Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Great Wall

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Never once does anyone say, "Man, that wall sure is great," and then winks at the camera.  What a waste!




The Great Wall – 2 out of 5


There are some ancient structures in the world that are really just dripping with potential for a great fantasy story and one of those is definitely The Great Wall of China.  Just the idea that you can rewrite history and have the story mean that the wall used to wage war against something big and ugly and with lots of teeth is just a cool.  However, having a neat idea and having it executed to the same coolness level are two different things.  Sadly, The Great Wall has a fantastic idea but it didn’t achieve said coolness when it made the leap to a finished product.

This photo represents the army of people who loved this movie that are going to tell me
my opinion of this film is wrong.
Ha, I'm kidding.  I've never had that many people read my reviews.


In ancient China, two English mercenaries; William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), are on the hunt for gun powder but stumble on a secret war that has been waged by the Chinese army and some mysterious beasts.  Captured by the army, they two learn that every 60 years alien hordes rise up and attempt to infiltrate past the walls but have been held at bay.  The army seeks to finally stop the creatures once and for all and William may have accidentally stumbled upon the method of doing so.  Now, fighting alongside the Chinese army, William finds himself in a gruesome fight against horrifying monsters.

"Just trust me.  We're going to reenact a scene from a movie that doesn't exist yet in this era!"


Eyeball in the shoulder?  They really went with that?
Please tell me this was at least based on a real
mythical creature.
From a concept perspective, I really dug The Great Wall.  Sadly, while the movie itself is highlighted by some gorgeous visuals and some minor moments of great action, it is hampered by some silly looking monsters, cheesy special effects and a story that feels very discombobulated and disjointed.  Thankfully, however, it didn’t suffer from having the outdated trope of the “white savior” with Matt Damon in the lead.  Leading up to its release, it received heavy criticism about the feature taking place in ancient China but having a white lead for its main protagonist.   

This is how they look when they arrived at The Great Wall...
The Chinese army made them clean up...they have a strict dress code.


Going into the feature, I fully expected to see a movie where you have an army that is barely able to hold their own against these creatures and then Matt Damon’s character would ride in, show no limitations, and become the hero that no one in the army could be.  I was wrong.  The army is shown to be very effective and they even have a very badass character in Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and she’s shown to be William’s equal (and even slightly better because she has leadership skills).  William isn’t the proverbial White Knight; instead, he is a mercenary who stumbles upon the long running battle and agrees to lend his skills to the war.

Commander Lin Mae was cool enough that the film didn't even need William.


This movie has some decent performances going for it and there’s some very cool action that happens here and there.  Unfortunately, most of the great action happens early in the film and they are short sequences while the rest of the film is dominated by long moments of pretty generic and forgettable action.  To make matters worse for The Great Wall, the film also has superfluous characters that felt absolutely unnecessary for the story and plot.  For example, William’s partner Tovar is supposed to work in theory for William’s arc but ultimately felt like the movie could have existed without him.  Even worse is the character of Ballard (Willem Dafoe)—a European man who, like William and Tovar, was looking for that sweet, sweet gun powder and ended up becoming a guest of the Chinese army.  Similar to Tovar, this character works for the story in theory but, unlike Tovar, his usage was so poorly handled, so haphazardly thrown in, and so sloppily executed that he was pretty much pointless in his entirety and the movie could have gone on without him.  Hell, I’m pretty sure you can take the existing cut of this film and edit him out without damage to the narrative.

I love Dafoe and it pains me to see his talents wasted.


One thing that The Great Wall does do very well is the visuals. This film is just a feast for the old eyeballs as it is very colorful and the shot composition looks terrific.  Director Yimou Zhang also brought about some really dynamic shots that flowed and gave life to the sequences you are witnessing.  Every scene where we see the army in action is just so incredible to watch and just looks amazing.  Without a doubt, this was the element that was the film’s strongest aspect.

"Weeee!  No, wait, I mean, 'Why the hell are we fighting the creatures this way?!?'"


While The Great Wall may look purdy, have a few moments of decent action, have an interesting premise, and have adequate performances, the film just proved to be very forgettable.  Weak special effects and lame creature designs made the alien monsters more laughable than threatening and its story felt like it was building too rapidly, and having characters that felt ultimately inessential made the whole product feel forgettable.  This movie could have been something that equaled entertainment and fun but, instead, it was just “meh.”

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