Roland Emmerich is one of those directors who is better when his films are less serious. Films like Independence Day and White House Down are a lot of fun, but films like Anonymous and Stonewall don’t work at all. So when I heard Emmerich was making a film about the Battle of Midway, I was a bit apprehensive. I knew he could do the action scenes well, but Emmerich isn’t exactly known for being respectful of history. Having watched the film, I think I was right to have been apprehensive, but not in the way I originally was. The film itself was pretty boring to me.
The film focuses on the efforts of the US Navy sailors and pilots from the bombing of Pearl Harbour to the Battle of Midway, showing the disadvantages the Americans had compared to the Japanese at the time and the tactics used by the US to gain an advantage over the Japanese. Whilst the film does give some attention to the Japanese, it doesn’t have the balance that a film like Tora, Tora, Tora has and it feels like more time should have been given to the Japanese. I also felt that the film spread itself too thin. Whilst most of the film is dedicated to the Battle of Midway, the first half tries to include that, plus the attack on Pearl Harbour, the bombing of the Marshall Islands and the Doolittle Raids and not enough time is given to really explore what happened in each of these instances and the impact they had on the US military structure. I also feel more could have been done to showcase the efforts of the codebreakers. Whilst we do get some good scenes, I think they could have been focused on more. The big issue for me though is that the way the film is structured feels fairly generic. Sure, there are some good moments of historical accuracy (in particular I liked that the film showed John Ford filming the Battle of Midway), the general plotting and tone of the film is of the exact type you’d get from period war films. Now that in itself is not a bad thing, as long as the characters are engaging, but here the characters are so arch and blandly written that the only personality that comes through is due to the actors and not the script. On the whole, I just felt bored watching the film as I had no point of engagement at any point.
The performances meanwhile are nothing special. Most of the cast do a decent job with what they’re given but most of them don’t have a solid enough basis to create compelling characters. The performances you get are the kind you expect from Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, Luke Evans and Aaron Eckhart in a World War 2 film, whilst Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore and Alexander Ludwig are decent enough in their roles. Only two actors really stand out in the film, but for different reasons. The first is Brennan Brown who is clearly having fun here and injects some personality in the film. The other is Ed Skrein as Richard Best, albeit not in a good way. Skrein is pretty bad here, playing Best way too broadly and I don’t know what accent Skrein was going for but it wasn’t any kind of American accent I recognise and took me out of the film. Whilst most of the cast being fairly generic in their performances is not necessarily a deal breaker, the lead performance being as bad as Skrein’s was just makes the whole film fall apart.
The technical elements of the film meanwhile are pretty mixed. Say what you will about Roland Emmerich but he can direct action scenes well and the scenes depicting the Battle of Midway are tense and engaging, the CG in these scenes being pretty solid for the most part and the film handling the chaotic nature of the battle effectively so the audience has an understanding of what is going on. The production and costume design meanwhile is decent enough for a World War 2 film. There are some dodgy green screen moments for the scenes on the USS Enterprise and this was distracting to me and for the non-battle scenes, the filmmaking is fairly generic.
Overall, Midway is a film that could have been better than it is. Whilst the actual Battle of Midway is well executed the overall film is a bit too generic and in trying to cover Pearl Harbour, the Marshall Islands bombings, the Doolittle Raids and the Battle of Midway, the film stretches itself too thin and means we don’t get enough insight into the characters or the military system of the time. If the film was focused solely on the preparation of the Battle of Midway then it would have been a better film.
My Rating: 2/5