‘MIDWAY’ Review: An All Star Cast Cannot Save This Hollywood Stylized CGI Fest

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When it comes to film, war films are at the top of my list. From Full Metal Jacket to Saving Private Ryan, I am a sucker for a good war film.  Having never seen the original Midway, when it was announced Lionsgate would be releasing a remake to the 1976 film which starred Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn and Robert Wagner, I got excited.

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The 2019 Midway film has got an All-Star cast led by Ed Skrein (Deadpool) as Lt. Richard Dick Best, Patrick Wilson as Lt. Commander Edwin Layton, Luke Evans as Lt. Commander Wade McClusky, and Woody Harrelson as Admiral Chester Nimitz. The film also has a great supporting cast from Aaron Eckhart, Darren Criss, Dennis Quaid, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Alexander Ludwig and Tadanobu Asano (Thor Ragnarok). The film is directed by Roland Emmerich who is more known for his disaster/sci-fi films. I am a big fan of Emmerich’s work but I think he was not the right choice to direct this film.

If you are familiar with Emmerich then you know Independence Day is probably his biggest film. He has also directed The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, Godzilla – a major flop, White House Down and his most recent bust was the sequel to ID4, Independence Day: Resurgence. The last time Emmerich took on a war piece film was Mel Gibson’s The Patriot in 2000. I thoroughly enjoyed that film despite its numerous historical inaccuracies so I had hope Emmerich might do Midway justice. (I was wrong)

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The movie kicks off with the attack on Pearl Harbor which eventually leads to the Battle for Midway. The entire sequence looked like a Michael Bay film with over the top CGI and explosions. The CGI was so bad at times it was distracting. Ironically Pearl Harbor (2001), which was directed by Michael Bay, did a better job reenacting that infamous day. The film just felt over the top at times. I think a more grounded approach would have been much better in trying to capture such a huge historical event that turned the tide in the Americans favor in helping win the war. You will for sure notice that a lot of scenes are green screen and some where for sure not needed.

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Lets move on from the bad and lets talk about what I did like. The cast. I think the cast really helped keep this movie interesting despite Emmerich really not taking the time to get the audience invested in their outcome. In Saving Private Ryan, I felt Spielberg did his best to make sure we KNEW the characters. He wanted us to care about them. I enjoyed the cast of Midway but I was never invested and maybe that is due to Emmerich feeling like we could Google the characters before or after and learn more about them. Despite not being invested in the characters I still enjoyed their performances. Ed Skrein I think shined in a leading role and his screen time with Luke Evans was some of the best moments for sure. None of the acting is award worthy but I would watch anything with Harrelson, Wilson and Quaid. Emmerich spared no expense when it came to casting the film that is for sure.

The action scenes are very well done and look pretty good for the most part. I sat on the edge of my seat for the climatic battle. Emmerich also does a good job of not making this film one sided. It is about an American victory over the Japanese but he shows both sides to the war. You get a feeling of where both the Americans and the Japanese are coming from. It was all done in good taste and they even in a way honored the lives lost on both fronts. For Veterans who fought during WWII and possibly even the Battle of Midway, I am not sure how they will feel about this or the movie overall. Midway is releasing in time for Veterans Day so the studio for sure hopes the theme will bring in past and present service members. Unfortunately in my opinion there are just too many distractions and the film is too Hollywood. I think a more character invested, grounded film would have played out much better. When the CGI was not distracting me, I did enjoy Emmerich’s capture of the 1940’s style. There are some beautiful shots in the film but just not enough.

The film has 2 hour and 18 minute run time but honestly it seems to go by pretty fast. I did not leave Midway hating it but I wish it had given me more. I am hoping 1917 gives better results and it should since Sam Mendes is behind the camera for that one.  Maybe you will feel different about the film. I would watch it again once it comes out on television but Midway falls far on my list of war films.

FINAL SCORE: 2.5 out of 5

Midway releases in theaters on November 8, 2019