REVIEW: ‘Midway’ is stuck in mediocrity

If you want to talk about turning point battles in American history, Midway is easily one of the most important. The results allowed the United States to bounce back at a critical time in the Pacific Theater, considering what happened months earlier in Hawaii.

The portrayal of the battle here, though, leaves a bit to be desired.

The film is the second major portrayal of the battle. In fact, it shares the same name, too, as the year 1976 also saw a movie titled “Midway.” Like that picture, the 2019 version, directed and produced by Roland Emmerich, begins before the battle.

Pearl Harbor is attacked and in the ensuing months, officials in Washington and the Pacific are trying to organize a response as sailors and airmen are anxious to fight back. The film follows key figures in the lead up to Midway as they try to outwit the Japanese military, such as Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and Lt. Edwin Layton who worked intelligence.

It’s understandable that some set-up was needed for “Midway,” considering the state the Pacific Fleet was in at the time. However, “Midway” feels just a bit too over stuffed, with some unnecessary elements showcased.

The biggest example is an entire chunk of the picture dedicated to the famous Doolittloe Raid. It was of course an important strike against Japan, but it seemed like an excessive subject to cram in, when the Midway battle itself had so much going on.

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Not only does it seem unnecessary as its playing out, but it noticeably cuts into the time actually dedicated to the battle of Midway, too. The whole battle is reduced rather a small section of the third act, rather than making up the majority of the first two acts.

Of course not all movies about a key battle have to center only on that one conflict. “Hacksaw Ridge” is another film where the battle wasn’t the only focus. However, that movie also had the advantage of an interesting protagonist and a compelling character arc. “Midway,” meanwhile, largely lacks in any interesting characters to follow.

The real life counterparts did great things, yes, but the portrayals here just come across as sterile and generic. It’s actually kind of hard to believe these words are being written, but some of the characters in “Pearl Harbor” were better portrayed than here.

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At the very least, the action, always Emmerich’s bread and butter, looks fairly good. The CGI is a bit too heavy at times, but the scale of this massive naval and air battle comes through the screen. When the battles are taking place, there’s definitely entertainment value, with the air combat being especially thrilling.

It does largely pale in comparison to other recent pictures, as the technically marvelous “Dunkirk” from 2017, yet there’s still some visuals that make this worth a ticket and some popcorn.

Not exactly making it worth the price of admission, though, is the very rough script. The dialogue, for example, often ranges from just below average to downright atrocious.

Overall, for WWII buffs who love history or those looking for some war movie entertainment, “Midway” is somewhat serviceable. But really, this one is more worthy of a rental. The film boasts a talented cast and some solid action set pieces but there are too many flaws. 2.5 out of 5.

Photos courtesy Centropolis Entertainment and Lionsgate.

 

Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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