This is it! The grand epic of the ages! Step aside The Lord of the Rings, Ben-Hur, and Lawrence of Arabia, this is where all the action is. Of course there is no way you would think a mesh up between World of Warcraft and a real life historical monument could pass as entertaining, let alone respectful to the Chinese, but it turns out The Great Wall has proven to us all that it can be far more than just colorful entertainment!
The brilliant visual director Yimou Zhang (Hero, House of Flying Daggers) has for years held the reputation of telling engaging stories within an Asian backdrop, but now he changes all that with this briskly paced adventure of two middle-aged White males with American accents. There used to be about four or five of them, until the others were killed by a bunch of creatures at night, leaving behind only a severed green paw. So the two remaining take the paw to the Great Wall of China to identify it, and to take their black powder. What are the odds that this one green paw just so happened to belong to the same species that has been the Wall’s army’s longtime enemy (instead of like, the Huns, obviously)?
The created world here is plenty fun to explore, one where green wolf-like reptilian creatures called Tao Tei ride in organized formation towards the Great Wall, and only a stone-shaped magnet can immobilize them in their tracks. The ones called to stop this race is the Chinese army with the help of a couple of White men they just met and know nothing about aside from some good archery skills.
So with their help, they prepare a new battle strategy against the Tao Tei, which coincidentally happened immediately after the men’s arrival. Together, they come up with a genius strategy to overthrow the creatures’ queen: aim for the eyes- that’s their weak point. But guess what? They do something way more fun to watch. Their unrealistically advanced weapon technology are aimed directly for the creatures’ mouth, dorsal fin, the thick hide on their back, the ground, the sky, the two inches of air between the main character, anywhere but the creatures’ eyes. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
The one placed at the front of the vehicle, Matt Damon, has the biggest burden of all the actors to carry the film on his scrawny little shoulders, and he masterfully lowers his own acting efforts to make sure we care more about the spectacle itself than the humans not made with CGI. To further ensure we care as little about the drama and as much about the action as possible, the screenplay resorts to every characters’ interactions consisting of “–This is going to happen at this time. –But this can’t happen because then that will happen. –You’re right! What is the best way? –Well, remember when your father died five years ago and you received an engineering degree from Harvard? –Yes, now I know exactly what will solve world hunger!”
That way, the action scenes will leave the greatest impression they could bring. As the army attacks those green lizards, the camera moves forwards and backwards, left and right, showing off the 3-D effects that you knew you never wanted in the first place. You may not give a hoot who wins or loses this war, but the cheap, overly polished sets by Oscar winner John Myhre (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) can distract you from your lack of care.
Well, fine. Maybe you never cared when you walked right into the theater. Maybe you didn’t care once you heard that this historically skewed Chinese action movie with White actors was getting made. But this steampunk sort of historical setting gets the kinda-sorta-but-not-really cheesy feel just right with a strong message of self-sacrifice to counteract the greed of the world. You could argue that the message was done poorly, but remember: this is a movie where Matt Damon teams up with an attractive Chinese female warrior to fight a bunch of green monsters. You know, it’s like the Titanic! A fictional story amongst a true architectural achievement by man! Except this time it’s a fantasy! Totally not disrespectful at all!
Seriously though, just visit the dang monument in person.
Family vacations! They are something that nobody can stop daydreaming about. “What’s going to be our next destination? What do you want to see before you die? What are your plans this summer?” We just can’t stop talking about plans to escape home to explore the world!
The Great Wall of China is one of those historical monuments that we would all love to see, considering how it’s the only man-made structure we can see from space (even if that theory has been debunked long ago). Everyone would love to see some historical monument that could be elsewhere in the world. But could the same be said about somebody with autism?
Six-Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic, Lesson #10: New Places Often Make Them Cry.
It’s truer with children than adults, but anybody on the spectrum would have a bit of difficulty with exploring new places. This was true of me, as every time my family was out on vacation anywhere, even at Walt Disney World, I always had to stick to my TV schedule. As soon as the clock hit 3:00, I needed to make sure we were back at the hotel so that I could watch Blue’s Clues. But my parents needed to speak to me ahead of time so that I knew routines were going to change on vacation.
Six-Word Lessons for Dads with Autistic Kids, Lesson #39: Vacations Can Throw Him Off Schedule.
This sort of mindset kept with me when I was older. Although it didn’t always mean I had to stick to my usual TV schedule, but it did mean my mind was in other places aside from the tourist attractions my family went to see.
This was from when I was around eleven to my late teens, so I was old enough to understand and appreciate the places we saw such as Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston. But even then, I still preferred to keep the real vacation in my imagination.
Six-Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic, Lesson #10: They Don’t Just See a Tree.
Six-Word Lessons on Female Asperger Syndrome, Lesson #64: The Subjective Eye of the Beholder.
While my family was out walking and looking at impressive monuments or tourist sites, my eyes and mind would not be on the Lincoln Memorial or the Sears Tower. Instead, I would imagine various cartoon characters following me around and interacting with the different things I saw. For instance, I was once really into the cartoon Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy, so I frequently imagined the title characters getting on busses and swimming in the bodies of water, in the same manner they would in the cartoon.
Does this mean I had no appreciation for the family time or the places we were visiting? Maybe so at the time, but I’d say it’s also worth pointing out that this habit of mine died out as I matured. Now, although family vacations are not anywhere near as frequent as they used to be, there are still places I have traveled to and family members I have met that I was fully engaged in. I even went to visit my aunt and uncle in Orlando, Florida on my own and was very much active in all that we did together.
If you ask me, the thing that most helped me come to my senses while on vacation was having a camera on me. Knowing my obsessive hobby in photography, bringing my camera with me at all times while out at the tourist stops got me actively engaged with the environment, while also creating something precious that can help me remember my trip. As a bonus, it gave me something to easily talk about with family, seeing how common ground is now met. Here are some samples of pictures I took in my travels.
Although I would admit, getting somebody with autism to travel to another city in the states is completely different from getting somebody with autism to travel to another country to see the Great Wall of China. Even though I have never once left the U.S. with the exception of a town off the Mexican Border and Vancouver, Canada, there are still ways you can prepare somebody with autism for such a travel destination.
- Find a particular hobby that your kid loves to do, such as photography or food, and combine that with something to enjoy on the trip. Although if it’s something more obscure like watching movies or reading, this may not be such a good idea.
- If that is the case, then before the trip, show your child movies or books that relate to the travel destination. My mom did this with me by teaching me about the city of Chicago before our trip, and it actually did improve my appreciation for the different places we saw.
- If traveling out of the country to a place that may not speak English, don’t go into it alone. Make sure there’s always someone who has a strong sense of familiarity with the travel destination who can help clarify or interpret things that look confusing.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see reviewed, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
The Great Wall. Univeral Studios. Web. <http://www.thegreatwallmovie.com/>.
Lee Maggie. Film Review: Matt Damon in ‘The Great Wall’. Digital image. Variety. WordPress, 15 Dec 2016. Web. <http://variety.com/2016/film/reviews/the-great-wall-review-chang-cheng-matt-damon-1201942358/>.