It was 1976 when Jack Smight’s BATTLE OF MIDWAY starring Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda opened in the then sensational Sensurroud. Forty years later, INDEPENDENCE DAY’s director Roland Emmerich has another go at making a film on the decisive Pacific naval battle during WWII. Though both films centred on the MIDWAY battle, the focus of both films are different. The heroes of the first film were ridiculous fictional characters a father (Heston) and son (Edward Albert) involved with a Japanese/American immigrant while the latter, a clear improvement centred on real life heroes of the War. Their real portraits are revealed during the film’s closing credits.
Ememrich’s MIDWAY opens a few years before the start of World War II. The US Naval attaché in Tokyo and his counterpart discuss the US and Japanese positions in the Pacific Ocean during a state function. Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa) quietly informs intelligence officer Edwin T. Layton (Patrick Wilson) that they will take action if their oil supplies are threatened. The film fast forwards to the morning of December 7, 1941with a 15-minute extravaganza on the shocking Japanese bombing of Pearl harbour. This feels like Spielberg’s D-Day landing in Normandy in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The goal is clearly to get the audience riled up against the Japanese. Both films show the planning that goes into both the Japanese and American sides, though clearly the prejudice is against the Japanese.
MIDWAY works at both educating on the details of a history lesson that lasts over two hours as well as entertain as a WWII super hero flick.
The superheroes are real life WWII planners and fighters. These combatants are played by a stellar cast headed by Ed Skrein as LTA Richard Best, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Nonas, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson and Mandy Moore as Bests’s wife.
Performances-wise, Skrein (GAME OF THRONES) is sufficiently cheesy as the gum-chewing maverick fighter pilot. Patrick Wilson is the one who steals the show delivering the best performance of a worried but super bright Intelligence Officer. There are hardly any women in this picture and Mandy Moore has the usual under-written role as the supportive wife.
The history lesson takes the audience through the several battles including the Doolittle Raid and the Coral Battle before culminating with the crucial climatic battle of MIDWAY. The latest version clearly highlights the progress CGI and special effects have made compared to the 1976’s cheesy Sensurround.
The battles are well executed and exiting enough, though it often looks a video game.
MIDWAY costs Lionsgate a whopping $100 million to make and to date has grossed close to $80 million. MIDWAY has garnished mixed reviews so far, but MIDWAY is more entertaining because the heroes are real who lived on the Planet Earth and not fictional heroes with made-up superpowers in some alternative Marvel Universe. Despite a few flaws here and there, MIDWAY delivers the thrills as well as intricacies involved in strategic planning of battles in a war.