Midway: It’s A Hard Movie to Make

Roland Emmerich takes a shot at telling the story of one of the most important battles in the history of the world, but it’s a tough story to tell.

SUMMARY

The movie tries to narrate the story of the Battle of Midway. It starts shortly before WWII with the US Naval attache Edwin T. Layton (Patrick Wilson) discussing the possibility of war with Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Etsushi Toyokawa). The Admiral warns Layton that if the US tried to stop their oil supply, Japan would have to start a war. On December 7, 1941, this becomes prescient, with Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, something Layton tried to warn the White House about. The US enters WWII and Admiral Chester Nimitz (Woody Harrelson) takes over command of the US Pacific Fleet, which is now greatly reduced by the Japanese attack. 

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Also Dennis Quaid as Bull Halsey until he gets shingles and leaves. Really.

In April 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) leads a bombing raid on Tokyo that convinces the Japanese to try to solidify their position in the Coral Sea. Layton has cryptographers working around the clock under Commander Joseph Rochefort (Brennan Brown) to try and crack the Japanese code as to a crucial target known as AF, which they determine to be Midway. In preparation to ambush the Japanese, the US concentrates all of its aircraft carriers and battleships, expecting the Japanese to launch an attack on ground troops on June 4, 1942, which will leave them vulnerable to reprisal from the sea. 

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Yeah, it does resemble a certain movie about Pearl Harbor… called Pearl Harbor

On the morning of June 4, 1942, the Japanese launch the attack. After the US fails to successfully hit any aircraft carriers from the ground, a US submarine, the USS Enterprise, locates the Japanese fleet, including all of its carriers, and attempts to torpedo them. They’re unsuccessful, and the Japanese command the battleship Arashi to stay behind and keep the sub pinned down so the fleet can escape. However, Commander C. Wade McClusky (Luke Evans), spots the Arashi and, on a hunch, follows it to the fleet. While the Japanese try to re-arm to fight the US Naval fleet, McClusky and Lt. Dick Best (Ed Skrein) manage to bomb the fleet, taking down two of the carriers, while other squadrons take down a third. Best manages to rearm and take another run and hits the last of Japan’s four carriers. With the Japanese fleet now in ruins, the US has essentially shifted the tide of the war in the Pacific.

END SUMMARY

The Battle of Midway was one of the most influential days in the history of the modern world. While the Japanese still had 8 aircraft carriers left after the battle, four more than the US Pacific Fleet, they lost almost half of the skilled maintenance workers in their navy. As the Japanese Navy focused more heavily on fewer, highly-trained individuals compared to the American Navy, this was a major loss that slowed the progress of the Japanese long enough for the US to finally start producing larger carriers in 1943. At that point, US Manufacturing and training just flat-out outpaced the numbers that the Japanese could produce. Moreover, it proved that the Japanese were not the unstoppable Naval force that they were viewed as at the time. 

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More ships means more explosions. More explosions means more wins.

The problem is that this battle requires a LOT of explanation in order to drive home the significance and, well, that eats up time. It requires a lot of characters, which eats up storytelling. It doesn’t end the war, and the Japanese devastate the Americans after at Savo Island, so even though it seems happy, it doesn’t resolve a ton. That’s probably why the movie just never really finds its feet. It has to show so much and so many people and still make the actual battle look reasonable that it just can’t spend the time and energy to get us fully emotionally invested in anyone. Hell, it’s hard to say who exactly the movie is following because many of the people that we follow die during the film. I think it’s McClusky’s, Best’s, and Layton’s film, but that’s still at least 3 protagonists, one of whom barely sees the others, and there are at least a half-dozen deuteragonists and, of course, the antagonist Yamamoto. There are just too many moving parts in this movie, because it’s trying to tell the whole story of a major event. 

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Hell, I can’t even remember which guy this is and he’s like 5th in the film.

There’s also the random subplot of the Doolittle Raid which eats up about 20 minutes and mostly seems to be there so that the ending can include a mention of how much the Japanese massacred the Chinese, probably because this movie was largely funded by a Chinese company. While the US mostly remembers all the stuff the Germans did, the Chinese remember how many people were massacred during Japan’s occupation of the country, and this movie is a less-than-subtle reminder for the audience.

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I mean, this would be an interesting film on its own, we don’t need it as a subplot.

Despite the fact that this is the most expensive independent film ever made, the effects aren’t always at their best. Roland Emmerich knows explosions, but it bothered me a lot that all the ships at Pearl Harbor were mostly empty during the initial bombing run. Not that I wanted to see a lot of people die, but it still made the scene ring false. When the actual battle happens, it looks good, but it’s also noticeable that most of the attack scenes tend to be very isolated and focused only on one attacker and a target for the purpose of budget. 

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Yeah, this doesn’t look very good and this was already in another movie.

The acting ranges from great (Wilson) to “clearly there for the money” (Harrelson) to bad (Skrein), and all of that is pretty standard for Roland Emmerich’s direction. Like I said, the plot’s super light on emotion and that meant that the acting needed to lift more weight and it doesn’t. There are also a few weird changes that I don’t quite get. For example, the movie accurately shows Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas) getting captured, but he’s killed by the Japanese tying him to an anchor and throwing him overboard. In real life, he was killed… by tying him to a water-filled kerosene can and throwing him overboard. That’s just a weird change that I honestly was annoyed by, even though I’m probably the only one. There are a ton of little inaccuracies like that and they build up, because… Jesus, guys, just read a few books.

Overall, not a bad movie, but it’s trying to capture a really complicated moment in time and it makes it feel unfocused. The fact that the director doesn’t exactly pull out the best performances doesn’t help. I think more people need to know about Midway, but this is not the film for it.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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Netflix Review – Murder Mystery: No, Seriously, It’s Not That Bad (Spoiler-Free)

Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston reunite to play a married couple caught up in a… well, you read the title.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) is a police sergeant who has aspirations of being a detective but performs poorly under test conditions. His wife, Audrey (Jennifer Aniston), is a hairdresser who loves murder mystery novels. He forgets to do anything really romantic for their 15th wedding anniversary, so he quickly books the trip to Europe that he promised for their honeymoon. On the flight over, Audrey meets Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans), a billionaire who invites the couple onto the yacht of his uncle Malcolm Quince (Terence “Kneel Before” Stamp) for a party. The boat is filled with a menagerie of archetypal murder mystery characters from Agatha Christie and Ellery Queen and, of course, someone gets murdered. Nick and Audrey quickly become the prime suspects and have to figure out who is killing off the cast before they become the next victims.

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Aniston just remembered that Friends royalties mean that she had to CHOOSE this film.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so, most critics have pretty much been using Adam Sandler’s recent Netflix films as punching bags and, I’m gonna be honest, they’re pretty damned bad. The Ridiculous Six has like one joke in it and the rest of the film killed my soul. The Do-Over was an awkward buddy comedy that made me miss Chris Farley. Sandy Wexler at least had the feeling that Sandler was kind of invested in it, which apparently is because the main character was based on Sandler’s manager and friend Sandy Wernick, but it was boring as f*ck. The Week Of at least had some fun performances, but was so lazily written that I honestly felt like they stabled 3 old movie scripts together to make it. So, aside from Adam Sandler 100% Fresh, which is one of the funniest stand-up specials on Netflix and you should watch it, pretty much all of these films were either epically bad or just forgettable. This one almost actually works.

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You made me pissed at Terry Crews, you f*cking monsters.

Yes, it’s a cliche film set-up, but it’s intentionally cliched. The characters are all such exaggerated archetypes that it actually becomes kind of fun to watch how the two main characters, who are fairly normal, comment on the absurdity of their interactions. The murders are ridiculous, bordering on parodic, which, again, kind of works. The old-school Clue-esque trope of using different methods for each killing always adds a level of amusement to me. Sandler and Aniston do have some nice chemistry when they’re portraying a bickering couple that still care for each other and most of what they do in this film is bicker. There are some decent homages to other, better, films, and honestly some of the scenes are pretty clever, particularly when they just flat-out avert the expected movie tropes.

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The J’Accuse scene contains much J’Accusing, but some of it’s really fun.

But, then there are the problems. First, the subplot of Nick and Audrey being suspects in the murders drove me insane. The film tries to have the incompetent detective following the murders justify why he suspects them, but it really just never makes sense for him to pick them over a room full of extremely motivated people who ACTUALLY COULD HAVE DONE IT. They do it to isolate the characters and add more stakes, but it’s a comedy so that’s not necessary. Second, there are a lot of wasted moments on scenes that don’t add to the plot and also just aren’t that funny and a few subplots that are just for the sake of following some sort of screenwriting rules (the couple breaks up briefly and then gets back together in the next scene, making it moot). Third, it follows Adam Sandler’s tendency lately to play characters that are somehow supercompetent and also failures, like in Pixels, where he plays a TV repairman who manages to talk down to the Joint Chiefs because he’s good at video games. Did I actually see Pixels? No, but people talked about that scene and it’s an appropriate example. I think this stems from him playing Happy Gilmore and Bobby “the Waterboy” Boucher and deciding those were the only way to play heroic characters.

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I also know that Josh Gad has sex with QBert in it.

Overall, I will say this movie isn’t terrible, but I would watch a lot of things before touching it if I didn’t write this blog. Still, it has some fun moments. I will say, if you want a much better version of this same idea, watch The Private Eyes with Tim Conway and Don Knotts or Murder By Death starring Peter Sellers and Maggie Smith and Truman Capote and Peter Falk and Alec Guiness and holy hell that movie had a lot of great actors in it. Yeah, watch those instead.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.