Last night, I went with a group of close aviation friends to catch the recently released Hollywood blockbuster, Midway. As a pilot myself, I liked this movie as it was overstuffed with powerful flying scenes that made my heart beat faster.
The Battle of Midway, fought in World War II, took place on June 5, 1942 (June 4-June 7). The United States Navy defeated a Japanese attack against Midway Atoll, marking a turning point in the war in the Pacific theatre.
Fought just a month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, Midway was the turning point of the Pacific Campaign. Skill, daring, and luck all played a part. The attack on the island of Midway, which also included a feint to Alaska by a smaller fleet, was a ploy by the Japanese to draw the American carrier fleet into a trap. After the mass destruction of the bulk of US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor, the US naval resources where greatly depleted.
With the remaining American ships destroyed, the Japanese hoped to avenge the bombing of the Japanese home islands two months earlier during the Col. Jimmy Doolittle led Tokyo Air Raid, plug the hole in their Eastern defensive perimeter formed by U.S. control of Midway, finish off the US Pacific Fleet, and perhaps even invade and take Hawaii.
Needless to say, this was a key battle for the USA in WWII. They had to win it.
Now move forward to 2019 and consider how director Roland Emmerich could reproduce the events and action of this decisive battle well over 75 years later without any of the key pieces such as airplanes, aircraft carriers, destroyers, battleships, locations, period clothing, and much more. The answer is computer generated imagery or CGI. This movie makes use of an extraordinary amount of CGI to tell this dramatic tale.
Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is the application of the field of computer graphics (or more specifically, 3D computer graphics) to special effects.
CGI is used in films, television programs and commercials, and in printed media.
Video games most often use real-time computer graphics (rarely referred to as CGI), but may also include pre-rendered “cut scenes” and intro movies that would be typical CGI applications.
CGI is used for visual effects because the quality is often higher and effects are more controllable than other more physically based processes, such as constructing miniatures for effects shots or hiring extras for crowd scenes, and because it allows the creation of images that would not be feasible using any other technology.
It can also allow a single artist to produce content without the use of actors, expensive set pieces, or props.
Recent accessibility of CGI software and increased computer speeds has allowed individual artists and small companies to produce professional grade films, games, and fine art from their home computers.
The 2019 version of the film Midway makes use of a healthy helping of CGI. The visual effects are stimulating and awe inspiring in this film. While it is still overloaded with a lot of Hollywood hype and made for movie drama, this recreation has such powerful CGI that it is very easy for the audience to become lost in the drama and affects, as the over two hour film passes quickly when your adrenaline is pumping with these heroic adventures.
Sure, there are a few corny moments in the film, the script may not be perfect, but from my pilot perspective, the aviation scenes and the visual impacts of attack scenes are exciting and visually accurate for the era. And, I got to eat some buttered popcorn, how could that be bad?
Without CGI, it would not be possible to make this film since none of the sets or equipment exists today. It is only with the skills and talents of perhaps many hundreds of very creative artists painfully recreating these scenes, can we get to imagine during our brief visit to the movies what it might have been like from our relatives over 77 years ago.
After a career of over 30 years on the technology side of film and television, I am hard to fool when it comes to special effects. I know all of the tricks and can often easily differentiate between reality and animation, or the combination of the two elements when used in composites. Yet, there were many times in this movie when it sucked me into the story-line and stopped me from ‘looking at it’, and allowed me to ‘fall into it’. Exactly as it should be.
Beyond the CGI, the sound track with its special effects and head-turning explosions adds to the impact of this film. The sound track is loud and effective to enhance the vivid visual excitement of the major aerial fight scenes. The audio does not disappoint and goes a long way to support the visual effects. However, as with anyone who has flown in an airplane, especially one with an open cockpit knows, those conversations between the pilot and the rear gunner would not be possible. The airplane and wind noises are so loud that those conversations and calling out of altitudes would never be heard, even with a modern intercom and with our latest noise cancelling headsets. So, you must accept some fantasy to go with the false reality. It is all just entertainment after all.
I did like that the film portrayed the Japanese as honourable and with an air of respect. I do hate it when movies are overtly lopsided propaganda in their perspectives. As in all stories, there are always two sides, so the director’s attempt to balance the tale pleased me. As did the lack of gore. Now, many complained that the lack of horror was not representative of the harsh reality of these events. But, like most, I get it. I understand that it was beyond comprehension with nightmarish atrocities. But, I wanted an aviation picture and an adventure story last night. Not to lie wide-eyed in bed fearing to fall asleep.
As movie reviewer, Odie Henderson offered, Director Emmerich is no stranger to the types of movies that require perfect storms of loud noises – he made “Independence Day” and “2012” – nor is he a stranger to excessive use of CGI. The overabundance of CGI is one of the bigger problems with “Midway” because, far too often, it feels like you’re watching a video game or an F/X highlight reel. By virtue of the PG-13 rating, the carnage is largely bloodless, adding to the uneasy sense of fakery. Outside of an effective sequence involving a charred body, this is a virtually gore-free war movie. This is safe enough for a middle school history class screening.
Not all reviews were positive for the film, Cath Clarke writing for The Guardian said, Roland Emmerich’s version of the second world war Pacific battle is a drearily earnest monument to CGI mayhem. Never in the history of war movies have so few thrills been delivered by so much mayhem and destruction. The attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the battle of Midway six months later have been brought to the screen with boredom-inspiring spectacle by Roland Emmerich. The film is a passion project and comes with a guarantee that its events are historically accurate.
Whether you love this movie, or outright hated it, there is no escaping the impact that CGI provides here in this storytelling. For most of us a trip to the theatre is a chance for popcorn and a soft drink, mixed in with a few hours of escapism. But have you ever stopped to wonder what goes into creating some of our favourite scenes – the ones that have us on the edge of our seats, hiding behind our hands, or all-out sobbing?
This latest CGI movie is creating waves in Hollywood – and for the right reasons.
Audiences have been anticipating the release of this remake of the previous classic, Midway, and it is being hailed as a CGI-heavy adventure. The film blends live-action with environments and photorealistic war scenes crafted entirely using CGI, meaning no live battle action was used in the movie.
Whether you buy into the film’s premise or not is a personal choice, but for me, the CGI brings the movie to life and makes it feel real. It allows me to look into the past, and better understand the harsh realities of life during the war years. As a late baby boomer born in the 1950s, the war was not a direct part of my life.
However, when I lived in Tokyo during the mid to late 1970s, remnants of WWII were still clearly evident for me to see all around this world class city. The US Armed Forces Radio was all that I could listen too in English. Every 15 minutes it barked warning messages that your telephones are not safe. It was a constant propaganda machine that entertained, informed, and softly threatened listeners, so for a Canadian in this post-war setting, it was a real example of a time that I could not otherwise comprehend first-hand, other than through rich media. When I was in Japan, the USA still had 18 military bases still in Japan and US personnel could be seen on leave. All of the country of Japan can fit within Lake Superior, so that is a lot of military bases and personnel in such a small footprint. As I grew to understand it all when I was there, the US Forces were there more to face the Russians and the rising Chinese forces, then it was a result of WWII. The occupation of Japan was a strategic opportunity for the US as new threats were emerging at that time.
During my days in Japan, US aircraft carriers, like the USS Ranger, would regularly arrive in Tokyo Harbour unannounced, as if it was an American port, and this upset the Japanese youth who often staged polite and peaceful protests of this affront. Again, like me, none of the Japanese protesters were even alive during the war years.
So, it is important for us all to remember, or at least try to understand the history and the stories from our collective pasts. These stories help us to remember that we must make sure that these horrors never happen again.
Whenever led actor Ed Skrein fires up his SBD Dauntless, tucks a snapshot of his best girl into the instrument panel, and pops a stick of gum into his mouth, he’s honoring a proud tradition. To invert what Francis Ford Coppola once said about his long-delayed Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now, Emmerich’s Midway isn’t a movie about World War II. It’s a movie about World War II movies.
Clarke, C. (2019). Midway review – a long, loud and tedious history lesson. The Guardian. Retrieved on November 17, 2019 from, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2019/nov/06/midway-review-roland-emmerich-ed-skrein-aaron-eckhart
Henderson, O. (2019). Midway. Roger.Ebert.com. Retrieved on November 17, 2019 from, https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/midway-movie-review-2019
Klimek, C. (2019). A Meddling ‘Midway’. National Public Radio (NPR). Retrieved on November 17, 2019 from, https://www.npr.org/2019/11/07/775510707/a-middling-midway
Science Daily. (2019). Computer-generated Imagery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved on November 17, 2019 from, https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/computer-generated_imagery.htm
Unattributed. (2019). The Battle of Midway. Spyglass Hill: The Molossian Naval Academy. Retrieved on November 17, 2019 from, http://www.molossia.org/milacademy/midway.html
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.
He is a business and technology consultant. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).
Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).
He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.
He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario. For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.
He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.