Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer: Wes Tooke
Stars: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson
Thank God Midway is not a remake of the 1976 film depicting the same event.
Some of you might recall that one, which was mostly an excuse for Universal to promote their newest sonic toy, Sensurround. Most of the action scenes consisted of footage lifted from older – and better – movies, while the narrative was needlessly padded with fictional main characters and a sappy romantic subplot. Too bad, because Charlton Heston was one of my idols back then.
If nothing else, director Roland Emmerich knows such a decisive WWII naval battle is dramatic enough without such embellishments. Since the plot has already been written in history books, all that’s really needed is a solid cast depicting real-life figures and Emmerich’s distinctive brand of visual bombast. As such, what Midway lacks in dynamic characters is compensated by the intricacy of Japanese and American strategies, punctuated by some astounding action sequences as the scenario plays out.
Typical of Emmerich’s biggest films, the special effects are the real stars. While there are some brief moments of truly terrible CGI, for the most part, the battle scenes are convincing, spectacular and creatively rendered. Midway needs them, too, because also like Emmerich’s biggest films, the screenplay is rife with dialogue that sounds like it was written in the 1950s. But while most of the characters are walking cliches from war movies of that same era, they are performed with workmanlike skill by a talented cast, making the movie’s cornball earnestness oddly endearing (though I kept expecting Woody Harrelson to say or do something really funny).
Ultimately, Midway is the kind hopelessly old-fashioned war film people haven’t bothered to make for decades. But in a way, that’s also part of its charm. Just like he did with Independence Day, Roland Emmerich shamelessly pilfers standard characters & tropes of the past, then glosses over his thievery with state-of-the-art visuals & sonic fireworks. The result may not resonate much afterwards, but it’s an infinitely more entertaining depiction of the Battle of Midway than the 1976 film. Sorry, Chuck.