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.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, 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/>.