Earlier this week I learned two things about Midway: one, it’s a remake, but then again what isn’t these days; and two, it’s directed by Roland Emmerich, who I like to call the less obnoxious version of Michael Bay. For those who are not familiar with his name, he’s directed such films as Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, which in my opinion are dumb but fun popcorn films. However, his latest films that I have seen, which were White House Down and Independence Day: Resurgence, were some of the worst films that I saw the year they were released. Since then, I’ve been extremely skeptical. With Midway, though, I didn’t know what to expect because I’ve only seen the trailer once and didn’t see any reviews prior to watching, so I decided to come in hoping for the best.
The plot in Midway follows Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, and how the U.S. fought back and defended several islands in the Pacific, including the Midway Islands. It’s a pretty simple premise once you get right down to it and honestly I enjoyed that because Roland Emmerich was able to make a competent film that happens to be his best one since 2012. Then again, that’s not saying a lot.
What I admired about Midway is that despite having a simple premise, it does give you somewhat of a history lesson that doesn’t go overboard with it. When I was younger, I had moved to Hawaii (due to my dad being in the military) and one of the sites that I would revisit often was the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Just watching this film made me think back to those experiences, which is something I deeply appreciated. Not much of a spoiler, but near the end of the film, before the credits rolled, they did do a tribute to each person that was featured in the film. I know a lot of films do this nowadays, but the way they portrayed it here was very honorable and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot people who deeply appreciate veterans would tear up a bit. In addition to honoring veterans, the film does a great job of showing the war through the Japanese perspective. They didn’t make them sympathetic, but it showed a different side of the war that I recognize in most World War II films these days.
The worst thing I could say about Midway is that while it is Roland Emmerich’s best film in years, it does suffer from being generic and a pretty standard war film. There wasn’t any particular scene that stood out and wowed me like several World War II films I’ve seen in the past (Hacksaw Ridge and Fury, to name a few). The World War II genre has been in cinema for the past few decades now and maybe it’s because I’ve seen so many that I’m just not easily impressed. There was one point where I was drifting away and almost fell asleep and I wasn’t really tired because I had gone to Mass right before I watched this film and I was wide awake and energized. Another problem I had was that while I did appreciate how the film honored veterans, I felt like there were too many characters on screen. Normally that wouldn’t be a problem for me, but the over saturation of characters and they’re subplots made the film feel uneven. Without giving too much away, there was one character named Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) who was a USAAF Flight Commander and he had a subplot that involved helping the Chinese when the Japanese invaded their homeland. It was a great scene, but it felt crowbarred into the movie to where when they honored him at the end of the film I completely had forgotten he was in it.
Is Midway perfect? No, and I’m probably going to forget it in a couple months. It is something, however, that I do encourage people to watch because not only is it a great history lesson that most people would probably not be familiar with, but the film honors historic veterans in a way that most people will be grateful for. I know I surely did.