The movie Midway is the $100 million catastrophe that may put the nail in director Roland Emmerich’s (Independence Day, White House Down) coffin when it comes to directing movies for mini majors, in this case, Lionsgate, and any of the big 5 majors.
Midway is the story of the Battle of Midway, told by the leaders and the sailors who fought it.
Before the studio credits appear on film, we hear the voice of president FDR who is trying to comfort the country via a fireside chat.
Behind the scenes a U.S. delegation is meeting with Japanese officials trying to gauge their interest in going to war with the U.S. It’s not that Japan doesn’t want a war with the United State, “we don’t want a long war.”
Openly gay director Emmerich has cast a who’s who of good looking young actors with marginal talent. Among them, Ed Skrein, as “Dick” Best, (doing a very bad Vin Diesel voice impersonation), Nick Jonas (hardly an actor), Alexander Ludwig and Keann Johnson, among other lesser known bodies that add only to the eye candy, not the quality of the film. Emmy winner Darren Criss, the only capable actor of his generation that is in this film, is also included in the tribe, however his lines are few and far between. In one of the first scenes Emmerich has all of the perfectly coiffed young members of the navy doing jumping jacks shirtless on an aircraft carrier.
Mandy Moore also appears needlessly as the wife of Ed Skrein’s character.
Flash forward a few years and the Japs are bombing Pearl Harbor. But that is not what Midway is about. The destruction of Pearl Harbor is carried out and summed up within the first 30 minutes of the film. Fast forward to the Marshall Islands in 1942 and Patrick Wilson’s Edwin Layton is trying to convince Woody Harrelson’s Admiral Chester Nimitz (with a really bad wig) that the Japanese are up to something nefarious. He has heard it from a code breaker, whom he introduces to both Nimitz and Dennis Quaid’s Vice Admiral William ‘Bull’ Halsey, hoping that they believe the story about the impending threat.
“Do you have proof?” Nimitz asks the code breaker. The code breaker tries to explain that while he doesn’t have proof that the Japanese have planned something sinister, he knows just the same that they are going to be doing something evil. “It’s just like a wedding,” says the code breaker. “I might not have an invitation to the wedding, but if I hear that all the flowers are sold out on the island (he is referring to Oahu), the (function hall) is rented out, (etc., etc.,) I know that there is going to be a wedding.”
“If you don’t believe him,” says Layton, to Nimitz, “we’ll all be speaking Japanese, or dead.”
There is even a scene cut and pasted into the film that has director John Ford (played by Geoffrey Blake) on location scouting when the Japanese begin an air attack. Instead of running to safety, he instructs his cameraman to film, “keep filming”, among all of the mayhem going on.
The rest of the movie, and it runs two hours and fifteen minutes, is interminable.
While the film tries to be a history lesson and showcase spectacular air battle scenes, it does nothing but cause one to keep looking at their watch wondering how much longer they need to sit there suffering through this mess, or if they should just get up and count their losses and go home and Google the story to find out how it all plays out.
The film ends before the U.S. bombs Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Midway Review by Tim Nasson