MIDWAY (1976) vs. MIDWAY (2019)

Tanuj Sistla and Ian Devenish, News Editor and Staff Writer

Midway (2019) encapsulates the essence of brotherhood in war and outshines its preceding movie by miles, more accurately depicting the Battle of Midway and the events leading up to it.


The Battle of Midway was a famous battle during the Second World War that took place between June 4-7, 1942. It is often considered the turning point of WW2 in the Pacific Theater. Originally, “Midway” was a movie released on June 18, 1976, starring many actors popular of the time such as Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda. 


As you would expect from a mid-70’s war flick, “Midway” (1976) is a very “Hollywooded-up” version of the battle. It focuses mostly on the lives of a particular fictional family, Matthew Garth (Charlton Heston) and his son Tom (Edward Albert), who are both Navy aviators. At the same time, though, it also chronicles the planning of the battle from the side of the Japanese Navy. The film switches between the two viewpoints, but most of the plot development takes place from the American side. 


The drama comes in when it is revealed that Tom has fallen in love with a Japanese girl, Haruko Sakura (Christina Kokubo), who, along with her mother and father, have been placed into an internment camp. While also having to carry the responsibility of fighting in the war, Matthew Garth is tasked with having to get Haruko and her parents out of the camp. The US wins the battle with a decisive victory. It’s a pretty typical 70’s war movie, it’s pretty enjoyable, but it doesn’t quite follow the reality of how the battle took place.


The newly released 2019 depiction of Midway similarly follows the progression of the events leading up to the battle, but the emphasis of the first act is more on the planning of the battle itself, rather than a Romeo and Juliet style scenario as in the 1976 movie. At the same time, the 2019 film follows more of a show-don’t-tell method of storytelling. This is evident when the beginning of the film literally shows Pearl Harbor taking place and the casualties of it, contrary to the 1976 film that just talks about the preceding events to the Battle of Midway. While the 2019 film keeps the viewer entertained by the buildup to the battle in the first act, the 1976 film seems to rely on the situation between Tom Garth and Haruko Sakuro to keep the viewer engrossed in the movie.


Thoughts on Midway (1976)

In the 1976 film, the audience was occupied by this Romeo and Juliet scenario between Tom Garth and Haruko Sakuro. This is essentially the most captivating plotline throughout the first half of the film. By the end of the movie, that plotline was all but abandoned.


Matthew Garth also had a very progressive mentality, who was willing to accept the relationship between his son and Haruko. This is very surprisingly bold for a film directed in the 70s, as during that time period, it is likely that Americans still hadn’t gotten over WW2, and this progressive attitude wouldn’t be welcomed by all. It definitely would have been an unusual belief during the war too, as many Americans looked down on Japanese-American people.


Thoughts on Midway (2019)

We definitely thought it was a step up. This movie was more focused on the brotherhood among the Navy and was a much more realistic depiction of the war. Not only was it written mainly around real people in the battle, it also better portrayed the events leading up to the Battle of Midway, as opposed to the 1976 film which simply laid out the information about Pearl Harbor and the codebreaking that led to the discovery that Japan was going to attack Midway. Furthermore, this discovery process was shown as more crucial to the battle than it was in the 1976 film.


The 2019 film also better represented how the American people and military felt toward the enemy, as it treated the Japanese more as the villain of the story, as many Americans would have felt during the war. This is contrary to the 70s film, which portrayed both sides in a neutral manner, but gave more screen time to the American side of the battle. Whereas the 1976 film focused more on being an entertaining story that happened to take place in the Battle of Midway, the 2019 film focused on being an accurate depiction of the battle and showing the interactions among the people in it.


We give Midway (1976) two mild thumbs down, and Midway (2019) two thumbs up.