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.
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.
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.
- Miracle at Midway – The classic book about this historic event, by Gordon W. Prange (1982).
- My favorite: Midway, Dauntless Victory: Fresh Perspectives on America’s Seminal Naval Victory of World War II by Peter C. Smith (2007). A detailed and gripping look at the complex story of an incredible victory bought by personal sacrifices and astonishing luck.
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
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- Captain Marvel – fun for kids, swill for adults.
- SHAZAM! It’s fun indoctrination for kids.
- “Avengers Endgame” is three slow hours of fun and sorrow.
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- Review of Ad Astra: Hollywood strives to reach the stars.