Review by Sean Boelman
Midway, directed by Roland Emmerich, king of the disaster movie, is a new war film telling the story of the Battle of Midway, one of the most important naval battles in WWII. Basically a more violent and jingoistic telling of a basic history book version of this story, this movie is painfully dull but will likely be embraced by its target audience nonetheless.
The film focuses on the events that led up to and occurred during the Battle of Midway, which happened after the Japanese attacked the Americans at Pearl Harbor. Perhaps the only thing that is truly admirable about this movie is that, unlike most other war films, this does show the strategy of both sides of the battle.
However, as is the case with most movies of the genre, this film takes a firm stance on one side (in this case the Americans) to an extent that feels aggressively patriotic. While this will help the movie appeal to older audiences, particularly veterans, the film does sometimes come off as xenophobic in its portrayal of some of the Japanese characters.
That said, the American characters don’t have much more depth, which prevents the movie from having any real emotional impact. Although there is a main storyline featuring a navy pilot (portrayed by Ed Skrein), the film features cutaways to other pilots, higher officers, intelligence operatives, and even Japanese sailors that the movie fails to create any real connection between the audience and the people they see on screen.
It really is a shame that the characters don’t have more depth, as the cast that Emmerich was able to assemble for the film is truly impressive, their talents feeling entirely wasted on this hollow script. Talented actors such as Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, and Woody Harrelson aren’t given enough screen time to make a difference. Others, including Nick Jonas, Luke Evans, and Patrick Wilson try their best to make something of what they are given but aren’t able to overcome the laughable dialogue.
The single biggest issue with the movie, though, is that it is poorly paced. For a film full of explosions and set in a high-intensity naval battle, this sure is boring. One of the reasons why the movie feels so slow is that it takes over an hour to get to the actual Battle of Midway. Much of the first half of the film is spent showing Pearl Harbor and the way that people reacted to it, a story that has already been seen on screen before.
On a technical level, the movie looks extremely fake due to Emmerich’s over-reliance on CGI. Although Emmerich was one of the pioneers of CGI spectacle cinema, his style simply does not translate well to a war epic. The aesthetic feels like that of a video game, and not in a good way, as a result of the overly artificial nature of the action.
Even though there is an audience that will appreciate this film, Midway is a bigger disaster than those that Roland Emmerich typically depicts in his movies. Dreadfully slow and dull, this is one film to avoid this crowded holiday season.
Midway opens in theaters on November 8.