-handed look at the Japanese side, as well. Giving a lot of screen time to the Japanese actors as they are shown preparing for battle, how their code of honor clashes with the overconfidence they bring into every fight or putting together a battle strategy.
Although something that “Midway” fails to do that “Pearl Harbor” did so well was give screen time and character development to the female actors who play the wives and nurses. While “Midway” pushes the females to the side. Emmerich and screenwriter Tooke only show their quietly suffering wives in quick shots, wearing their best dresses and sporting stylish hairdos while telling their husbands to win this war and come home safely.
This is the kind of war movie where the cocky free spirited pilot is always defying orders and vowing revenge. The dive bomber pilots are always communicating things like, “We’ve got company!”, “Way to go cap!”, “I am your ranking officer”.
It’s light on character and emotional development, and heavy on slick video game level battle scenes, where Emmerich tries to squeeze every bit out of that $100M budget. “Pearl Harbor” blew me away when I saw it in theaters, it’s still Michael Bay’s best film. Roland Emmerich’s bombastic, slick, cliché-riddled “Midway” is no “Pearl Harbor” nor is it the 1979 blockbuster of the same title starring Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda and Robert Mitchum. “Midway” has it’s moments and could have been a grand old fashioned war epic, but it just turns out to be one of Emmerich’s mediocre flatter projects.
GRADE: ★★1/2☆☆☆ (2 & 1/2 out of 5)