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“Midway” Has Action But An Incredibly Cliched Story

World War II epics used to be a dime a dozen. Reliving the United States’ finest hours on the battlefield, filmmakers flocked to the conflict in order to tell tales of heroism. More recently, movies have largely eschewed this topic, unless a director had a more daring take to contribute. Ever since Saving Private Ryan nearly won Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the field of war movies have been shrinking. Now, it’s more the territory of a Dunkirk, where Christopher Nolan could experiment while in a familiar genre. Today brings us Midway, a Roland Emmerich production that is hardly revelatory and offers plenty of action, but little else.

This flick is an old fashioned war epic, as mentioned above. For those who don’t know, this is centered on the Battle of Midway (the title is a giveaway, but you never can be sure), which was the decisive skirmish in the Pacific Theater during World War II. In the aftermath of the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor (depicted here in a central sequence), American forces are struggling to figure out where Japan could hit next. Six months after Pearl Harbor, the facilities on Midway Island were the site. However, the United States was ready, beating them back and helping to turn the tide of war. Midway tells the story from several points of view, including pilots like Lieutenant Dick Best (Ed Skrein) and Lieutenant Commander Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), as well as decision makers like Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) and Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson). The aforementioned Emmerich directs a script by Wes Tooke, with cinematography by Robby Baumgartner, as well as Harald Kloser and Thomas Wanker composing the score. Supporting players include Darren Criss, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Alexander Ludwig, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, and many more.

Decent action meets a terrible screenplay in Midway, which is perhaps the best definition of a Roland Emmerich picture you can come up with. Much of the blame rests on the cliche ridden screenplay, which has any number of howlers, dialogue wise. Emmerich has never been one to give his casts much to work with, nor has he ever met a film he couldn’t make about 30 minutes too long. There is ample evidence of both elements again here. As always, he gets name actors and actresses, but they have very little to do. The CGI is the star, truly, but even here, despite action sequences that do the trick, their star shines dimmer than ever for him.

One has to wonder who the movie is actually for. Scribe Wes Tooke may want to pay tribute to heroes of yesteryear, but far too much of this seems just like a bigger budget version of what used to go direct to video. So much of this is bland Hollywood style musings on what these people involved in the Battle of Midway must have thought and sounded like. It’s just never very interesting, when you get right down to it. Throw in the incredibly bloated length and the flick never comes close to justifying its running time.

Starting tomorrow, Emmerich devotees, as well as those who go for anything WWII related, have a film they can take in when Midway opens. Keep in mind, however, that it’s truly mediocre. Imagine the central scene from Pearl Harbor, just spaced out more, and you have a decent approximation of this one. The Battle of Midway is a story worth telling, that’s for sure. It just probably didn’t need to be told by Emmerich. If you wind up seeing the film, you can decide for yourself whether the spectacle is worth it or not. For me, it decidedly was not.

Midway is in theaters this weekend.

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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