So, this afternoon I trotted off to the cinema to see the latest WWII movie, ‘Midway’ and I thought I’d share my thoughts on my experience with you all. Now I must start by letting you know I may be about the only person on the face of the planet who actually liked ‘Pearl Harbor,’ so you may want to keep that in mind when deciding the value of this particular review.
Well, it was very Hollywood, visually spectacular and from a production point of view, outstanding. The C.G.I. was breath-taking, if perhaps a little overblown. But then it’s an action movie, so we can forgive a little too much in the pyrotechnics department.
Unlike Pearl Harbor, however, all the characters were real players in the actual battle, including the pilots and rear gunners, and I found it particularly impressive that they found actors who looked pretty close to the real people. Woody Harrelson, for instance, made a very convincing Admiral Chester Nimitz.
Faults? Well, being an aviation nerd, I could tear holes in it all day long. Like the Dauntless dive bombers right at the start, set on or just before the day that will live in infamy, lacked the red disc in the centre of their national insignia, something that wasn’t generally removed till several months later. But hey, it didn’t really detract that much from the overall enjoyment.
What I did find a little disappointing, however, was that, despite the title, it was over an hour before we actually got to the titular battle itself. Now maybe the director felt a little backstory was necessary, to set the scene. But we went through Pearl Harbour, the Coral Sea campaign and the Doolittle raid before we got there. On the other hand these events were portrayed pretty accurately, and even included minor, but dramatic events, like the machinist’s mate third class, on the USS Enterprise who, when the ship was being attacked by Japanese bombers, ran across the deck, leapt into the rear gunners station of a parked Dauntless, and shot one of them down, the crashing wreckage then slicing his Dauntless in two. He then got out, lit up a cigarette and acted like it was no big deal! True event, by the way.
But all this then meant that the main event was a little cramped into the second half of the movie. Again, all the key events were present, and having seen countless documentaries and read loads of books on the subject I was truly impressed at how the correct sequence of events played out. Unfortunately, a lot of these events were almost skipped over, e.g. ‘Oh look, the Yorktown is sinking.’ That alone should have been worth ten minutes or so.
The other problem was the incidental characters, the wives, the daughters. If they were originally meant to be a part of the story then we should have seen more of them, got to know and emphasize with them. But for the most part they were just props, fill-ins to give a token human side to the whole story. Either they should have had bigger roles, or they should have been cut out altogether, freeing up the movie to concentrate on the action.
Did I enjoy it? Yes, very emphatically. But, in my humble opinion, the producers would have done better to give a much briefer account of the events leading up to the battle and expanded much more on the battle itself.