Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Great Wall review

By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
(From left to right) Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian, Matt Damon, Zhang Hanyu, and Willem Dafoe in The Great Wall

            What do you get when you combine American and Chinese filmmaking? An odd but exciting fantasy movie, The Great Wall. Directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower) and starring Matt Damon (Bourne franchise, Ocean’s trilogy, The Martian), the film takes something so historical and iconic as the Great Wall of China and make a fictional story behind it.
            I wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie when I first saw the trailer before Universal’s Jason Bourne, but its concept, monsters attacking the Great Wall of China, got me interested. When the film was released, I caught a showing of it in IMAX 3D, sat down in the theater, and watched it, it’s fun.
            Not great but I wouldn’t call it horrible, the movie is far from being an accurate representation the Great Wall of China and goes for simple entertainment. And for the most part, it succeeded, exciting action, colorful visuals, and a laughably bad Matt Damon accent, lots of joy was had.
            Set during the Song dynasty in ancient China, legends have been told that the Great Wall of China has been built to fight off a race of ancient monsters hell-bent on killing and eating humans, dead or alive. After a monster attack, archer, William (Damon) and his brother, Tovar (Pedro Pascal-The Adjustment Bureau, Game of Thrones, Kingsman: The Golden Circle) are taken to the Great Wall to help an army of Chinese soldiers called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu-Assembly, Back to 1942, Mr. Six) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau-Casino Tycoon, Drunken Master II and III, Firestorm) fend off the vicious beasts.
            William and Tovar’s fighting skills earn the trust of Commander Lin (Jing Tian-Police Story 2013, Kong: Skull Island, Pacific Rim: Uprising), leader of the Crane Troop and eventually meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe-Spider-Man, Finding Nemo, Daybreakers) who has been searching many years for black powder to destroy the monsters. So, it’s up to them to discover the monsters’ weakness and save China before total annihilation.
            The film also stars Eddie Peng (All About Women, Tai Chi 0, Operation Mekong) as Commander Wu, Lu Han (20 Once Again, 12 Golden Ducks, Time Raiders) as Peng Yong, and Lin Gengxin (Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, Dancing Legend, The Taking of Tiger Mountain) as Commander Chen.  
            Overall, The Great Wall is a mostly entertaining fantasy movie, the action is fun to watch, the visuals are impressive, and the stunt work is fantastic. But I’m not going to lie, the movie goes downhill when it attempts to develop its characters, Matt Damon is pretty forgettable in this movie, despite having a lot of badass moments in action, and his accent is so awful, and if you’re familiar with Willem Dafoe’s acting career, you will figure out very quickly what his character is going to do before the end.
            Another problem I had with the movie was, while the monsters had a pretty unique design, they lack variety. Really, it’s like an army of Chinese soldiers battling an army of the exact same monster, not even one dragon in the entire movie, missed opportunity.

            Don’t expect to be emotionally invested in the story, if you just want to watch some crazy action sequences for a couple hours, The Great Wall could be a satisfying visit. But ONLY if XXX: Return of Xander Cage, John Wick: Chapter 2, or The Lego Batman Movie aren’t playing.

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