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Posts Tagged ‘The Battle of the Coral Sea’

Today’s movie(s) review is for each / both the “Midway” movies – the first from 1976 and the second from last year (2019).  Both movies are “epic” war movies with ensemble casts.  Both try to give a “feel” for each combatant (Japanese and American).  And, both are – at best – mediocre in terms of popular and professional reviews.  Anyway, here goes…
Midway (1976) — movie review
This film is almost entirely a male cast.  The only significant female role is Christina Kokubo playing the fiance of a (fictional) naval pilot.  The movie hosts a number of (for that time) big name movie stars on both sides of the battle lines, including: American side: Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Ed Nelson, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, and Robert Wagner; and, Japanese side: Toshiro Mifune, James Shigeta, Pat Morita, John Fujioka, and Robert Ito.  With the possible exception of Pat Morita, who played Mr. Miyagi in the “Karate Kid” movie series, most of these actors will (probably) be unknown to anyone under 30 years of age as most have been dead or retired for over 20 years.
This movie has two basic story lines.  The main one, of course, is the naval battle.  The second, which I guess is meant to create character sympathy, is a fictional story about a father and son who are naval pilots and their “family issues”.  Other than the overly-strict father (Heston) trope common to military movie / stories, there is also the introduction of an inter-racial love story between a Japanese-American young lady (Kokubo) who is about to be incarcerated (internment for the war) with her family, who is also not allowed to marry the son / naval pilot (played by Edward Albert).
The movie incorporates a lot of stock footage from World War II, most of which is not from the actual battle.  Anyway, the “Battle of Midway” is widely considered the turning point of the naval battles in the Pacific theater.  It marked a decisive victory for the Allied forces from which the Japanese forces never recovered.
As a small point here…  In my humble opinion, the Battle of the Coral Sea (which is mentioned in both movies) was actually the turning point, but it was not a “decisive” U.S. victory, so history almost unanimously ranks Midway as the more significant battle.
So, is this movie any good?  Is it entertaining (even if not entirely accurate)?  Why is it considered “blah” by viewers and reviewers?  I have distinct memories of first seeing this movie at a theater, so I viewed it while I was in the Army (1974-1978).  I mention this to answer the third question first.  In the 1970’s, the U.S. was just getting out of Vietnam and there was a significant amount of backlash against our participation there and a corresponding backlash against the glorification of past wars.  Both of these trends would culminate in the “Rambo” genre movies which began emerging in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
So, is this movie any good?  Yes.  Is it accurate?  Well, it had the correct combatants, the correct time line and the correct result.  Most everything else I put down to artistic license and limited special effects.  Entertaining?  Yes, but I like action movies and war epics, so I’m a biased audience.
Final recommendation: moderate to good.  Come for the “old Hollywood” and stay for the so-so history lesson.  One caution to younger viewers: many of you will come away thinking either these guys can’t act or they are mailing it in.  My vote is the latter, but mostly because I like(ed) most of the geezers in this version when they were in other (mostly younger) roles.
Midway (2019) — movie review
This second review is for last year’s remake.  As mentioned above, another ensemble cast: Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, Tadanobu Asano, and Woody Harrelson.  I’m not sure why, but while watching this version my initial reaction was: “they picked a lot younger cast.”
As with the earlier version, this movie chose to run parallel story lines to create character interest (drama).  This movie chose three lines, though, instead of two.  Again, a pilot love story, blah, blah, blah, “those who sit and wait”.  The second is about an Intel Officer who figures out what’s going to happen (Edwin Layton – who was “kind of” the basis for the composite fictional character played by Heston in the earlier version).  And, then of course, the battle / result.  This movie also provides a view of leadership on both sides of the conflict as we lead up to and then throughout the battle.
Is this movie any good?  Yes!  Is it accurate?  Again, so-so.  Like the first, it gets most of the main stuff correct.  Is it entertaining?  Yes!  Much more so than the 1976 version.  To begin with, the special effects are FAR superior.  Gosh, what a surprise…  Seriously, though, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the battle scenes almost appeared to me to be in 3D.  Of course, I’m watching this movie on a 48-inch screen from 2.5 feet away and not at a big screen theater, but still…  I thought most of the photography was excellent and I don’t remember ever thinking: “CGI this.  Or, CGI that.”  It looked like I was watching the action through a window.  So, how was the acting?  Again, FAR superior to the earlier version.  Some of the acting may not have been very good, but I didn’t think it was because they were mailing in the performance.  I would add – in particular – I have never been a fan of Woody Harrelson, but he played a much better Admiral Nimitz in this version than Henry Fonda did in the original.  (Just my opinion…)
Final recommendation: Good to strong.  The camera / photography was very good.  The acting was pretty good.  I find “epic” war movies very difficult to get right (as a viewer / fan of the genre).  The action scenes (independent of the effects) were good.  And, I think they got most of the main history points correct, too.  I don’t usually prefer remakes, but this is the much better of the two versions.
Final thought:  I’ve owned the DVD of the 1976 version for over a decade and watch it every three or four years.  I bought it when I went through a Henry Fonda kick after re-watching “On Golden Pond“.  I will pick up a copy of the 2019 version when the price point drops to my range ($5 – $6).  Heck, I may even pick up a streaming version of the original if it ever makes it’s way to my preferred supplier.  Then I can binge them both like I did this time!
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On This Day In:
2019 Speaking Of #45
2018 A Higher Loyalty
RIP – Our Silver Lady
2017 Slowly Cutting Their Own Throats
2016 Man’s Advantage Over God
2015 Deeply
2014 Hi-Yo Silver, Away!
2013 Warning:
2012 Thinking About Beauty
2011 A Founding Father’s Argument Against Public Funding Of Religious Education
Weekend Update
So Far, So Good

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In honor of the anniversaries of the invasion of Normandy (6th of June) and the Battle of Midway this week (4-7 June), I re-watched the movie: “Saving Private Ryan” which came out in 1998.  The movie won five academy awards and was considered one of the best movies of that year (although it did not win Best Picture).  I would say it is one of the finest war movies ever made.
If you haven’t seen the movie, the first twenty minutes (the landing at Normandy) and the ending are both classic moments in movie history.  The basic theme is that so many have given so much (their limbs and lives) to keep America free, that we “owe it to them” (those who’ve sacrificed) to live our lives as best we can, being as honorable as we can, and with all of the fullness we can.  The horror and the (sometimes) pointlessness of war was also a big theme of the movie, but in the whole, it comes back to honoring those who’ve given so much for us to be free.  The movie title comes from a family of four sons, who all join the military to fight in World War II.  Three of the brothers all die in one week and the generals in Washington decide it would be tragic if the fourth son (who is dropped with his airborne unit the night before the landing on the beaches of Normandy) is also killed in action.  So a squad of soldiers (led by a Captain played by Tom Hanks), must try to find the last brother (Private Ryan) and return him safely to his family back home.
This is a terrific movie (although it is very graphic in depicting the violence of war) and I give it a strong Highly Recommended.
For those who don’t know this, the Battle of Midway was fought between the 4th and 7th of June in 1942.  This was six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  While the war in the Pacific would go on for several years, Midway marked the turning point of the war as the Imperial Navy lost four aircraft carriers to only one for the US.  Between this and the loss of some of its best naval pilots and maintenance crews, Japan suffered a defeat from which it would never be able to recover.  As someone interested in military history, I also find it interesting that the Battle of the Coral Sea, which happened in the preceding month (May ’42) was the first Japanese setback in the Pacific; it more or less evened the number of aircraft available for both sides in the coming Battle of Midway; and, it marked the first time two opposing naval forces engaged in major combat operations without the main combat vessels ever sighting the enemy.  Aircraft had changed the nature of sea warfare.  Of course, tens of thousands would have to die on both sides before the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima would end the war in the Pacific.
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On This Day In:
2012 Stumblin’ Along My Way
We’re Proud Of You, Jr!
Union Card
Two Philosophies
2011 Simply Unpredictable

 

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