Midway tells a real story about the historical war of the 1960s and 1970s, covering a wide spectrum of elements that made up a key moment in history.
MIDWAY provides us with ensemble piece narrative story covering events leading up to the turning point in The War In The Pacific, which was the battle of Midway. To invest us in the characters we’re shown a snapshot journey of each of their lives from just before the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 up until June of 1942 where the Japanese and American naval forces would try and surprise each other in what would be the battle of the films title.
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Before I delve into the main negative, I will say overall this is a great movie which could be really enhanced by an extended edition or extra running time if if there’s more scenes that were cut out covering the battle of Midway itself – and if so PLEASE PUT THEM BACK IN A LONGER CUT – PEOPLE WILL BUY IT ON BLU-RAY! This is where the main problem with this film lies.
Over half of its running time is dedicated to the raid on Pearl Harbour, The Doolittle Raid and the battles leading up to and including The Coral Sea, the latter of which is told pretty much in one scene and a single VFX shot (Good though it was) – Not an issue per say, as this film is not called ‘The Battle of The Coral Sea’ – and while some of these scenes give much context and required emotional threads for both characters and the younger audience members alike, others really didn’t need to be seen in this film. It felt as if the events surrounding the Chinese assisting the Doolittle Raid survivors was probably a condition of some VFX funding tax break for the Asian based post-production budget.
An allied radio report of the raid itself, perhaps being heard by the pilots of the American carriers was really all that was needed. Whatever the reason, these scenes add little to the key story or characters involved in the subsequent battle and even though they sign post the path that led to Midway, it’s not something that couldn’t have been covered in a single title card at the beginning of the film. The battle of Midway itself, while well realised, is told a little too quickly.
The Japanese attack on US Yorktown is again covered in a single VFX shot with one line of dialogue from an observing carrier when it could have been such a nail biting moment. The tension that is achieved in the original movie between the Naval Commanders on both sides making the tricky tactical decisions in the battle is a little compacted here.
We see the last batch of Japanese pilots taking off but we don’t see the outcome of this decision nor get a sense of the damage they do to the Americans. Time spent earlier in the movie building up to events at Midway would have been better spent covering the key events of the actual battle itself, which though nicely staged, feels a little rushed at times.
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Although a fistful of scenes give us the Japanese perspective they don’t show would have been crucial moments of drama such as the belief that their single strike on the Yorktown gave way to believed rumours that two American carriers had been sunk, and the initial spotting of the American fleet by their pilots is not shown at all.
That said the stakes of the climatic battle are well realised here and the CGI is NOT poor, nor distracting as others have claimed, it is extremely well done and is far more effective and real on the big screen. You forget your watching visual FX after a point, which one assumes, is the whole idea. Where the earlier Midway film failed in its visuals of the battle, here you’re really put in the seat of the plunging dive bomber or on the deck of the carrier during the numerous actions. It is a visceral experience to see these sequences on the big screen and one that shouldn’t be missed.
The Film Director, Roland Emmerich, is an extremely competent film maker who can handle both scale, multiple characters and action sequences without them turning into unwatchable thing.
We can tell what is happening to whom and there is always a sense of where things are taking place and why in relation to the story. While not a flawlessly film, I have no doubt that several scenes were cut to make sure the film hit a manageable running time.