This series focuses on the one and only Michael Bay. Attempting to deconstruct his filmography, one film at a time. The ideas explored here may or may not end up in my Dissertation about Michael Bay and Post-Cinema.
And to answer the question: Does it ever rain in a Michael Bay movie?
“Hang on. I thought that BAD BOYS II was next, and MIDWAY isn’t even a Michael Bay film.” And you are very, very correct in that observation (pat on the back). The reason I want to discuss MIDWAY in this series, is that in my writing about ARMAGEDDON and PEARL HARBOR it dawned on me that discussing Roland Emmerich needs to happen. It can’t be ignored.
So let’s discuss MIDWAY and Roland Emmerich.
Since 1996, Roland Emmerich has taken as much pleasure in destroying the Earth as Michael Bay. INDEPENDENCE DAY destroyed every major landmark on Earth. GODZILLA had a not-Godzilla ‘Zilla rampage through Manhattan. THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW in 2004, has pretty much predicted our current climate crisis. In 2012, 2012 just ended everything. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE attempted to destroy other things, I can’t remember as I have definetely seen it but can’t remember anything.
My point is, is that if there is one director that can destroy things on a par with Michael Bay, it’s probably Roland Emmerich. Where Bay is the all-American, Emmerich is part of the wave of European directors coming into Hollywood to shake up Blockbusters, joining Paul Verhoeven and Jan de Bont. He is an outsider, blowing up America on screen as an outsider.
ARMAGEDDON was a reaction against INDEPENDENCE DAY, and took pot-shots at its summer blockbuster rival, GODZILLA in 1998. So its not too far-fetched to say that THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW is Emmerich reacting against ARMAGEDDON.
And so brings us to PEARL HARBOR, and Roland Emmerich’s MIDWAY. 18 years apart, but it is very hard to seperate one from the other.
We get Emmerich’s version of Pearl Harbor, the tactility and ‘awesomeness’ of Bay is replaced by green-screen, CGI, and an almost drab flatness. The CGI is impressive, Emmerich has those skills honed in, but there is no power on screen. I said in my post about PEARL HARBOR that Bay’s commercial tendencies undercut the tragedy on screen. In this version of Pearl Harbor, it is the drabness of the colour palette that creates a sadness, manafuctured but its there.
The narrative isn’t stylised, there is no tragic love story to sew things together. The screen is a mixture of grey and green, and greyish blues. The music isn’t overpowering, this is the opposite to PEARL HARBOR. It’s almost as though this is the modest-Hollywood version of WWII films, not the high-budget fare of PEARL HARBOR or the fantastically made SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.
The Battle of Midway itself, is good. Its solid, action filmmaking. There are no stylised shots, or overt extravagence, it’s just solid. There are shots that are attempting to be ‘triumphant’, but for some reason it doesn’t feel impactful. I complained about PEARL HARBOR being too commercialised, but MIDWAY suffers from it not having a personality.
There are reasons for this, Bay had the budget to blow up real things from a major US studio. Emmerich has reportedly had to fund this from multiple sources, resulting in one of the most costly independent films ever made.
It isn’t going to set the world on fire, and I really don’t think it is going to stick long in the memory. PEARL HARBOR did those two things, it is memorable for the wrong reasons, but it is memorable as a film. MIDWAY will be one of these films that is made, released, and is a note in filmmakers filmmography.
And no, it doesn’t rain.
Next up: BAD BOYS II