Midway12A¦ 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD
It’s safe to say that there are two things that German director Roland Emmerich doesn’t do: small or subtle.
His wheelhouse has always been the blockbuster; taking up as much of a widescreen as he can with all out action. His latest, although set on real life events, is no different, as Emmerich gets his mitts on one of the defining moments of WWII.
While Europe was in the grips of war, the US had managed to distance itself from what was going on for a number of years. All this changed on 7th December, 1941, when Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.
With the US now involved, their Navy was deployed into the Pacific region, where a key battle took part in the Midway, which saw US pilots taking off from carriers, take on the might of the Japanese army.
When you think of a blockbuster, you normally think of a big studio, pouring an obscene amount of money into what they hope is a dead cert. Although Emmerich’s film has a healthy budget, that’s certainly in the blockbuster ballpark, it’s actually an independent release, with Emmerich raising much of the budget himself. And in keeping with Emmerich’s XXL mentality, his film is one of the most expensive independent features of all time.
It may well be a personal project for Emmerich, who felt passionately that it was a story that needed telling, but it’s the only thing about the film that is.
As you would expect, Emmerich wholly embraces the large canvas that war can bring. There are certainly some impressive aerial fighting scenes, with the screen buzzing with dogfights. Maybe audiences have been spoilt of late, with films like Dunkirk and 1917, offering a more realistic portrayal of war, but there’s something worryingly obvious with Midway’s world; it is blatantly CGI, everywhere the camera turns, to the point that if someone offered that it was all made in an underground car park in Croydon, you could well believe it.
Perhaps Emmerich got lost in the detail. As a story it’s one that he wanted to tell, and perhaps visually he has done that, albeit all too synthetically. But despite an impressive cast, that includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson ,Luke Evans and Dennis Quaid, the performances are all disappointingly generic. They may well be based on real heroes, but they are woefully clichéd, and offer nothing other than bland caricatures.
The story is also pedestrian, and where films like Dunkirk and 1917 have move the war genre on a solid step forward, Midway takes it two steps back again.
To add insult to injury, Emmerich had not one but two gems of originality that either one could have been the crux of his film. The first is the importance of Intel, which would have been a fascinating approach to tell the story, but sadly is nothing more than a throw away plot.
The second is his inclusion of legendary director John Ford, who shot his short documentary The Battle of Midway, during the conflict. It’s an intriguing concept, and one that would make a worthy feature in itself, but sadly gets little screen time here.
Despite its by-the-numbers approach to storytelling and character development, Emmerich still manages to deliver the kind of spectacle he’s renowned for, which is big and gloriously unsubtle.
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