Eppler: 'Midway' is better than 'Pearl Harbor,' at least
"Midway" tells a familiar war story with impressive visual effects and not much else. But it could have been worse.
Monday, November 11th 2019, 10:25 AM CST by
Monday, November 11th 2019, 6:07 PM CST
"Midway" is an earnest, well-meaning tribute to the men who fought and died during pivotal battles in World War II. It's a popcorn war movie with a heavy emphasis on the strategy and fighting, rather than people themselves. That makes it a perfect fit for director Roland Emmerich, whose made a career out of schlock spectacle - most notably with "Independence Day."
Much like the 1976 movie, this "Midway" features a big cast of names. Although they're playing real people, they're written more like character types: the hot-shot cowboy, the smart guy who's always right but people won't listen, the grizzled commander, the Jonas Brother...
It's not the actors' fault, really. Woody Harrelson and Dennis Quaid work hard to distinguish their characters. But British actor Ed Skrein takes on a dreadful New Jersey accent. Come to think of it, that is his fault. It's just clear that the budget went into the special effects rather than paying a good screenwriter with a script that drops clichés like dive-bombers.
But those effects are impressive, and Emmerich often makes us feel like we're in the cockpit with these guys. It's not as effective as the minimalist effects in "Dunkirk," but it's cool to watch - especially on a big screen. The movie also takes these battles seriously. The Pearl Harbor attack here is a gut-punch, rather than the calloused video game Michael Bay made out of it in 2001's "Pearl Harbor." It also feels like there's something really at stake in "Midway," rather than 'which one of these dudes will live long enough to bed down Beckinsale?'
"Midway" also works to show us both sides of the war and the struggle in Japanese leadership - which may be a cynical attempt to appeal to Asian audiences, but nonetheless admirable.
The best thing about this bombastic, big-budget war movie is it may drive audiences to look up the history of these events and learn about the real heroes - a worthwhile way to spend part of Veterans Day.
EPPLER'S RATING: * * 1/2
* * * * * Incredible - One of the best of the year
* * * * Excellent - Touches greatness with only minor quibbles
* * * Good - Plenty to like, definitely worth seeing
* * Mediocre - You can do better
* Awful - The worst, an insult to movies