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The Battle of Midway, a clash between the American fleet and the Imperial Japanese Navy which marked a pivotal turning point in the Pacific Theater during WWII.
*Be aware of spoilers*
In 1937 Isoroku Yamamoto informs intelligence officer Edwin T. Layton while on meeting in Tokyo that they will take action if their oil supplies are threatened.On December 7, 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor while Chester Nimitz assumes command of the badly damaged US Pacific Fleet and talks with Layton in order to avoid such an intelligence failure in the future. After the Doolittle Raid in April 1942 the Japanese turn their attention to the Coral sea while the Americans look for a way to prove that Midway will be the next target. After sending an unencrypted message that the Japanese intercepted it was confirmed that their target was Midway while Nimitz instruct three carriers to prepare an ambush.
On June 4th Midway is attacked with the initial US attacks on the Japanese fleet failing. A US submarine successfully locates and attacks an enemy carrier but misses it’s target while the Arashi destroyer keeps it pinned down giving the opportunity for the carrier to escape. The US forces arrive only to find the Japanese fleet has moved. After Admiral Nagumo finds out about the presence of the US forces orders the rearm of his planes for anti-ship attacks. The Commander of the Air Group (CAG) of the Enterprise, C. Wade McClusky spots the Arashi which he rightfully thought was rushing back to the main fleet.
While Japanese planes were still rearming US carrier-based planes appear and start attacking the Japanese fleet. McClusky and Richard Halsey Best manage to destroy 2 carriers, the Kaga and the Akagi while squadrons from the Yorktown destroyed the Sōryū. Tamon Yamaguchi, aboard the Hiryū tried to salvage what he could from the battle by commanding an assault on the Yorktown which he manages to disable. After finding out about the surviving Japanese carrier Best gathers whatever pilots he can gather and launched an attack on it managing a critical blow destroying it. Raymond Spruance decides to withdraw for the night while Admiral Yamamoto completely withdraw his fleet and thus ended the Battle of Midway.
If there is one subject and one global even that Hollywood has tackled countless times before and there seems to be no stopping to it is World War 2. And this is natural to some extent as that period offers so many events and stories to be told something we have seen in so many movies over the last three or more decades.
And while most stories have been centered around the European theater of war and how the Allied Forces pushed back the Nazi war machine there was another place that has been more or less neglected by the media and this is the war of the Pacific between the American and Japanese forces battling for supremacy.
And this is somewhat of a paradox as in the Pacific war we saw some of the most brutal battles that sometimes surpassed even the European main events. In recent times we have seen several high profile films trying to rectify this and with good success overall as they try to show us the most highlighted events of that era. And this brings us in last year’s Midway, a film made by no other than Roland Emmerich, of Independence Day fame, trying to visualize the most important events of the Pacific War and more specific the Battle of Midway that turned the tide for the American forces to win the war against the Japanese.
Emmerich has got us used in destroying the Earth with various ways in many of his last films so seeing him tackle a World War 2 theme feels like a breath of fresh air. Combining his expertise in action scenes and specials effects would only benefit a film like this and this really shows by the end result. It seems that the film was a passionate project of Emmerich for almost 20 years now but carrying a lofty budget made most studios to back away and so it remained in production hell ever since.
But when someone with the weight of Emmerich has a passion project always finds a way to overcome all obstacles and so it had to be 2019 the year when he finally made his passion project come true. As one of the most expensive independent productions ever made Midway was definitely a risky one and will to a certain degree define the future of similar independent productions.
So how did Emmerich and his team managed to do with a film of this scope? The events that are depicted in the film include the attack of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent events that resulted in the Battle of Midway which was the most defining moment of the Pacific War. With so many events happening in the film it’s very easy to loose track of what is going on as connecting all these events that happened during a long period of time can make the film feel disconnected. The film can dedicate so much time in each event so time management was very crucial in order to be able to show everything with enough detail and without missing anything too important but without over-analyzing which could potentially make the film drag for too long.
And it seems that at a certain degree the filmmakers made a very good job as they managed in two hours to include most of the important battles without them feeling like individual events that were stuck together in the editing room. As such the flow of the film was remarkably good as there were no moments were we felt it was dragging for too long that would make us loose interest.
Obviously you cannot have two hours of action so there were moments where the director had to slow things down considerably but it was important for the viewers to get a break before the next action scene. In the end looking the film overall we felt that it had good progress with enough calm moments for us to take a breath while it never felt boring or uninteresting. Emmerich did a really good job with pacing making it an amazing experience from start to finish.
We are unmistakably live in an era of special and computer generated effects and having seen almost everything we cannot be easily impressed nowadays. But we can admit that Midway really managed to create an impressive, in not breathtaking, experience. With many scenes focusing on the actual fighter planes the camera really gets stuck into the middle of the action bringing us so much closer to the events happening there.
And the impressive thing is that while the CGI and green screen are more than obvious they never felt so fake to lower the actual experience. On the contrary for some strange reason the obvious computer generated effects gave the film a certain look that was definitely very characteristic and was used throughout the whole running time. Don’t misunderstand us, the CGI were really good but never they felt hyper photorealistic that many other films tried to do. Now if this was intentional or it just happened we don’t know but everything bound together very well to create the final look of the film.
Continuing on the technical aspects of the film music and audio in general was top notch. Emmerich brought the action so much closer to the screen so this as a result made the audio so much more immersive and alive. If you have watched this in a good Atmos system, either in cinema or at home, then you know what we mean. The many aerial battles offered plenty of opportunities for surround and overhead action as fighter planes were wizzing past our heads while anti-aircraft fire was screaming in our ears creating an acoustic cacophony that can literally drop your jaw on the floor. Emmerich knows how to make action films and this in our opinion is one of his best so far in this regard.
When it comes to acting the ensemble cast includes many familiar names but none of them takes center stage as we see that Emmerich preferred to split the time between most of them. Obviously there are certain characters that get more screen time but this was necessary as certain events were very much character specific. But in general we got the sense that there was no intention to focus on anyone specific trying to give the whole film a sense of globalism as the Pacific War was not a one man event.
Casting did a great job and all actors really managed to give their characters a realistic tone and feel. And with so many actors on play none felt lacking, either one of the high profile names or the more unknown ones. And this was another plus of the film as Emmerich not only managed to shape and fit such a story in two running hours and fold everything around a very lucrative special effects and CGI package but also include the necessary emotion that each character brought forward.
One criticism the film faced after release was while it felt pretty accurate in some parts it also carried major historical inaccuracies in others. Having a fairly good knowledge of the events that happened during the Pacific War we can say that these inaccuracies while true they don’t affect the overall outcome and will certainly go by unnoticed to the uneducated eye. If you are in the knowhow then maybe you will be able to spot some of them but nevertheless it cannot subtract from the overall experience. It is our opinion with such war films that are based on true events that if you want historical accuracy then better watch a war documentary.
Otherwise film producers take certain liberties for various creative or financial reasons and if the overall result doesn’t affect the true outcome of a certain event or deviate too much of how things happened I can accept these changes. After all we watch these films for entertainment, not educational purposes so we shouldn’t take this with too much weight.
As our final comment we can say that Midway feels one of the better films depicting the Pacific theater of war. It’s excellent pacing, very good acting, careful selection of the most important events along with the technical excellence of the film with very impressive, even if not ultra realistic, special effects and CGI and the convincing immersive audio created a very energetic result that will keep you at the edge of your seat from start to finish. And this tells a lot as far as how successful a result this was.
But even if we felt that the film did so many things right the box office had a different opinion as it seems that people were not convinced by Emmerich’s film. With 125 million dollars on the box office against a 100 million dollars budget we cannot say that it exactly bombed but it definitely failed to capture the interest of the vast majority. If this was a result of mediocre marketing or something else we cannot be sure of but in our opinion the film deserves a second chance in the home media release.
It’s a film that gives you entertainment wrapped around a big historical event and does that with excellent pacing, great action and good effects so what more someone could ask for. If you like historical films then you should definitely give it a try.
Midway dives into the 4K UHD format with this amazing 2160p resolution, HEVC / H.265 release courtesy of Lionsgate Films. This release comes with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio and features not only HDR10 but also Dolby Vision. As for the audio we get an excellent Dolby Atmos along with the Dolby TrueHD and Dolby Digital variants.
The film is a really bright one with many of it’s battle sequences taking placing at broad daylight and if you also take into consideration that a lot of green screen and CGI effects are used we were kind of curious how all these would translate in the 4K format. We have seen many times before the extra boost in resolution to reveal imperfections in the visual and computer effects if not done right. In the case of Midway there is a certain CGI feel to many of it’s battles and we don’t know if this was intentional or not but even in 4K resolution every showed very nice and with high detail.
With so many effects the digital grain shows just enough not to be disturbing and gives the image a very organic, even rough some times, look that certainly fits the era that the film depicts. Color palette is very specific during most of the running time but Dolby Vision makes sure to boost very natural hues and robust tones. In the few scenes that the color palette would change drastically like when the hangar bay of the Hiryū was burning the pronounced reds of the flames felt like popping out of the screen.
But Dolby Vision not only boosts the colors as highlights feel so much more pronounced than in the Blu-ray disc. When the planes went diving for their attack run the surface of the water shinning or the anti-aircraft fire blasting through the fighter planes pushed the brightness to the extremes giving the scene a much more dramatic feeling.
And if the image quality was amazing what left us speechless was definitely the included Dolby Atmos track. If you have any kind of Dolby Atmos home theater system then be ready for an amazing audio experience. The Atmos of Midway has all the ingredients needed to reproduce the wild battles of that era and does so with extreme closeups of the dogfights and attacks runs. Obviously technology has helped a lot on this and the audio keeps the pace going accordingly.
Both surround and overhead activity is through the roof as fast camera movements allow for audio effects to travel across all channels throwing you right in the middle of the action. Accordingly the overhead effects felt more alive than ever and the soundstage definitely had more volume on the upper layer. Bass and low frequencies in general felt dynamic and menacing while the dialogue was kept distinguishable and very centered focus at the front.
Midway is a visual extravaganza and the 4K UHD version manages to boost all it’s qualities to the extreme. With excellent resolution, amazing colors, dazzling highlights and a Dolby Atmos track that will shake your house this UHD is a must have for any home theater fan. Make yourself a favor and go get the disc if you still haven’t.
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