Despite the noted difficulties of shooting on the water, Hollywood has a number of mega budgeted seafaring epics coming your way over the next few years. Disney has the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Universal has assigned Peter Berg to adapt the board game Battleship. And Warner Bros. has just commissioned a script from Bruce C. McKenna inspired by the Battle of Midway.
According to Deadline, Warner Bros. plans for The Battle of Midway to be a 3D tentpole with a budget of about $200 million. That’s a pretty big gamble, given that the last true success of the war genre was 1998’s Saving Private Ryan ($482 million worldwide gross, critical acclaim)… maybe 2001’s Pearl Harbor ($449 million, critically panned). That said, we’re due for another WWII epic, and McKenna is more than qualified for the job. McKenna is the primary creative force behind the Steven Spielberg-produced HBO miniseries The Pacific; the Marine saga is guaranteed to clean up at tomorrow night’s Emmys with an astounding twenty-four nominations. Hit the jump for more information on the Battle of Midway — you’ll find it’s ripe for cinematic adaptation.
The Battle of Midway is widely regarded as the most important naval battle of the Pacific Campaign of World War II. Between June 4-7, 1942, approximately one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea and six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Navy decisively defeated an Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) attack against Midway Atoll, inflicting irreparable damage on the Japanese. Military historian John Keegan has called it “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”
The Japanese operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, aimed to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped that another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War.
The Japanese plan was to lure the United States’ few remaining aircraft carriers into a trap. The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway Atoll as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle Raid. This operation was considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji and Samoa.
The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of American reaction and poor initial dispositions. Most significantly, American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own. Four Japanese aircraft carriers and a heavy cruiser were sunk in exchange for one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. The heavy losses in carriers and veteran aircrews permanently weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy. Japan’s shipbuilding and pilot training programs were unable to keep pace in replacing their losses while the U.S. steadily increased output in both areas.
Pretty cool, right? I’m not typically one to salivate over a war film, but the strategic back-and-forth between nations hooks me. What about you?