Movie Review: The Great Wall

The Great Wall, 2017:

The Great Wall! Directed by Zhang Yimou, who is counted among the fifth-generation Chinese film makers (According to Wikipedia), and stars Hollywood giant: Matt Damon, with support from Pedro Pascal and Chinese star Jing Tian.

This was a really fun fantastical adventure movie with a lot of great points I thoroughly enjoyed, but there were a few holes that got to me. At any rate, I’d love to know what you think of the movie once you’ve seen it, do you agree, disagree, let me know in the comments.

The Synopsis:

The story of The Great Wall, is not new, we’ve seen or heard it all before. Our heroes William (Damon) and Tovar (Pascal) traverse across Asia in search of the legendary ultimate weapon: Black Powder, only to return it to Europe and become wealthy! As they are on their last legs of the expedition they stumble upon The Great Wall of China.

So, begins William and Tovar’s adventure around the wall and the legends of why it was created: to keep the monsters of the north from ravaging the Imperial City and then, the world!

William and Tovar prove themselves to the commanders or the Wall and their General, who finally let them fight alongside their army to defend the wall and defeat the monsters. Though there are secrets within the wall that may see all their trust tested and bonds broken for the sake of the mythical black powder weapons.

What I Enjoyed about The Great Wall:

Overall I had a lot of fun with this movie, there was a few acting and effects problems, but the overall story and pacing of the movie I enjoyed. The story, although not too original, was well structured and flowed well, there was very little plot problems or story loop holes. It felt finished, and that mattered.

The back and forth between William and Tovar was great! Very comical and buddy, it added much appreciated light to the dark overtone of the dread that comes from beyond the wall. Later though, as Tovar and William’s goals diverge, their brotherly bond shines through the overarching story and makes for a much stronger relationship as the third act concludes.

The action was pretty and a lot of fun! Explosions, sword play, archery, monster guts and Kung Fu! Yes, the action is worth watching the movie for! More so, the type of army war epic here is unique comparing it to other epics we’ve seen in Troy or Gladiator, there isn’t a massive war band of barbarians and rank and file of Roman military, we’ve given the precision and focus of Chinese rank and file, firstly a much-welcomed relief, while at the same time, the Chinese army: The Nameless Order, feel very Tolkien Elvish in their focus and military honour and discipline, I enjoyed it.

What bugged me about The Great Wall:

There wasn’t a lot to get wrong, technically, with The Great Wall, but one of the two biggest gripes I had was Matt Damon’s accent changes throughout the movie. His accent, what at first sounded like some combination of Scottish, bled away into regular American, then switches back regularly. This maybe because the scene was shot out of sync and he adapted as the plot went on, but it was noticeable, specifically during the rope scene.

The CGI in the movie was fine, nothing wrong with it, it’s a fantasy adventure epic, and the CGI worked well with the movie. The problem though, I can see the entire level of CGI quality fading in a year or so to remind us that the effects aren’t that great.

The idea of “Queen Ex Machina” irritates me. Without giving too much a way, the way the monsters and their queen are defeated in the end of the last act have become too regular and common in fantasy movies today as a way of ending a movie on time. I felt there may have been a more interesting ending of adventuring to the monster home and killing them and their queen with their huge army, but we didn’t get that, which is fine, I just feel the ending was too easy.

Overall, the characters were fine, yes, they seem at times generic (If you consider Chris Stuckmann’s review), but at the same time, I don’t feel that you needed anything more from them, the Chinese character’s specifically. Looking at Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal, I felt Pascal to be the stronger actor, where Damon was just there to sell tickets to America. I hope that we get to see more of Pedro Pascal soon though and in something with a more leading, rather than supporting role.

White Wash Where?

There has been some conversation and controversy online (Because that’s what we like doing now days), about this movie being white washed (Having white characters cast in movies where other racial demographics should be cast as appropriate). I can see how at first glance especially if you’ve not seen the movie or know the plot that this may seem the case, though, it’s not.

Matt Damon’s character, as a character is a Spanish-French-Scandinavian Barbarian mercenary in the search for gold, his character is, European, and his character is played in the film to represent that story of Europeans trading and exploring the far east during this era. Damon doesn’t play a Chinese or Asian character, he plays a greedy European who find redemption and a cause with the Chinese, if anything the Chinese’s morals and ideals of honour, trust and family effect Damon’s character and align him on a more noble path.

Could this movie have existed without Matt Damon’s character, sure! But how on earth would you sell as many tickets to the West when you’re a Chinese film? At the end of the day, movie making is still just a business, and as much as I don’t feel that Damon’s William took anything away from the film or it cultural alignment, I understand why the studios used him: To sell tickets.

But this is again, just my opinion, I want to know what you think of the movie once you’ve seen it, let me know in the comments! Also, if you’ve not seen my Video Movie Review of The Great Wall, watch it below and don’t forget to Subscribe!

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Written by Brett Magill


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