Midway: A Fun Blockbuster

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As Veterans Day came and went, a movie celebrating one of the most influential battles of World War II. Midway (2019) is a film from disaster blockbuster aficionado Roland Emmerich, known for movies like Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow. With a lineup of respectable actors like Patrick Wilson, from The Conjuring, and Woody Harrelson, from Zombieland, this film seems to be set up as a respectable action film. However, problems seep through the cracks immediately from the first scene of the film.

First off, the visuals are fine. Not great, but fine. They seem to rely on mostly CGI based action that looks good with exterior shots, if not with a bit too much motion blur. The problem comes with the decision to shoot everything on a blue screen. Every scene on the carrier out at sea, every window pane of the military offices looking over pearl harbor. It gets to the point that when scenes inside the lower decks of the ships, where everything is practical, becomes distracting and takes away from the scene. When the VFX are in full view, they don’t look bad, just not great.

While the visual effects aren’t great, it isn’t what hurts this film. The acting in this film is just downright cheesy. Woody Harrelson has an unintended goofiness in his portrayal of real-life Admiral Chester Nimitz. Dennis Quaid is just bad, giving a monotone and unenthusiastic performance that shouldn’t be in a film of this caliber. He needs to be this rock that the men look to for inspiration but just becomes a voice to text synthesizer in the body of a human. 

While the visual effects aren’t great, it isn’t what hurts this film. The acting in this film is just downright cheesy.”

— Tanner Bass, junior

There are some solid roles, however. Nick Jonas surprised me with his natural charisma and was able to be what he needed to be. His accent is a little exaggerated and he’s only introduced in the latter half of the second half, but he’s one of the more memorable people in this film. Patrick Wilson and Etsushi Toyokawa both give solid performances, Toyokawa being the one to truly stand out. Patrick Wilson seems cool and collective with nothing about his character to stand out, while Toyokawa has a calm intensity while portraying Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. 

The main character, however, just doesn’t work too well. Ed Skrein portrays Richard Best, a cocky yet skillful dive bomber pilot that is set out to prove that he is more than that. It’s about as basic of a character structure as you can get when it comes to war films. He’s not subtle about this as well, just diving deep into the stereotypical war hero tropes. Boasting a thick New York accent, this movie doesn’t give the man justice as they focus on his more one-dimensional aspects like being too reckless and needed to come home to his wife. This basic kind of writing plagues the film of any kind of good character development or complexity. The actors can only do so much and some do better than others as made apparent by Jonas compared to Skrein. 

Another thing that would have served the story better would be to have focus as much time on the Japanese side. There are always two sides to every war (sometimes more) and I think to boast a film’s historical accuracy, you must do this. Sure there are scenes from the Japanese side, but not enough to fully understand their decisions and actions they took toward the U.S.

The biggest praise I can give to this movie is the sound design and watching this in a theatre amplified this.”

— Tanner Bass, junior

The biggest praise I can give to this movie is the sound design and watching this in a theatre amplified this. They somehow manage to surround your ears in the noise of the plane engines and wind, then throw the sound bullets whizzing at you going from your left ear to your right, syncing up perfectly with what’s happening on screen. It is the only thing that truly amplifies the quality of the flight scenes. 

Midway is a weird movie, taking more from war films of the early 2000s, like the atrocious Pearl Harbor, but still having the tone and quality of the classics like The Longest Day. It doesn’t innovate, like Dunkirk, but rather takes from the past and does it with a modern budget. At the end of the day, however, it still feels like those older films that at the time had fewer cliche narratives but for modern times feel like the contrary. It’s an entertaining ride that chugs in its 2nd act and makes up in the 3rd. However, it doesn’t excels at many things. 6/10