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Midway to Paradise (So Near, Yet So Far Away)

Mark Simpson finds Midway ‘dumb, numb and empty of cum’

When I went to see Roland Emmerich’s teensploitation flick Midway this week I had low expectations. In fact, they were so low I almost ran aground on the way to the multiplex. Emmerich, the director-writer responsible for blockbusters such as Independence Day, Stargate, and The Day After Tomorrow, specialises in making movies as spectacularly awful as they are successful.

Why did I go? Because Emmerich’s films are aimed at teen boys – and I’m a classic case of arrested development. So is Emmerich, clearly – but I can only aspire to his level of adult cynicism, which has probably made him as wealthy as a war profiteer.

Midway, based on the pivotal 1942 Pacific naval engagement between the US and Japan which saw the destruction of much of the Japanese carrier fleet and the loss of their hopes of any kind of victory, manages to be even more stupidly awful than I expected.

But this time I doubt the stupid awfulness will be accompanied by stupid success. Not least because while the Battle of Midway may mean a lot to old queens like Emmerich – and me – raised on 1950s-60s Second World War movies, it doesn’t mean very much to the youths who are the film’s target market. The auditorium I saw it at one evening a few days after it opened was mostly empty – and I was somehow not the oldest person there.

Emmerich tries of course to ‘update’ things to get around this problem. So Midway is WWII re-run as a First-Person MMO Shooter – won by an excruciatingly cocky character called, I kid you not, ‘Dick Best’. Think Tom Cruise’s ‘Maverick’ (he’s often called a ‘cowboy’), but somehow much more annoying. Ed Skrein really knocks himself out in the role.

All the other men are droolingly in love with him and the size and heft of his virility – especially his handsome moustachioed boss played by that gay Brit actor who put Orlando Bloom out of work (Luke Evans).

After Dick sinks the Japanese Imperial Navy one of his fanboys announces, redundantly:

‘This war will be won by men who like dick best!’

(The ‘who’ may have been silent.)

What’s peculiar about Midway though is that for a film obsessed with dick and rammed with hot male talent, including professional man teaser Nick Jonas – and heavily referencing Top Gun – how lacking in homoeroticism it is. Or any kind of eroticism, really – apart from, I suppose, the CGI explosions.

Midway isn’t just dumb, which would be entirely acceptable – it’s completely numb. Dumb, numb, and totally devoid of cum. Even the homosociality is unconvincing and unfelt, which is quite an achievement in a movie set on board aircraft carriers filled with hundreds of young men. Perhaps this is because, paradoxically, the director likes dick best.

Jonas letting loose by far the most erotic moment in Midway

Emmerich is gay, and so may be inhibited on that front – lest he ‘let the side down’, especially in this age of gay respectability. It’s not impossible either that he’s a homo that just doesn’t get it – which is surprisingly common, I can assure you. But his biggest hits Stargate and Independence Day relied on cynically exploiting 1990s teen male homopanic and anal anxiety in a way that only a homo could.

In 2015 he apparently tried to atone for his sins with Stonewall, a flick celebrating the 1969 Stonewall ‘Uprising’ as its now called – which I haven’t seen and have zero interest in seeing. It was panned by critics and activists and pilloried for its politics and lack of diversity. But what were people expecting from someone who makes movies about shit exploding while dudes high five?

As a side issue, Midway stars several Brit actors, as is often the way these days, playing Americans – including the lead, Ed Skrein. Oh, and waiting for it to start I saw a trailer for Knives Out, with Daniel Craig playing an American with a ripe southern accent.

Now, it’s fabulous that Brit actors are getting work, darling. But as a Brit watching Brit actors do American accents in Hollywood moovies, too often I find myself cringing like a limey. Skrein’s accent in Midway is like being keel-hauled by your ears. (He also seems to be doing something intensely irritating with his clean-cut-jutting All-American jaw.)

But apparently not to Americans, otherwise they wouldn’t keep getting cast. And you would think, wouldn’t you, that Americans are a better judge of an American accent than me. Is it perhaps prejudice on my part – because I see them as British, whereas Americans just assume they’re American? Or are as generous and open-hearted as I’m bitter and small-minded and so are happy to accept them and their goddamn stupidly awful accents as ‘American’?

Probably the latter.

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2 thoughts on “Midway to Paradise (So Near, Yet So Far Away)”

  1. I finally got to watch Midway, and I have mixed feelings about it. The film is historically very accurate, but the excessive amount of cock pit fight scenes makes it one dimensional cinematically. What I really liked in the film is that it depicts the Japanese as humans capable of of a range of emotions, and not as inhuman monsters like most Hollywood films depicted them back in the 1950’s and 1960’s The Japanese actors are the redeeming feature of this film to me. The historical lines are all accurate. I particularly liked the part where the Japanese admiral receives the response from Tojo, the Supreme Commander of the fleet regarding his defeat and what he should do:”Fight like disgraced Samurai trying to recover their honor”. And his reply:”Then so be it.” is exactly what he was quoted as saying, knowing that he would with 100% certainty die.

    “This war will be won by men who like dick best!’”

    But is this true, though? The vast majority of men who fought in WW2 were either married with kids, or had steady girlfriends. In fact, after WW2 America experienced a Baby Boom. You don’t get a Baby Boom with a bunch of guys that “like dick best”.

    The impression that I get from the many gay men I know is that they tend to be somewhat more feminine/less masculine than what is typical of straight men. Most of the gay men I know – and I know quite a few – are aesthetes of some sort. Based on their personalities, I assume most wouldn’t make very good fighters. Now, a lot of gays find violent men attractive but finding butch masculinity attractive and being butch are two very different things.

    Now, I’ve never met any WW2 veterans. WW2 ended three quarters of a century ago. There are only a few hundred WW2 veterans left in the entire World. The average age of WW2 vets is around 95 or so, and several are centenarians. Most are not even grandfathers, but great-grandpas at this point. However, when I was a little kid back in the 1980’s, I met a Korea War and Vietnam War veteran. He was one of my best’s friend’s grand uncle. So I can give my impression on the general psychology of hard fighting men from actual wars.

    His demeanor was much more similar to that of a stud lesbian than a gay man. He was in his fifties and was in his third marriage, and had six kids and 2 grandkids from his oldest son. He was an avid hunter who enjoyed killing animals for fun, liked fishing and had been an amateur(Golden Gloves) boxer as a young man. Loud, rude and constantly called people “pussies” when they complained about anything, which is kind of odd since that slang was not used much by his generation. He wasn’t homophobic or very sexist in general, except he called women “broads” and “skirts” , which was just normal at that time. I met him on social occasions dozens of times, and I never heard him use the “f” word even though on more than one occasion his wife mentioned gay friends or such. The one time I ever heard him use a gay “slur” was when his wife was talking about her gay manicurist, who he had met before, but didn’t remember. But then she said something that made him remember, and he blurted out:

    “Oh, right! The fruit guy!”

    His wife chastised him for being rude. He was flabbergasted, and told her:

    “What?! The guy is clearly a fruit. Just saying…”

    I don’t think there is any malice in what he said. I think it’s funny when they call gay men “fuits”, because that is so old and outdated and I don’t find the term particularly offensive. But anyway, this veteran from two wars was as dissimilar to all the gay men I know as possible.

    Now, I am sure that there are gay war veterans, but given the nature of most gay men, and that gay men are a minority anyway, it is a grand exaggeration to say that men who “like dick best” would win most wars. In fact, the America of the 1940’s was as heterosexual as Society as there ever was in history. Unlike say, ancient Athens or Victorian England, which despite the mores was actually quite tolerant of homosexuality. The strict Puritanism and the strong social mores that dictated that men be defenders of the nation and providers of women and children were non-compromising in the America of the 1940’s. Every man at the age of 20 was required to either be married or to have a steady girlfriend. Men who didn’t were either clergymen or high scholars in tough fields(physics, math, engineering) where intense dedication to study gave the man permission to be relieved of his male obligations of being protectors and impregnators of females. America in the 19340’s was a very, very strictly heterosexual Society. Was there gayness and sodomy in the Military? That is a common fantasy of gay men, and the answer to that is most likely yes. But, given the strict religiosity of the time and the deep shame that was associated with being a gay, a man who is not really a man, the amount of gay sex in the military was probably much lower than in ancient Athens, the British Navy or Sparta. People underestimate just how religiously strict and focused on sex for procreation the America of that time was. This is the Society where even kissing between unmarried people was not allowed. And of course, all this “forbidden fruit” vibe makes it even more nticing and exciting for gay men, but most likely gay sex between the fighting men in the American Military of that time was very little overall. Just a guess.

  2. Emmerich is notorious for aiming more than his films at teen boys.

    Funny that this movie should be released at the same time as The Economist has piece about how the age of smart missiles has made aircraft carriers as obsolete as Dreadnoughts were in sinking the Bismarck.

    When I was a lad I read an enthralling book about Midway, Incredible Victory, and it surprises me that it was never given the Longest Day treatment. When I saw the trailer for this all I could think is that they had turned Midway into a video game.

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