I always cringe when Hollywood says they are going to do a historical war movie. Midway was a good effort, though it glossed over many things that made the battle so remarkable.
First off, I watched the old movie Midway prior to going. I liked some of it, but hated the mix of Tora, Tora, Tora footage in with actual war documentary footage. The old movie had flaws all on its own but it was my measuring stick for the new film.
The movie tries hard to cover the battle and the preceding events that led up to it without drifting into the love story that was so horrible with Pearl Harbor. The attack on December 7th is really outstanding in terms of the CGI. I loved watching the Doolittle raid take off, but it wanders a little too far into that mission as well. In fact, from a plot standpoint, the film struggles to stay on-course to tell the story of Midway, rather than the first seven months of the war as a whole.
As to the battle itself, the movie does a fair job…not great, but not Battle of the Bulge bad. I liked what was in the movie. My biggest complaint were the things that were omitted that should have been in the movie.
First up, the miracle of the USS Yorktown. The film touches on it, but the fact that the Yorktown is repaired in two days after the Battle of the Coral Sea is important. Also critical is that the Japanese hit the carrier, setting her ablaze during the battle of Midway, but the ship recovered. The Japanese attacked it again the next day, eventually leading to her being scuttled. It deceived them into thinking they had sunk two different carriers and is important. In the movie, we see the Japanese pilots getting ready to attack and the next scene is the Yorktown ablaze. It was, to me, the biggest blown opportunity of the film. It was either bad writing or crappy editing.
The air attacks from Midway were terrifying to the Japanese but fail, in both renditions of this film, to cover them accurately. The PBY’s launching torpedoes at the Japanese and the slaughter of the Brewster Buffalos were important.
The film also misrepresented the intelligence ploy of transmitting that the water purification plant at Midway (AF) was down. This act set the stage for the battle, but it is glossed over inaccurately in the movie…for apparently no reason.
Also the faulty arming switches on the dive bombers was important…more important that the fictionalized story that the movie gives between Best and McClusky that attempts to be the heart and soul of this movie. This technological debacle makes the miraculous victory at Midway even greater, but it is ignored.
Also Hollywood, at the end of the movie when you indicate the honors bestowed on the real-life heroes, you said they “won” their medals. You win Participation Trophies – not military honors. I heard a vet in the theater bemoan this point so it isn’t lost on me.
The movie seemed to rely too much on special effects (which were great) rather than on the substance of the battle itself.
The dialogue leaves you wanting more. Nimitz saying, “We won,” was just, well, cheap writing. Nothing was done to frame the victory and what it ultimately meant. I also wish they had focused on a plot. Delving into the Doolittle Raid so deeply, while nice, distracted from the battle of Midway.
Having bitched about the inaccuracies, I DID enjoy the movie. It’s not up there with A Bridge Too Far, but it holds its own and doesn’t suck like Pearl Harbor. I’ll be purchasing it for home viewing and will permanently shelve my copy of the 1970’s Midway. That, on its own, is not a ringing endorsement.