“Midway” is a powerful film, well worth seeing

Summary: I saw Midway and liked it. Most of the critics hated it. Here is why I liked it, why they didn’t, and why you should see it.

Poster for "Midway" (2019)

On Rotten Tomatoes, only 42% of the critics liked it, but it got a 92% rating from the public. I agree with the public. I enjoyed the film.

The battle of Midway was a pivotal event in WW2. It was one of the greatest naval victories in WW2 and in US history. And is one of the most dramatic battles in modern warfare, where the underdog scored a massive win by a combination of smarts, immense courage, and off-the-scale luck (in a fair world, we would have lost). Midway was a complex event, but the film’s simplified story of Midway captures most of these elements.

Most critics hated it, for reasons that show the strength of the film and the weirdness of the Left in post-mo America.

(1)  They did not like the CGI. It was fine. CGI is a springboard for the audience’s imagination, and Midway used it well. Perhaps critics visual taste is jaded from overexposure to Hollywood’s obsession with CGI.

(2) Midway has “a lot of dialogue stooped with cartoon patriotism.” I suspect by that they mean “patriotism.” It is a dirty word to good leftists.

(3)  They disliked all those men in the film. Masculine men, with “machismo” and “jutting jaws” (both frequently mentioned in the reviews). Simplistic men, not modern heroes broken or whining about their “issues.” Heroes who do what has to be done without spewing the emo that critics love. Since critics believe such men do not exist, that makes them unrealistic “cardboard” characters with “stilted” and “wooden” dialog.

The critics neglect to tell us how the battle of Midway – or WW2 – would have ended if America’s troops lacked machismo.

(4)  They dislike its jingoism. It does not far enough to show Japan and America as equally at fault for WW2. It goes too far seeking balance for my taste. Our sanctions against Japan were well warranted by their genocidal invasion of China. We did not to wage war to stop them, but had no obligation to fuel their wars with Texas oil.

I doubt Midway’s audiences in China (and its Chinese investors) care about such balance. Most remember the damage Japan inflicted in its eight year long invasion and occupation.

“Before we’re through with them, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell.”
— Said by Vice Admiral Halsey on 8 December 1942 as the USS Enterprise came into Pearl Harbor amidst the wreckage.

(5)  They found it too dry. They were unmoved, which shows that they have hearts of stone. More than the 1976 film Midway or Pearl Harbor, it conveyed the emotional impact of these events on the people involved and their families. A naval wife looks at the burning ships at Pearl Harbor knowing her husband and friends are out there. A wife mourns at her husband’s funeral. The pilots mourn their lost comrades. At a gathering, wives send their children outside to play and then exchange rumors about the great battle taking place beyond the horizon – doing their best to hold themselves together.

This is how Midway works, with simple scenes with simple staging which carry the story without the rug-chewing of most modern blockbusters. It baffled most of the critics.

(6)  It did not follow the approved template for films about real wars. Many critics reacted with disbelief. Rachel’s Reviews gives us a nice example of post-mo critics at work.

“It feels like something John Wayne or Charlton Heston would have been in the 50s and 60s. The problem is this is 2019 and such a jingoistic approach feels woefully outdated and simplistic. …There’s even a scene where a captured soldier tells the Japanese to f-off as he is thrown into the sea on an anchor. Groan!”

The Japanese captured three Navy airmen at Midway: Ensign Wesley Osmus, Ensign Frank O’Flaherty, and Aviation Machinist’s Mate Bruno F. Gaido. They were interrogated, tied to water-filled kerosene cans, and thrown overboard. For more about this, see “Midway: Tarnished Victory” by Robert E. Barde in Military Affairs (December 1993).

Mandy Moore, who plays a fighter pilot’s wife in Midway.

Mandy Moore, a fighter pilot's wife in "Midway"

My recommendation

Midway is well executed film, engrossing, and deeply moving at times.
It is worth your time and money to see on the big screen.
It won’t be the same on your TV.

For more about the battle of Midway

Here are two of the best books I have read about it.

See the 1976 film Midway – a great film with a A-team list of stars. Much more like a documentary then the 2019 Midway.

For more information

Ideas! For some shopping ideas, see my recommended books and films at Amazon. Also, see Chapter One of a story about our future: “Ultra Violence: Tales from Venus.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all film reviews, posts about heroes, and especially these …

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  6. “Avengers Endgame” is three slow hours of fun and sorrow.
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The trailer

28 thoughts on ““Midway” is a powerful film, well worth seeing”

  1. As you may or may not have noticed, my views would be viewed as left by the present mainstream. But I am in complete agreement with you on this. These silly reviewers had the same attitude about ‘First Man’. They didn’t like Neil Armstrong’s coolness under pressure and lack of visible emotion. This foolish cultural left wants to rewrite history to fit their dangerous cultural relativist view of life. They downplay the viciousness of other cultures past and present because it would distract from their obsessive mission to make the West and the US into the source of all evil.

    There are those of us on the left who are just as tired and annoyed by this ‘wimpy’ left as you are. I am of the old-fashioned New Deal left, the Captain Kirk left, so to speak (both Gene Roddenberry and Rod Serling fought in the Pacific in WW2). The left that knew that an aggressive attitude was essential in defeating the Nazis and the Japanese fascists. Japan was a vicious, cruel, mass-murdering empire led by war-criminals equal to the Nazis, they caused the deaths of around 30 million people.

    My father flew combat missions against Axis targets in Europe during WW2 and my mother was a USAF flight-nurse during the Korean War. My mother worked with nurses who served in WW2. She told me of an interesting incident at the Officers Club where the nurses were drinking and getting a bit too loud. A high-ranking officer came up to them threatening extra duty. One of the older nurses turned and said quietly, “I was at Bataan.” The officer’s face blanched and the nurses’ party continued. Back then everyone understood that Japan had mercilessly tortured, starved, and killed even women.

    1. Gloucon,

      Nicely said.

      “I am of the old-fashioned New Deal left, the Captain Kirk left, so to speak”

      Me, too. The original Star Trek spoke for the values built by the West after WWII. The “Enterprise” series continued this theme. But America has changed, esp the Left – and they hated the show.

    2. “They didn’t like Neil Armstrong’s coolness under pressure and lack of visible emotion.”

      I just watched a long documentary based almost entirely on recovered footage and survivor recollections following a disastrous helicopter mission during the Gulf War. It was horrifying and gripping in equal measure. I have not served but have sons who have, and it was the making of them. My dad served before during and after WW2 and I would be proud to be half the man he was. What blew me away was the cockpit recordings even under massive fire being taken.

    3. Glaucon X

      Could you lay out in more detail the emotional dynamics of what you characterize as the “wimpy left.”

      You also state that the old-fashioned New Deal left “…knew that an aggressive attitude was essential in defeating the Nazis and the Japanese fascists.

      Will this aggressive attitude also have an important role to play in potentially accelerating or perhaps stopping our present slide towards civil war (where presently self-restraint toward “deplorables” is disappearing and taking its place may be a mutual sense–on both sides–of increasing hatred?

      1. James,

        “Will this aggressive attitude also have an important role to play in potentially accelerating or perhaps stopping our present slide towards civil war ”

        I must be reading different newspapers than you. The aggression is almost all on the Left – pushing transgenders, drag queen story hours, increasing limits on speech and behavior, increasing indoctrination of students in k – college, increasing regulation of admissions and hiring to produced desired outcomes, violence at colleges and now public spaces to suppress opponents – and a thousand other things.

        What the Left calls “aggression” are small efforts to slow or stop this. It’s classic blaming the victim. If you defend yourself from my beating you, you are an aggressor. The inevitable blowback might be ugly, because game theory says that tit-for-tat is the most effective strategy.

      2. James, By wimpy left, I was referring to the type of movie reviewer who would be offended by seeing macho style behavior in a war movie. I mentioned the courage of the US Army nurses captured on Bataan in 1942 and having to endure death camp conditions for three long years. There were many female pilots in the transport sector during the war. In the USSR, women served in combat, and one of them may have been the best sniper of the entire war, she had a kill total in the hundreds.
        As for left in general, I have been observing them at close range here in Oregon without any media filter and see them differently than LK. I see them as born losers who are wrecking any chance for a sane left of the type we had from 1933-1965. I don’t see the country fighting a civil war over drag queens.

  2. I had been avoiding the movie, your review makes the movie more tempting but I still think I will stay away.

    The reasons I had originally been avoiding the movie are:
    1) “Based on true events,” I shuddered to think what most of today’s directors would choose to do with that statement. I’m glad to hear that my fears were unfounded

    2) In addition to my passion for economic studies, I was a huge military history guy at one point, specializing in the Pacific side of WWII. I saw the 1976 movie and could have written a better script for it included a lot of things they missed or ignored. It sounds like the this movie does better on that score.

    The reasons why I’m still staying away:
    1) I have come to understand that there are always at least two sides to a war. The Japanese and American leadership fell into the war due to mutual (and partially avoidable) ignorance. There were a few very smart people in Japan, like Yamamoto who had been educated in the US knew what would happen if war broke out but the US was strangling Japan economically and the Japanese felt like their way of life was threatened. We did the same thing after 9/11.

    2) Related to the above point: If you think the US military wives struggled with negative emotions, just consider the Japanese wives! The Japanese military establishment was new to modern technology and didn’t think about providing little things like regular postal deliveries. Some commanders were smarter about this than others and found ways to make it work but most were very weak in this regard. The effects on the soldiers and naval crew has never been accurately measured (to the best of my knowledge) but could not have been good.

    3) I know this is odd but bear with me. The heroics displayed on the screen are accurate but have nothing to do with how the US won the war.

    Paraphrasing a line from the movie “if we don’t win this one, San Francisco and Seattle will burn” was widely believed at the time in the US but the Japanese were already so badly over-extended that it is laughable to a military historian and I don’t want to be beaten up by enraging my fellow movie goers.

    One of the two keys to the US victory in the Pacific was our assembly lines cranking out 73 carriers in addition to the 11 carriers we started the war with. The Japanese only ever built 25 carriers before and during the war (frequently modified from battleship blueprints so they were less effective) and rarely deployed more than 4 of them at a time because that was the maximum they could support.

    Carriers need a LOT of fuel, spare parts, food, etc to keep going. Aircraft are their tools, but against a determined foe, aircraft are more like ammunition than a ships guns. Without the aircraft, a carrier is nothing more than a very expensive target.

    The US could easily provide the ships and the support AND fight the war in Europe (a much larger struggle) all at the same time. The Japanese could barely keep what they had going.

    This brings me to my second point about winning the war:
    The Japanese started the war with very high physical requirements and very rigorous training for their pilots. They started the war with 600+ of the best carrier pilots in the world. But they didn’t think about potential losses. It took 2+ years for the Japanese to train a pilot to their standards and the pool of candidates was small to begin with. Coral Sea and Midway killed Japanese 400+ pilots in 3 months.

    The US knew they needed a lot of pilots and started training large classes almost immediately drawing from a much larger population. Training was continually improved based on the experiences of surviving pilots.

    By contrast, the Japanese rarely had pilots survive more than a couple of battles and couldn’t afford to rotate the experienced pilots out of the front line so the quality of their training fell rapidly, especially when compared to the US.

    In 1944 the battle of the Philippines Sea (also known as the Marianas Turkey Shoot) saw 9 Japanese carriers with poorly trained pilots, short on fuel and spare parts attacking 15 superbly equipped US carriers with very well-trained pilots who had the advantage of radar and superior aircraft designs. The outcome was just as bad for the Japanese as you’d predict.

    4) The victories of WWII (especially in the Pacific) set the US on the course we curse today where we assume that having the latest technical do-dad will lead to victory.

    War does not stop evolving and has found a way via 4GW to continue while the US behaves more and more like the Imperial Japanese government did; ignoring facts and pretending that we will eventually overcome based on useless measurements (in WWII, it was counting battleships, today it is counting aircraft carriers) and the righteousness of our cause. The movie shows us the end result of that dream.

    1. Pluto,

      This is, as you expected, than the 1976 film in terms of accuracy. It includes the fun myths- such the “water plant broken” that identified Midway as Japan’s next target. And the great but probably mythical “We have awakened a sleeping giant” by Yamamoto.

      I too would have included those.

      It’s strength, IMO, is in the portrayal of the people., men and women. Which is what the critics hated most.

    2. “…the 11 carriers we started the war with.”

      And by “eleven”, you mean seven, right? Lexington, Saratoga, Enterprise in the Pacific, Yorktown, Wasp, Ranger and Long Island in the Atlantic.

      Hornet was afloat but not commissioned yet, Langley hadn’t been a carrier for some time by December 1941 reduced by age to aircraft transport duties… I can only assume you’re considering the Albermarle and Curtiss as carriers, which would be mistaken to do… both were seaplane tenders with neither flight deck nor catapults.

      Otherwise, I have no idea how you get to 11.

      The Japanese “frequently modified from battleship blueprints” aircraft carriers? Two, the Kaga and Shinano, were carriers converted from battleships. Hyuga and Ise were partial battleship/carrier hybrid things that only carried seaplanes, and not many of those.

      Akagi was a battleCRUISER conversion,and arguably better than the Lexington and Saratoga; certainly more manueverable! There were other conversions, from passenger liners and the like, but really not that many battleship conversions.

      “Coral Sea and Midway killed Japanese 400+ pilots in 3 months.”
      Japanese flight crew losses at Coral Sea were 90 total. Midway was 110 total. It was the START of the process, but it wasn’t until the Guadalcanal campaign/meatgrinder that Japanese naval air really got mauled beyond repair.

  3. Ours has become a soft, silly culture, obsessed with trifles. Harsh reminders make soft people uncomfortable.

    In fairness, though, there probably aren’t that many people under fifty who “get” what a big deal WW II was. It is literally ancient history, with as much appeal a treatise on the Punic Wars in the original Latin.

    Most of the reviewers are too young to have any living connection with the War. It’s not real to them. So it becomes easy to dismiss even a truthful account as so much hoary bombast. It’s so far removed from their life experience as to be literally inconceivable.

    In a way I don’t blame them for their disinterest. This nation ain’t what it used to be. This nation is plainly a mess now, and to anyone under forty it has always been that way. To see it portrayed otherwise must seem like ham-handed propaganda.

    Not too many years ago, I happened to be present at an event where a WW II veteran of Bataan and the Death March told his story publicly for the first time, ever. I had known this man for years; he was a close friend of my maternal grandfather, a combat veteran of the ETO. There were a number of young people present at this gathering, and I watched their reactions at his gut-wrenching, horrific tale of combat and defeat, torment and torture, at the hands of the Japanese. Some of them were in tears by the time Mr. McFarland was done. They simply had no idea what an awful, ghastly business the War had been, and the toll it took on those who got the full treatment.

  4. I never follow rotten tomatoes critics. They seem to hate anything an average guy would like and like every thing a SJW would like.

      1. This divergence came to a head with “The Last Jedi.” The response of Rotten Tomatoes and the left commentariat was to say all these unfavorable audience ratings were the product of Russian bots and duplication hackers.

        Even after supposedly discovering this and being able to delete the “bot” reviews, the unfavorable audience rating for that film remains. Whenever the general public doesn’t laud the latest enlightened SJW product issued by our betters, the standard response is to deny any such unfavorable sentiment exists and blame it on foreign electronic malcontents.

        In other news, for the CW’s lesbian “Batwoman” show, the critic rating is 71% and the audience rating is 12%. Them Russian bots must be working in overdrive on that one.

      2. Durasim,

        Yes, Hollywood and its audience might be on a collision course. The DC flicks have not done well. Marvel has to restart the series with an almost entirely new cast – with their intended leading lady, Captain Marvel, a bust in audience interest. The “Star Trek” franchise was rebooted and burned.

        We might see the first big studio – audience collision with “Rise of Skywalker.” Rumor is that the prelim marketing surveys showed a high degree of dislike in its core audience – sight unseen – created by the previous films. Other rumors said that the test screen was a disaster – forcing TWO rounds of mega-costly reshoots. If true, the final cost might make profits almost impossible, but Disney might be most interesting in saving the “Star Wars” brand.

  5. Up front haven’t seen the movie yet but you certainly know of my interest and context.
    So, have been searching out reviews/comments from people like historian/author Barrett Tillman and Jon Parshall co-author of “Shattered Sword” which is probably most up to date rendering of the battle, It dispels many myths, particularly those that resulted from “Midway: The Battle that Doomed Japan, the Japanese Navy’s Story” by Mitsuo Fuchida the airwing commander at Pearl Harbor but at Midway but sick. (The Kaga flight decks were not full and they were far from the 5 minute myth launch against US carriers just one flaw)

    Not disputing at all but I have not run across the type criticism you reflect here:
    “Most critics hated it, for reasons that show the strength of the film and the weirdness of the Left in post-mo America.”

    What I have seen are comments that run from horrible to best picture ever so ???
    Parshall notes it is watchable not great but certainly better than the terribly flawed ’76 version. (Example – Use of Forrestal type CVs and jet (F-9) ramp strike knocking off ole Charlton???) This was far from the great movie many discuss.

    Also much critique of not staying close enough to history – mostly unforced errors rather than “well we couldn’t cover everything.”
    – no F4F Wildcats
    – essentially no Yorktown or Hornet or Adm Fletcher
    – way too many a/c and AAA ( we lost one a/c to flak)
    -Carrier a/c don’t do engine out landings popping up from below the flight deck

    Bottom line –
    1) don’t name non-documentaries Dunkirk, Pearl Harbor Or Midway and then advertise as THE true story or untold story
    2) don’t f with real history, get competent advisers and listen to them
    3) most if not all the issues could have been done correctly at SAME cost

    1. Ed,

      Always great to hear from you, esp. about Midway – with your expertise in WW2 carrier war! A few notes.

      “Not disputing at all but I have not run across the type criticism you reflect here”

      At 42% on RT, it has the second lowest rating of any film now showing. Not only are the criticisms brutal, the positive reviews are lukewarm. As for the criticism I list, I have dozens of illustrative quotes. But they made the review too long. Let’s look at what the “top critics” say. Let’s look at the first four…

      • “It’s hard to find much merit in Emmerich’s style …”
      • “A throwback to the wartime spectacles of the seventies, done up with all the visual pizzazz CGI can provide but keeping the human element at a regrettably rudimentary level.”
      • “Emmerich favours spectacle over subtlety …the absence of fully-rounded characters for audiences to care about gives the impression of a cold computer game.”
      • “It has the tone, mostly, of kids’ TV. Or a poor, very poor, supplementary video for a history GCSE.”

      “What I have seen are comments that run from horrible to best picture ever so ???”

      A quick look at Google shows no review with the phrase “best picture” in it – other than “Clunky and loud ‘Midway’ makes ‘Pearl Harbor’ look like a Best Picture winner.”

      Looking into the negative reviews, one find the key themes I describe here. Mostly complaints about the CGI (absurd), the cardboard characters (in fact, that’s a strength of Midway vs. most war films), and the violations of socialist realism (eg, complaints about “jingoism”, “machismo”, and “jutting jaws” masculinity).

  6. I’ve looked at a few but mostly Facebook comments to people like Tillman or Parshall and couple of other credible guys. Real mix like I said. Not sure if I’ve ever seen that kind of spread. Couple of us have commented that given the disparity of knowledge between aviation types and history buffs and then non-military/aviation types, there’s probably no way to get all on the same page. Jon Parshall’s giving it an
    overall pass is most telling to me. You should add Shattered Sword to your list. Incredible book.
    I’m actually pretty lenient on war films – not expecting total historical accuracy. So I’ll certainly go see.But jeeeze louise the idea of a deadstick carrier landing??? Dick Best would rise from the grave don’t ya know!!

    1. Ed,

      You expect more than I from “history” films. Midway includes several fun myths – such as the “water plant is broken” trick that supposedly identified Midway as Japan’s next target. And the great “We have awakened a sleeping giant” statement by Yamamoto – taken from Tora Tora Tora.

      Including these is just good sense. To quote another film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

  7. This is linked indirectly.

    My brother in the UK was talking to me about his son aged 12.

    His son had a talk from the Police Liason Officer about Racism in his school, in among the talk the retired Police Officer who did the talk said “thinking your country is better than another is a form of racism, and is part of race hate”.

    This is the left speaking in the UK, jingoism and patriotism are forms of racism.

    1. Just a guy,

      “Give me the child for the first seven years and I will give you the man.”
      — Attributed to Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, by Voltaire.

      The Left has learned this lesson well. They dominate the schools of America, and are shaping the next generations of America.

      1. Single, indoctrinated, less educated and alone may be the future for an increasing number of young men.
        If they accept their new status they may be influenced by Antifa, if they wish to throw it off Proud Boys.
        None of this bodes well for the next ten or so years, especially if oil price rise, the Middle East stays volatile and immigration keeps on increasing.

      2. Just a guy,

        That seems likely if we continue on this course. As for women -single, indoctrinated, and alone might be the fate for large numbers of women.

        I’m amazed that more young women in their 30s do not realize that their mothers and grandmothers were doing much better by most measures at that age. Without reflection, they believe their liberated state means they’re doing better.

  8. My Dad was a 17-year-old high school kid who got thrown out of the recruitment office with his buddies who all skipped school to try to enlist on December 8th. My Grandma refused to sign waivers to allow him at 18, so he enlisted in the Marines the day after his 19th birthday.
    He served at Guam, Tinian, Okinawa, and with the occupation forces in Japan.
    He would have loved this film.

  9. The Man Who Laughs

    “(5) They found it too dry. They were unmoved, which shows that they have hearts of stone. More than the 1976 film Midway or Pearl Harbor, it conveyed the emotional impact of these events on the people involved and their families. A naval wife looks at the burning ships at Pearl Harbor knowing her husband and friends are out there. A wife mourns at her husband’s funeral. The pilots mourn their lost comrades. At a gathering, wives send their children outside to play and then exchange rumors about the great battle taking place beyond the horizon – doing their best to hold themselves together.

    This is how Midway works, with simple scenes with simple staging which carry the story without the rug-chewing of most modern blockbusters. It baffled most of the critics”

    I’m late commenting because it took a long time for real life to give time to go out and see this. Your review is spot on (As your reviews tend to be). Just remember though that simple does not mean easy. Not many war movie manage to incorporate the kind of emotional impact you’re talking about. We Were Soldiers did. You’re right about simple scenes with emotional impact, but you have to first realize why you’d want to that, and then you have to know how. Writing talent seems to be in short supply in Hollywood these days.

    One other aspect of this movie that kind puts it out of step with times is that more than most war movies, this is going to be about a team effort. You can have a war movie about a Rambo type guy, one lone soldier/warrior/tough guy or whatever, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But the victory at Midway was the end result of a team effort. That team included the code breakers, the commanders and planners, all the way to the pilots who had to fly straight, level, and without escort., carrying torpedoes that mostly didn’t work anyway, through a sky filled with Zeroes. Day to day flight operations on a carrier in peacetime involve some pretty impressive teamwork. In the age of the superhero movie, this is about as out of step with the times as you can get.

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