Movie Review: The Great Wall (2017)

The first English-language film from director Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), The Great Wall is a 2017 action-fantasy film. William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are European mercenaries searching for the secret of gunpowder, who soon find themselves taken prisoners by a mysterious group of soldiers on the Great Wall (of China!). Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) serves General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) in defense of the wall, with another man (WIllem Dafoe) lurking in the shadows.

+ the film looks fantastic, particularly the Chinese Armies’ colour themes (and they even get explained, which was a nice bonus). The soldiers’ armour and ranking officers plumage are visually quite spectacular
+ none of the main actors were bad, nor worth detracting from the film. Matt Damon looked older (he is 46 now), which somewhat added to his character, though it made any romantic undertone with Jing Tian a little bit weird (but dammit, she’s gorgeous, I can’t blame him). The Chinese warriors, from lowest grunt to highest General, are the real stars of the film
+ the monsters themselves were not quite what I expected, in a good way. They were similar enough to real creatures that you could identify things like how they move and weak points, but they were foreign enough that they still invoked some fear
+ the pre-movie discussions of the ‘white savior’ stuff is entirely blown out of proportion, since for the most part Matt Damon is never any more than half of the hero, whether it be teaming with Pedro Pascal or Jing Tian. Moreso, Damon’s character is a bit of an asshole

I absolutely loved the various troop colours. I loved them even more once they were explained.

– the action will require a lot of suspension of disbelief, beyond the simple fact there are monsters present. Soldiers (all with a same theme, nudge nudge) continuously literally dive into the jaws of these creatures, and not once do any of the commanders think that might be a bad idea
– despite everything looking great, and no acting being bad per se, the film does lack that certain something. The idea of ancient monsters in real life Worldly locations is not new, nor is the idea of a recurring threat to a countries’ borders. The notion of one man (two, here) being the catalyst to solve a dilemma decades, centuries or millennium in the making is likewise not a unique concept. Overall, it just feels “there”, but hardly groundbreaking

> I felt bad for the monsters, whenever they were hurt. War or not, they are still animals. 😦
> This really made me want a Dynasty Warriors movies. But with all the flair from the games, not just the history side of it.

Should you see this film: Whether it was my low expectations going on, my love of Chinese history (including the Dynasty Warriors video game series) or just the gorgeous colours and scenery, this was much better than I thought it would be, and certainly worth at least one watch


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