Released: 30th January
Seen: 14th February
So… the guy who directed Independence Day and that really bad American remake of Godzilla wants us to take him seriously. Roland Emmerich, a director who only has 2 films that got above average reviews from critics, would really like it if you could look at his film Midway and say “Why, Roland, you are an artist who is right up there with all the other great war filmmakers”. I would love to say that, I genuinely would. I would love to have a fun subversive twist by ending this slightly sarcastic paragraph with the shocking reveal that this film is actually great… but I’m not a liar and “it’s average” is not enough, especially when the average Roland Emmerich film is so awful.
Midway tells the tale of the battle of Midway (obviously). This was the battle that happened just after the Pearl Harbour bombing and is considered the turning point of World War 2. It’s been considered that long enough that they already told this story in 1976 but its 40 years later and remakes of films from 40 years ago are a genre now. The film goes between multiple teams of men, a lot of whom have names that we never learn or hear, and shows various battles of importance and blows a whole bunch of stuff up because it’s not a war movie if we don’t blow things up. What’s that? You want characters to root for so that when the inevitable fatalities happen you can have some form of emotional reaction because a character you liked is now dead? Well, how about instead of that we hire a Jonas brother and put a porno moustache on him… that counts right?
Like so many Roland Emmerich films, this movie has a cast of dozens of reasonably well-known actors running around in costumes and none of them has anything resembling a character. That’s not to say these actors aren’t playing real people, as far as I know, every single character is meant to be based on and named after a real person (Including Dick Best, a name I thought only appeared in the kind of movies that Nick Jonas got his moustache from) but this isn’t some great deep character dive. We’re not getting the Woody Harrelson who became Larry Flint or the Darren Criss that became Andrew Cunanan… we got Woody and Darren, that is why you are asked to care about them. They don’t even really seem to have characters that they can play, they have a few basic traits (Dennis Quaid has a rash, Ed Skrein chews gum, Patrick Wilson’s glasses keep moving weirdly) but they don’t have characters. This means that when the time comes for the air battles and some of these well-paid actors are thrown into the drink… why exactly should I care? “Oh no, I have to spend the last bit of this film without seeing that guy who I know from that show I have on DVD at home… wait, what was his character name again?”
Now I cannot confirm the accuracy of this film. I’m not a history major, I barely pay attention to all the events in the current wars so memorising all the details of old wars sounds like a special form of hell… but I will point to what Roland did to Stonewall and then his “Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare” movie and just posit the idea that maybe this isn’t the man who we should be relying on for accurate historical stories. Even if this one is accurate (someone else can confirm that, I don’t care enough to do it) it’s told poorly. Everything just kind of happens, we run between events with no time to reflect on anything and when we do, it’s poorly reflected on. One of the early big battle scenes they do is the Pearl Harbour scene and there’s a dramatic moment when the character Roy Pearce basically sacrifices himself to try and save another person. A big dramatic moment, huge and you probably just realised that I actually said a character’s name and that’s because it’s said half a dozen times during the scene right after where the rest of the cast is honouring Roy… and no one else. Quick reminder, 2403 people died in Pearl Harbour and 2335 of those were military. They do not get mourned by this movie, they do not get referenced by the survivors, we only talk about Roy Pearce… incidentally, couldn’t find anything about the Roy Pearce that this movie was talking about so I don’t know if he really existed or if they made him up, though if they made him up that means that this movie mourns the death of a fictional person above those who actually passed… and that’d be tasteless as hell.
When the film isn’t blowing things up it’s… actually, it’s just kind of boring. The explosions are there to keep you awake, everything else is mundane. I will admit some moments stuck in the memory, I had a good laugh when 5 foot 8 inch tall Darren Criss tried to pull rank on 6 foot 1 inch tall Ed Skrein. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the faces being pulled or their attempted accents. Some genuinely have it, other’s border on cartoons. It’s not their fault, they were not hired to do actual acting here. They’re hired to be recognisable names that we can put on a poster because that’s just what Roland Emmerich does. Also, Roland somehow got 100 million for this movie and I can only assume he handed each cast member a million dollars to turn up because while the visuals aren’t awful, I’ve seen so much better in much cheaper films.
Look, Midway isn’t awful. If anything, its title is perfect for two reasons. Not only does the title describe the events taking place but it describes exactly where it falls regarding quality. It looks good, the action is fine and I like most of the actors but there’s nothing to connect to. I have no reason to connect to this story other than a cursory knowledge of the real event and I’m sorry but that just isn’t good enough. 1917 was also based on a real event but that movie found a way to make me connect and care about characters and the events of the story, Maybe if it’s on TV it might be worth looking up but not worth going to the cinemas for… he said, knowing that Australia got this one about 3 months after its initial release because Hollywood will literally never learn.