When I saw the original Midway in 1976, it was notable for four reasons. First, the movie was good, smartly re-creating a confusing and often complicated naval battle while inserting a family drama (a young aviator is in love – with a Japanese internee – and needs his father and high ranking Navy officer to get her out of custody). Second, the film seemed out of fashion even for its time, loaded with classic movie stars like Henry Fonda, Cliff Robertson, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, James Coburn, and Robert Wagner, and, of course, Charlton Heston. Third, the film, like two contemporaries, Rollercoaster and Earthquake, was presented in Sensurround (I wonder if Heston, the lead in Earthquake, was the only actor to ever have parts in two Sensurround movies). For the uninitiated, Sensurround was a gimmick (like Smell-o-Vision) where theaters installed large, low frequency, horn-loaded speakers, so every time a bomb dropped on screen, the entire theater shook. That was pretty cool. Lastly, when I saw the picture, some kids were throwing popcorn and goofing around in the front row, and an older man came down and picked up one of the boys by his shirt, shook him violently, and then told him to “shut the hell up.“ That was really cool.
The remake is an absolute abomination. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie with more clumsy exposition. Just one example. Paraphrasing, Admiral Halsey (Dennis Quaid) sits on an aircraft carrier and says to his aide, “See that man down there. That’s Doolittle. He’s one of the greatest pilots ever. He’s going to bomb Tokyo and because he won’t have enough fuel to get back, he will have to ditch his plane in China.”
And regrettably, the aide does not answer, “ I know dipshit. I was in the meeting. Do you think I’m deaf?”
If the dialogue is not overt, it is so corny as to make you wince. A taste:
Dick Best: I don’t know how to lead these men.
Ann Best: They’ll follow you anywhere.
Wade McCluskey: Men like Dick Best are the reason we’re going to win this war.
Wade McClusky: Every time we go up in one of those planes, there’s a chance we won’t come back. Now, it’s hard to follow a man who doesn’t know that. Or even worse, doesn’t care.
Dick Best: [to his men] I’m not going to sugarcoat it, boys. Nobody thinks we can go toe-to-toe with the Japanese. Not in a fair fight. Today, we’re going to be big underdogs. Me? I think the men in this room can fly with anyone. Maybe that’s because I’m a cocky son of a b**ch. But it’s also because I’ve seen what you can do. You’re ready for this.
Clarence Dickinson: We’re going to give them a shellacking.
William ‘Bull’ Halsey: God bless those boys. Turns out all they needed was a fair fight.
Worse, as delivered by the actors in this Roland Emmerich crap-pile, the lines come of as perfunctory and insincere. Henry Fonda as Admiral Nimitz seemed to give a big line his absolute all. Woody Harrelson as Nimitz sounds somewhere between talking to Sam and Dianne at Cheers and late for a dinner reservation. Apropos for a film that reduces a historical and tide-turning naval engagement to a commercial for what I expect will be a first-person shooter/flier video game.
Also, the Naval personnel are so spot clean and well coiffed they look like cast members in Jersey Boys. Or 1/5 of the Village People. Or the kid on a Cracker Jack box.
Finally, not only is the picture anachronistic, with characters saying things straight out of 2020, but it even has a modern message at the end.