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I can't help but agree with most of the other comments: the sloppy
production values, the scenes "borrowed" from better movies, the countless
anachronisms, the distracting subplot about Lt. Garth and his Japanese
girlfriend, and so on. But for me, this movie has two strong points in
favor. One, when they get around to the actual battle, they follow the
history with surprising accuracy. (The "Pearl Harbor" makers could have
learned something from this one.) So the movie's hard to follow? So was
the actual battle! Personally, I think they did a pretty good job of
keeping the flow coherent while still remaining faithful to its source
The second thing in its favor is that, from the moment I first saw it in the theater as a 10 year old, it ignited in me a passion for the Battle of Midway that remains to this day. I can't think of any other movie that even comes close to getting me as hooked on its subject as this one. Maybe it's a good thing I first saw it when I was young, when I was much less discerning about production values, etc. That way, I could concentrate on the story itself.
If you have even the slightest interest in military history or even in important historical events in general, do yourself a favor. Watch "Midway" to get an overview of the event (fast-forward over the love-story scenes if you like), then go read "Incredible Victory" by Walter Lord (which is a better book than the one for which he is most famous, "A Night to Remember"). You won't be sorry.
Of course "Midway" is a flawed movie. The subplot about Japanese-Americans
is ridiculous and seems like a forced attempt to be PC during the
post-Vietnam 1970s when it wasn't in fashion to be completely celebratory of
America. Of course it's unsatisfying that the Japanese actors don't speak
Japanese and we have to hear Paul Frees dubbing Toshiro Mifune. Of course
the stock footage isn't going to please aviation and naval buffs who know
these details like the back of their hands, but to me this is a trivial
complaint that fails to take into account the limits of 1970s technology or
budgeting. "Pearl Harbor" ultimately got those details right through CGI
and the end result was a far worse film in the final analysis. Because
ultimately, for all the flaws that are in "Midway" it succeeds because it
does stick to the essential truths when telling the story of the battle, and
I know this because when I first saw this movie on the CBS Late Movie around
1979, I got so hooked that I went out and read every book on the battle I
could find including Walter Lord's "Incredible Victory." The movie had
given me a starting reference point and while I was sorry that some key
aspects of the latter stages of the battle were not depicted (such as the
torpedoing and eventual sinking of the Yorktown), I couldn't have asked for
anything better in terms of getting me to learn more about this great
turning point of World War II. As far as I'm concerned, it's good that
Hollywood did tackle this subject in an era when the influence of "Tora!
Tora! Tora!", "The Longest Day" etc. still hung over the proceedings because
if it hadn't been made back then, we would today be forced to see it given
the "Pearl Harbor" and "Titanic" treatment that is pure
John Williams contributes one of his finer pre-Star Wars scores with two great themes, the "Midway March" (which is only heard in the end credits of the theatrical version and became more popular in an expanded concert arrangement by the Boston Pops) and the "Men Of The Yorktown March" which dominates much of the score and offers great foreshadowings of the Throne Room sequence in "Star Wars" and the Smallville music in "Superman."
Saturday night TV is a bit of a dead zone down here so I suppose one
be grateful for the odd watchable movie, even if its 20 years old. This
looks older than it actually is, due to the liberal use of stock footage
a cast that's a retirement counsellor's dream. A relatively youthful
Charlton Heston is in the lead, but there's Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford,
Mitchum, Robert Webber and even the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. A
curious aspect is that every military character with a speaking part is an
officer; the grunts just get to grunt. It's very much the view from the
bridge (and the pilot's seat). Despite this aspect and the attempt at
historical realism it's not made clear quite how it was that the Japanese
made the error that cost them the battle, getting caught with their
flightdecks full just as the American torpedo bombers arrived. The
contribution of the American land-based aircraft is also given scant
Still you do get a bit of a story, though the less said about the silly sub-plot involving the Heston character's son and a Japanese-American girl the better. The director, Jack Smight had extensive T V experience, as did many of the younger actors, and this shows up in the rather static dialogue scenes you get when you aren't allowed to move the cameras much. The Japanese voices are dubbed, so that Paul Free, the voice of Boris Badenov in "Bullwinkle," (and countless other cartoon characters) is Admiral Yamamoto. The music was written by John Williams who a year or so later did the music for "Star Wars" and you can sense the similarities.
In the film the military operations side of things abounds with anacronisms, partly due to the liberal use of stock footage as mentioned. I don't think you can be too hard on the producers (the low profile but financially successful Mirisch Brothers) for not using a real Japanese World War 2 aircraft carrier since they are all at the bottom of the sea, but the crashed jet on the Yorktown's flightdeck was a bit sloppy. "Tora Tora Tora," which cost more money, was a better film. Not because it cost more money but because it was more carefully made, more balanced (both side's story told well) and more honest, perhaps also because it dealt with defeat rather than victory from the American viewpoint. "Midway" has some suspense, plenty of action, and the the patriotism drum is not banged to the point of pain.
This was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up and building models of land, sea, and air craft of the WWII period. Of course we all could have done without the romantic interest, but what counts is the overall telling of the story accurately (even if that includes sideline dramatizations etc.). In a nutshell Midway was a gamble and even though we knew where they'd be, we still took it on the chin with the loss of most of the aircraft and the Yorktown (which left only 2 effective carriers in the pacific and 1 in drydock). In the end we were lucky enough to be able to inflict sufficiently more damage on them than they did on us. This is the story that is told so well. It doesn't matter that the special effects were less than stellar (e.g., view of the fleet from the sealevel - obvious miniatures) or that they showed Essex class carriers which did not yet exist getting hit by kamikaze. The film is true in its depictions of gambles, gaffs, and good fortune which in the end allowed us to be victorious and end Japanese expansion. So quit knocking it and enjoy it for what it is!
The film Midway shows in graphic documentary style, the battle that did
nothing less than save America and ultimately allow us to win World War
II. If the Japanese had prevailed at Midway, they might very well have
taken Hawaii and been blockading our continental Pacific coast. We
might have had to declare a truce and hope that public opinion would
allow us to continue the European and North African war. Remember the
USA was brought in to the war because of the Japanese attack at Pearl
Harbor, not Hitler's attack.
There is a plot of sorts with Charlton Heston as the fictional pilot group commander who's involved in helping his son Edward Albert help a Nisei family who've been interred for the duration of the war because Albert is engaged to the daughter. That's the one weakness of Midway, the story really wasn't necessary and detracted with the very precise telling of the Midway tale. Had they left it out, Midway had the potential to be a classic like The Longest Day.
Without Charlton Heston and his family problems, the story of Midway is told with remarkable historic accuracy. Henry Fonda who played Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in all but name in In Harm's Way, gets to play Nimitz again in Midway. Robert Mitchum and Glenn Ford play Admirals William Halsey and Raymond Spruance who between the two of them won America's Pacific war. A whole lot of fine character actors like James Coburn, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber, Hal Holbrook and many more fill their naval roles to precision.
The story of the Battle of Midway should be told and told again in America's public schools for future generations. Not just because of the sailors and airmen of America's greatest generation who fought and prevailed at Midway, but because of just how close a run thing the Battle of Midway was. One very fateful decision by Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo turned the tide of battle on a dime. By the way the oriental players in Midway like Toshiro Mifune as Yamamoto and James Shigeta as Nagumo and others also play very well. The American cinema certainly came a long way from when they previously cast the Japanese as bucktooth primates.
When the viewer sees just how much pure luck played a part in winning at Midway, they will come away with one of two impressions. The first might be that a divine providence is guiding and protecting America. If so, who's to say that will always be the case. And if not, the second lesson might be that we as a country might not always be so lucky.
If they could edit out the Heston family story, Midway is a great film for history classes studying World War II.
I remember reading that this movie was made primarily because they had
excessive footage from when they shot "Tora! Tora! Tora! and some of
the shot looks like they did came from that film. But this film also
includes old actual shots taken by service men and news people.
The movie is based on the American victory off Midway Island. The movie was made 30 years after WWII and a couple of years after Vietnam, so it doesn't have a jingoistic feel to it. It has more of a matter of fact feel to it, more a docudrama than propaganda.
The movie is different from most war movies because it shows how Grand battles are won and lost. There isn't much individual heroism from ordinary soldiers shown. Instead we see how commanders, in this case admirals make decisions and take risks usually based on sketchy information. They put their reputations on line, along with the safety of their men, and the security of their nations. We see how the outcome of a battle can hinged on risky decisions or sometimes on indecision. We see how commanders have to sweat out their decisions as History hangs on the balance. Yes! History! This battle after all is considered the turning point of the War in the Pacific.
In this movie decisions are made on what certain letters mean, whether enemy carriers are where they are supposed to be. If viewers give it the appropriate attention, they will see that this movie plays like a giant chess match. The outcome determined by gutsy moves and bad decisions, sometimes indecision.
The movie boasts an impressive cast which include, Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Charlton Heston and they all do fine jobs. They play the typical Grand characters in epic movies, they move the story along but has no personal stories themselves. The one personal story belongs to Edward Albert, who plays Heston's son. He's not very convincing and playing opposite a pro like Mr. Heston, he comes across as being weak almost amateurish.
The movie is good but far from great. I love how the filmmakers remained true to the events. But the special effects looked cheap and the use of actual combat footage feels inappropriate and even exploitive. Nevertheless I think it's a good film not to be missed by Military History buffs.
This is one I first saw when it was in theatrical release. In that, it
had the whole Coral Sea sequences in it, and the film dragged. My
thought was, even then, that they had a lot of battle footage they
wanted to show, nothing more.
And on the battle scenes. Some of them appeared to be stock footage originally shot on 16mm, then blown up and cropped for widescreen. In the theater, the graininess of the footage was masked by showing the scenes by defocusing them! Although a lot of the film is superfluous, one aspect of it rang true: the cryptanalysis of the Japanese RED cipher, and the "mousetrap" set to determine which target AF was. Commander Rochefort was not treated well at the time, but at least this film gives his efforts the credit they deserve.
The release of the film to videotape helped considerably by chopping out a lot of superfluity, though not all of it.
Compared to The Longest Day, or other equivalent war film, this one doesn't have their stature, but at least it provides the viewer with entertainment.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is not an action-packed war film filled with constant loud
heroism and stirring speeches. It is, however, a film which gives a
good overview of how the battle of 'Midway' unfolded. Fewer explosions,
more dialog - almost like a documentary in its pacing and focus. It has
a large cast, and thus cannot focus much on character development,
instead looking to the events to power the story (again, like a
Though the 'goofs' page is filled with anachronisms and inaccuracies (stock footage from the wrong era, using Essex-class ships for Japanese, etc...) the film does get the major 'plot' points down. i.e.: American signal intelligence intercepts revealing the Japanese plan, the sequence of carrier and land attacks, the critical decision(s) to arm and rearm the Japanese attack craft, etc...
Overall, this film seems to be one of a lost genre - big-budget semi-documentaries. Similar to 'Tora Tora Tora' or 'The Longest Day'. A large cast of big-name actors, focus on factual retelling of the events.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've been an avid war movie junkie since I was but a wee boy. I still am. Lately I've revisited one of my favorites. Midway. I have seen this movie countless times on TV but recently picked up a DVD copy of the special edition. I have previously spotted several flaws in the film but forgave them since there is only so much real combat footage to be had and the movie does blend it rather well, rather well for 1976 anyway. However as I viewed it late one night I spotted a rather troubling image! An SBD(dive bomber dauntless) was attacking a Japanese carrier( I don't remember which one and it doesn't really matter) which opened fire on the diving aircraft. When the scene switched back to the plane it was a German twin engine BF-110! I am serious, I had to pause the footage and slowly rewind it frame by frame to be sure. I am sure. The footage clearly shows a twin engine plane exploding, frame after frame the image develops in which you can see one of the engines blowing off the wing and then a black cross(swasitka) on the opposite wing. The scene changes suddenly and the plane is never shown again. Did the editors miss this or did they assume the public was too ignorant to spot it? Either way this is a terrible blunder. A German plane at Midway attacking a Japanese carrier!? Wow! Beyond this the acting and dialog is as other reviewers have stated, dreadful! The extra scenes made for the TV release as well as a VERY SHORT docu with Charleton Heston add little to the original release. Honestly, I like Charlrton Heston but I'm not sure why. His acting is always the same. Bad. Still there is a draw to him. There are a number of early acting cameos by Erik Estrada, Robert Wagner and the like which are very entertaining after so many years(almost 30). The overall history reproduction is good with the good and bad luck shown clearly. This battle should have favored the Japanese but instead was the beginning of their demise in the Pacific. I still recommend this movie but watch closely for planes to change from SBD's to TBD's and so on as they mix and match real footage with models and props. An engrossing if flawed 1976 WW2 classic!
Like "The Longest Day" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!", "Midway" follows the true
story very closely and features an all star cast. And like the Longest
it features Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, and Robert Wagner. However,
whereas the first two are war classics, Midway falls short in many
For one, the movie seems to have no sense of building suspense. In the Longest Day, the paratrooper landings and the scenes of bombardment vessels creeping toward the shore let you know that all hell is about to break loose. Likewise, in Tora! Tora! Tora!, scenes of anxious commanders, desperate analysts, and the oblivious Hawaii residents are separated by scenes of approaching Japanese bombers to hike the suspense factor. Yet, despite the fact that Midway was the most decisive naval battle in modern history, we don't get a true sense of how important the pilots' jobs are or how grave the implications of the battle are, except for from titles before and after the movie. Where were the scenes of planes prepping for takeoff or of pilots, wary but dutiful about a mission that may be their last?
The battle sequences are another problem. First off, most of the footage is actual war footage or stock footage. The stock footage works fine for the bombing of Tokyo (since the shown footage is actually about that event) but is a little less convincing when the footage shown is supposed to be of Hawaii's Hickam Field but is passed off as Midway Island. Worse than the presence of stock footage is the editing. While maps of the ocean are shown repeatedly so that we know where the action is taking place, it's hard to tell what's what when we're away from the maps. We see planes crash into water and bombs explode, but most of the battle sequences could use a little more coherence. Had the makers of this movie shot a little combat footage of their own, even if only to make the battle scenes less jump, the movie would have benefitted.
For the most part, the cast is pretty good and fares well with only occasionally trite dialogue. However, only Heston, Holbrook, and Shigeta stand out. Many of the other players are simply not given enough time to make an impact. Coburn, especially, has little to do.
The flaws of this movie notwithstanding, it's still watchable, and it gives you a pretty good idea of the events and decisions leading up to the battle, as well as the errors and luck that went into the battle itself. And when you can't figure out what's happened from the uneven visuals, at least Nimitz (Fonda) or his at-sea commanders are there to describe what happened and add some perspective.
** out of ****
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