‘Midway’: US wins, Hollywood loses

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of AGC Studios | Daily Texan Staff

Anyone interested in seeing Roland Emmerich’s “Midway” is probably better off learning about the fateful World War II battle from a textbook. 

“Midway” is based on the four-day combat that gave the U.S. an upper hand in war efforts following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The film follows multiple characters, ranging from intelligence officers to pilots, throughout their journey in the Pacific.

This movie is perfect for anyone looking for cleverly timed music swells and patriotic imagery. There’s American flags and men in uniform smoking cigarettes. There’s even a shot of neighborhood kids playing baseball who pause their game to look up at Adm. Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) and Edwin Layton (Patrick Wilson) in uniform while snare drums play in the background. It’s hyper-reminiscent of World War II propaganda.

But audiences looking to lose track of time in a comprehensive story captured by the magic of moving images should stay at home. There are tons of historical documentaries that are easier to follow and more engaging than “Midway.”

The film’s biggest downfall is in its overall narrative. There are so many storylines to follow, which makes sense because that’s how real life works. World War II alone relied on over 16 million Americans who served to play their part. However, movies are not real life. It is the job of a filmmaker to create a story, not rehash history — trying to do both is a disservice to the film.

In addition to the multitude of storylines, there is no sense of depth. The moments spent with characters are fleeting, so there’s no time for a connection to be made. Giving Vice Adm. William “Bull” Halsey (Dennis Quaid) two seconds on screen next to medicine bottles is not character depth. It’s not reasonable to expect audiences to feel sorry for Lt. Richard “Dick” Best (Ed Skrein) when he loses a soldier he only spoke with for a few moments.

There’s also the problem with the actors. 

Harrelson only makes a convincing Adm. Nimitz in looks. His performance, like most of his other performances, is humorous, which feels out of place in a war movie. Every time Harrelson is on the screen, there is always something to laugh at. 

Then there’s Nick Jonas as Bruno Gaido, a U.S. aviation machinist. Don’t be fooled by his face on the movie poster; he’s barely on screen despite being heavily featured in the trailer, and the man can’t pull off a thin mustache or a New York accent to save his life. Literally. Just like Harrelson, Jonas turned supposed heartfelt moments into pieces of comedy. 

Even the action scenes have their problems. Overhead shots of the ships at Pearl Harbor look comparable to a video game, and performances overall are more theatrical than cinematic.

The only convincing aspect of “Midway” is its sound design. The crash of waves and the searing of burning flesh actually feel real, and the attempts to cover choppy scene transitions with radio transmissions are clever. It makes me wish I had watched the movie with my eyes closed.

Rating: 2/5