'Midway' turns key battle into a cartoon

Nick Jonas in a scene from "Midway."

The first thing director Roland Emmerich should do after his latest movie, "Midway," hits theaters is apologize.

Apologize to the visual effects crew, the stuntmen, the carpenters, the costumers and artists. He has squandered their considerable visual skill in retelling the crucial World War II battle at Midway by melding some of the best action sequences in years with the most banal of words.

What's the point of scouring 1941 Navy regulations to ground the real-life characters in authentic military gear if they say stuff like this: "I guess every battle needs a miracle."

Emmerich has taken real, living men who acted heroically and turned them into pulp comic strip characters. He might need to apologize to them the most.

Screenwriter Wes Tooke has apparently never seen a cliche he didn't want to embrace. His script is as textured and nuanced as an upbeat newsreel from the '40s.

Like its cousin in WWII filmed failure — the Ben Affleck-led "Pearl Harbor" — Emmerich tells this sprawling story using multiple characters, including showing the Japanese side. Hint: Everyone is brave.

In the actual battle theater are the brave, bad-boy bomber pilot Dick Best (Ed Skrein), the brave but more cautious Clarence Dickinson (Luke Kleintank), the down home brave Adm. William "Bull" Halsey (Dennis Quaid), the swaggeringly brave Jimmy Doolittle (Aaron Eckhart) and the brave and cocksure Bruno Gaido (Nick Jonas, reaching the limits of his acting skills).

Credit to Emmerich and his filmmakers for telling this battle from the air, ships and underwater (we get to see the staff of the USS Nautilus submarine) and the images are striking — gut-twisting bomber runs and pumping ammunition.

But even in the face of this cinematic and real-life triumph, the dialogue is paper thin.

"Midway" might be a film best watched if you switch off the volume.

MIDWAY

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Ed Skrein, Luke Kleintank, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of war violence and related images, language, smoking

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes

Theaters: Aksarben, Bluffs 17, Majestic, Oakview, Regal, Twin Creek, Village Pointe, Westroads

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