Midway vs Midway

Midway vs Midway
Midway vs Midway

For decades I have been hoping that a big Hollywood studio would remake a couple of my favorite, but achingly terrible, war movies, The Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Midway (1976).

In 2019, one big studio made one of my wishes come true: they remade Midway.

My first criticism is a big one: why does this film start long before the events it is depicting? Was it really necessary to bloat this picture with hash and rehash? Start at the beginning of … The Battle of Midway! The actual battle went on for three days, so why would you need to pad your runtime with other events?

The special effects work well in this piece, since all the effects in the 1976 version were practical effects, and not very effective, in many instances made using a technique known as back-projection, in which the performers and props are placed in a studio space with a film of the exterior projected onto a screen behind them. It was far cheaper than Star Wars’ inlaid matte paintings, and well before the time of motion capture and digital chroma key.

Midway’s showy special effects are fun and eye-pleasing, and even engage fans of war films, but remain an example of buying content rather than mastering it. $100,000,000 buys a lot of eye candy, but like all candy, it’s not very nourishing.

So how does Midway (2019) compare with Midway (1976) in terms of theatrical nourishment? I definitely prefer the new version, and though it isn’t brilliantly written, it tell its story.

The Heston version gets bogged down in a pointless sidebar story about Captain Garth’s son, a navy pilot, falling in love with a Japanese-American Hawaiian island resident, both so we can have some reason to care about him when he gets badly burned carrying out one of the attacks, but also to show us that Americans had outgrown anti-Japanese racism and resentment by the 1970s. “Don’t give me any of that racial bigot crap!” Heston growls.

Both films feature star-studded ensemble casts. Both films are too long.

The final insult from the 1976 version is the crass, obvious reuse of stunt crash scenes from 1970s far superior Tora! Tora! Tora!

So, finally, I am happy that big Hollywood remade Midway, and I have watched it several times. It’s not great literature, but it’s fun and engaging. I recommend it.

It's hard to call this an "effect."
It’s hard to call this an “effect.”

1 Comment

  1. Oh, man. This is a pretty awesome review. Great job. Now I’d like to see the newer Midway, but not so much the old one.

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