The summer of 1942 brought Naval stalemate to the Pacific as the American and Japanese fleets stood at even numbers each waiting for the other to begin a renewed offensive. "Midway" tells the story of this historic June battle where a Japanese carrier force, in an attempt to occupy Midway island and lure the American fleet to destruction, was meet valiently by US forces operating off of three aircraft carriers and numerous escort ships. It was the first battle in which naval air power was extensivly used, and at its conclusion the Japanese Carrier force had been completly destroyed which lead the way for the US 1943 and 44 offensives which would eventually bring the Pacific War to a close.Written by
Anthony Hughes <email@example.com>
The 10th most popular film at the US box office in 1976. See more »
During the attack on the Japanese carriers, we hear a radio transmission received by a US carrier reporting, "Scratch one flattop." This is a famous radio transmission but it was made one month earlier during the Battle of the Coral Sea by LtCdr Robert Dixon after his dive bomber squadron sunk the Japanese carrier Shosho. See more »
A television version exists, with additional cast and plot. It runs four hours with commercials. The main plot points are a Charlton Heston-Susan Sullivan romance and the Coral Sea battle (reffered to in the other version) is played out like the Midway battle. At the end of the TV version, Sullivan and Christine Kukobo are both shown waiting dockside. See more »
Dated, flawed and imperfect, but gets many things right
As many others have stated, the flaws in this film are many. There is the unnecessary subplot of an American aviator and his interned Japanese/American girlfriend, which serves as nothing more than a gratuitous distraction. Limits in 1976 technology forced the use of cheap-looking special effects and recycled footage from other movies and war footage, often resulting in incorrect historical portrayals of the ships and aircraft present. Some historical plot details were omitted or glossed over entirely, mostly due to production and budget limits. And the acting was uneven, and in a few parts pretty bad, and sometimes failed to realistically portray a few figures.
But there are few war movies that can generate as much excitement in me to this day like this one. I first saw this movie as a two-part NBC Movie of the Week when I was ten years old and instantly developed a passion for the Battle of Midway and WWII military history in general. The climatic scene of the dive bombers pounding the Japanese carriers into wrecks still gives me goosebumps thirty-five years later, as does the horror of watching a young fighter pilot nearly burn to death in his plane. The John Williams score was fantastic, as it was in many movies, and kept the sense of drama on the edge. And for me, the standout performances were by Henry Fonda as Admiral Nimitz, Glenn Ford as Admiral Spruance, and James Shigeta as Admiral Nagumo. Fonda brought to life Nimitz's cool but tough demeanor, and his willingness to take calculated risks based on his intelligence sources, rather than play it safe and guard what he has left. Ford played Spruance well as a calm, cerebral admiral that plays by his own instincts rather than the way the man he replaced (Halsey) would've played it. And I enjoyed Shigeta's portrayal of Nagumo as a leader who, despite his perceived material superiority, is wary of the lack of intelligence and communication regarding the whereabouts of the American fleet, and the uncertainty of what really may be waiting for his carriers as he undertakes his mission.
It's real easy to pick apart the historical details of this movie, especially given more recent information and sources that weren't available back in 1976. But even allowing for that, the movie stays mostly true to history. And to those who aren't looking to nitpick details and just want to enjoy the story being told, there's more than enough "wow" in this movie even almost forty years later. I would recommend it as a primer for young kids (but not too young, there is some blood, language, and tense scenes) with an interest in military and WWII history that hasn't yet researched more comprehensive works written like Walter Lord's Incredible Victory, Gordon Prange's Miracle at Midway, and Anthony Tully/Jonathan Parshall's Shattered Sword.
I would like to see Hollywood do another adaptation of the battle of Midway someday, but am fearful of them turning it turning into another Pearl Harbor, or becoming a political statement rather than the retelling of an incredible true story. Until that day comes, this one will have to do. And it does surprisingly well, if you can tolerate the flaws and just enjoy the show.
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