Sunday 15 December 2019

Guest Film Review Midway: Comparison of the 1976 and 2019 films

A real treat for you today, instead on the Sunday general movie reviews (which you can find over on my BookTube channel or find at the bottom of this post) we have a comparison of the most recent version of box office hit Midway and the 1976 version of the movie of the same name. 

Today's guest review is from sport and history reviewer Mike, aka my Dad and provides for interesting reading!

This is a comparison of the 1976 film "Midway" and the most recent, 2019, version. The films detail the World War Two Battle of Midway which took place between Japanese and American carrier fleets in the Pacific Ocean on 4th-7th June 1942. This occurred 6 months after the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbor. During those 6 months, the Japanese armed forces had swept all before them and controlled much of south-east Asia and the Pacific Ocean. However, the Pearl Harbor attack, whilst destroying and damaging a number of battleships, had not delivered a knockout blow to the US Navy, inasmuch as none of the US aircraft carriers had been at Pearl Harbor, so remained a threat to Japan. The Japanese planned that their attack on the Midway atoll in the Pacific would lure out the American fleet and allow them to deliver a knockout blow. Unbeknown to them, however, American cryptanalysts had managed to break sufficient of the Japanese Navy code to allow them to know the Japanese plans. Hence, a US Navy force with three aircraft carriers had been dispatched to ambush the vanguard of the Japanese fleet, which included four aircraft carriers. In the resulting battle, US aircraft destroyed the four Japanese aircraft carriers, whilst Japanese aircraft and a submarine destroyed one US aircraft carrier. The loss of their four carriers prevented the Japanese from invading Midway, and their fleet returned to Japan.

Both films depict the events, including the lead up to the battle and how it unfolded, fairly accurately. The 2019 film starts at an earlier stage and takes longer to build up to the battle. In the 1976 film, more emphasis is placed on both sides' use of scout aircraft to try and locate the enemy's fleet. Also in this film, a lot of emphasis is placed on a fictional character played by Charlton Heston. There is also a sub-plot involving a romance between this character's son, a naval pilot, and a Japanese-American girl who, with her family, has been interned by the American authorities. This sub-plot appeared unnecessary to the overall film. The Japanese characters' dialogue is in English. This necessitated the Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who played Admiral Yamamoto, having his voice dubbed. In the 2019 film, the Japanese characters speak in Japanese and there are English sub-titles. Also in the 2019 film, Rear Admiral Fletcher, who commanded Task Force 17 which included the carrier USS Yorktown, hardly features at all.

However, the main difference between the two films is in the aerial combat sequences. The 1976 film uses real aircraft, albeit this includes some footage from earlier films such as "Battle of Britain" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!", although it also incorporates some actual combat footage. This gives the film an authentic feel. The 2019 film relies on CGI effects, which are quite spectacular and, at times, had me on the edge of my seat. This does mean that there were occasions when the special effects tended to overwhelm the plot. Another difference between the two films is that the 1976 film focuses more on the senior officers, played by an ensemble of veteran actors, whereas the 2019 film focuses more on the young aircrew, played by lesser known actors.

I found both films exciting and, if you are into war movies, you will enjoy them both, particularly the action sequences which are enthralling in their different ways.

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