War movies have always been in a weird spot for me. Usually the material is based on a significant event or an interesting individual, but those movies typically play in one of two ways. They either embellish facts in order to create a more entertaining movie or they stay authentic to the historical events. While I’m more drawn to the movies that don’t exaggerate the truth, they’re not exactly the most exciting things to watch. Just put 13 Hours on in front of a group of high-schoolers and you’ll see what I mean. Interesting premise, dull execution.
Enter Midway, a retelling of the events leading up to the “Battle of Midway” told as accurately as possible. Give it a plethora of special effects thanks to one Roland Emmerich and a massive cast of well known actors, and you have a recipe for a pretty solid action movie.
Except it isn’t. It’s actually pretty dull.
Director: Roland Emmerich
Release Date: November 8, 2019
If you’re at all familiar with American history, then you should be aware of what Pearl Harbor is. Japanese fighter pilots attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, effectively forcing America to enter WWII. The movie focuses on America’s involvement in the Pacific Theater of the war, with everything leading up to the events of the Battle of Midway, a battle that many historians consider the major turning point of the Pacific front. If that sounds interesting to you, then congratulations: this movie was made for you! Midway, however, offers no unique takes on the war other than telling a special effects driven rendition of it. Nothing more, nothing less.
It is nice to see such a no nonsense take on the real life events, but only if the actual events are compelling to watch. Midway can’t seem to make them compelling. The film is supposed to start with a bang (quite literally) with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, yet never once did I feel connected to what I was watching. Massive explosions filled the screen, but with little to no emotional attachment to the characters or the event due to how the bombing took place in the first ten minutes, I couldn’t care less about what was happening.
This is a problem that’s pretty common with Roland Emmerich’s movies. He always opts to have a massive cast of well known actors with hundreds of extras and a healthy amount of side plots throughout. Midway is no exception, showcasing a cast that includes Woody Harrelson, Darren Criss, Dennis Quaid, Mandy Moore, Luke Evans, and Nick Jonas just to name a few. Strong cast, but given how the movie splits focus between all of these actors, just as I’m getting invested in the actions of one character, it cuts to another unrelated character and their sideplot.
But that isn’t the reason to go see Midway. The bulk of the movie is spent showing off just how big of an event Pearl Harbor and Midway were with lots of explosions, lots of action, and lots of CG. Nearly all of the big action scenes are CG extravaganzas with hardly any practical effects. Sure, it’s fun to watch at times, but my mind was tuned out during everything. In one ear, out the other.
There’s not much else to say about Midway, in all honesty. It does everything that a war movie is supposed to do, but little to nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. At least other war films have something interesting about them. Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge were all authentic war dramas that managed to tell their story in captivating and interesting ways, yet Midway doesn’t do that. I would say that it’s a commercial war movie, but in a genre that will have to deal with the release of 1917 in two months, commercial doesn’t cut it. Midway is plain, vanilla, unremarkable. For a Roland Emmerich movie, that shouldn’t be the case.