‘The Great Wall’ Review

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Director: Zhang Yimou

Writers: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy

Cast: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Lu Han, Hanyu Zhang, Kenny Lin, Eddie Peng, Xuan Huang, Ryan Zheng, Karry Wang and Willem Dafoe.

Synopsis: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

The Great Wall received a lot, and I mean a lot, of criticism when the trailer was released showing Matt Damon surrounded by Asian actors and by the look of it, saving them and China from monsters. After all of it, director Zhang Yimou and Andy Lau came out and said that was not the case, and that the character was always written to be non-Asian, but people still were angry – without watching the film. Now, that the film is out, I know people will still keep to their stance not seeing past Damon’s casting, but if you can get past that – especially seeing that Damon is the true savior of China in the film – we get a descent and passable action film.

The film follows William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), mercenaries that came from Europe to China seeking the fabled “black powder” to make them rich. However, they find The Great Wall of China instead with a massive army inside that call themselves The Nameless Order. Once within, they discover that China is under attack from monsters the Order have called the Tao Tei. Once they prove themselves to the Generals, including Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau), they are recruited to stop the monsters from breaching the Great Wall and attacking the world. However, Tovar and William are conflicted once the fight becomes more dangerous. Tovar wants to complete the mission they were on, while William wants to stay and fight.

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People will have their opinions about The Great Wall, but the way I looked at it – without spoiling it of course – Damon’s William isn’t the “White Savior” many thought he would be. Does he play a factor to the end game? Yes, there’s no denying that, but at least from what I saw, he isn’t the key to killing the monsters like many thought or the trailers would have you believe. Is he special? Sure, he’s really good with a bow. That’s it. Once you get past Damon’s weird accent, and sometimes what feels like wooden acting, William is a character drawn to two worlds. He’s a mercenary that kills for others and money, but once he meets The Nameless Order and Commander Lin, he sees there are other reasons to fight.

When it comes to the rest of the cast Pedro Pascal has great chemistry with Damon, and because of that I wished he had more screen time. Tian Jing’s Commander Lin has some great moments scattered throughout, and being the only real female character in the film it was good to see. Also, she’s not a love interest! She does have an effect on Damon’s William, but it more of a respect than romantic – although you can make the argument probably. Willem Dafoe on the other hand is pretty much wasted here. Besides adding some insight in what is going on, he doesn’t really do anything and could have been played by anyone else.

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When it comes to the action, it’s pretty good despite the massive amount of CGI monsters. That shouldn’t be too surprising considering the man that directed this in Zhang Yimou. From films like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, the action is pretty great and filled with great cinematography, and heart-pounding score that Zhang is accustomed to. Moreover, when it comes to the creatures, the designs aren’t that bad and their design makes them difficult to fill as well. Also, the fact that most TV spots or trailers never really fully showed them off was impressive.

All in all, people are going to have their opinions on The Great Wall as a film and politically, which is fine. I just hope people can look past that and find some enjoyment in the film. It’s not perfect, most of the characters don’t get enough screen time or are not even developed at all, and there a small subplot that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t do really anything for the film – at least personally. But, the end game of it all, the film is a passable action film.

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The Great Wall

3.5 out of 5

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February Movie Releases

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along? Kidding!

Anyway, we’re here for movies! Compared to last year, February is looking like a legit month with some huge films coming out. So let’s get to it!

 

3rd

Limited Release: The Comedian 

A look at the life of an aging insult comic, played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Hannibal Buress, Edie Falco, Patti LuPone, Gilbert Gottfried, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel and Billy Crystal.

 

Rings (Horror – Paramount Pictures, Vertigo Entertainment)

The third film in The Ring series, this film finds a young woman who finds out she is the newest target of the terrifying curse that threatens to take her life in 7 days. The film was suppose to come out last year for a while, before it got pulled a month before its release. Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this movie. The Rings 2 was nowhere near as good as the first film, but if the trailers continue to show stuff that looks interesting, then maybe I’ll give it a chance. Maybe.

 

The Space Between Us (Adventure Drama Romance – STX Entertainment, Southpaw Entertainment, Los Angeles Media Fund)

The first human born on Mars, Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) travels to Earth for the first time, experiencing the wonders of the planet through fresh eyes. He embarks on an adventure with a street smart girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson) to find his father. The film got pushed back to this date after being scheduled to be released late last year, but for whatever reason it’s coming out now. The film looks okay, although it looks a bit too teenager romance to me, but the cast is pretty great. The rest of the cast includes Carla Gugino, Janet Montgomery, David House, BD Wong and Gary Oldman.

 

10th

Limited Release: A United Kingdom (Drama)

Based on the true story, Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) of Botswana causes an international stir when he marries a white woman (Rosamund Pike) from London in the late 1940s. The film also stars Jack Davenport, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael, Terry Pheto, Jessica Oyelowo and Nicholas Lyndhurst.

 

Fifty Shades Darker (Romance Drama – Universal Pictures)

James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross, House of Cards) comes in to direct the second film for the popular – among some people – books. This time it finds Christian (Jamie Dornan) wrestling with his inner demons, as Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) confronts the anger and envy of the women who came before her. I never watched the first film, and have no intention to, but I know there are fans out there, so here you go. The film also stars Kim Basinger, Tyler Hoechlin, Bella Heathcote, Max Martini, Luke Grimes, Rita Ora, Fay Materson, Victor Rasuk, Eloise Mumford, Eric Johnson and Marica Gay Harden.

 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (Action Thriller – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Thunder Road Pictures)

Legendary and mythical hitman John Wick (Keanu Reeves) comes out of retirement again when a former associate plots to seize control of an international assassins’ guild. The result is John going to Rome to stop it and with a bounty on his head. John Wick was a massive surprise to everyone, and the sequel is on most people’s radar – including mine – so I can’t wait to see how the up the ante and what they have in store action wise. The film also stars Common, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Peter Stormare, Bridget Moynahan, Peter Serafinowicz, Lance Reddick, Laurence Fisburne, and Ian McShane

 

The LEGO Batman Movie (Animated Action Comedy – Warner Bros., Vertigo Entertainment, DC Entertainment, Animal Logic)

A spinoff film from The LEGO Movie, it features, of course, LEGO Batman (voiced by Will Arnett). The film follows Batman/Bruce Wayne as he has to deal with working with others, and raising the orphan boy he adapted in Dick Grayson (voiced by Michael Cera). LEGO Batman was a major highlight in The LEGO Movie, so seeing him get his own movie is, I can only imagine, a great move. The voice cast also includes Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Zach Galifianakis as The Joker, Billy Dee Williams as Two-Face, Jenny Slate as Harley Quinn and Mariah Carey as The Mayor of Gotham.

 

17th

Fist Fight (Comedy – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/21 Laps Entertainment/Wrigley Pictures)

When one school teacher (Charlie Day) gets the other (Ice Cube) fired, he is challenged to an after-school fight. We probably aren’t expecting too much from Fist Fight, but the film looks decently funny, so let’s give it a show. The film also stars Christina Hendricks, Dean Norris, Jillian Bell, JoAnna Garcia Swisher, Dennis Haysbert and Tracy Morgan

 

The Great Wall (Action – Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Atlas Entertainment/Kava Productions/Le Vision Pictures)

Directed by Yimou Zhang, the film centers on the mystery centering around the construction of the Great Wall of China. The film already has a lot of eyes on it with the “white washing” controversy, even though director Yimou Zhang said he wrote the role of Matt Damon specifically for Damon, and the film isn’t just about Damon’s “white” character saving everyone. Regardless of all that, The Great Wall has a great international cast of Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Numan Acar, Eddie Peng, and Tian Jing.

 

A Cure for Wellness (Horror – New Regency Productions/Studio Babelsberg/Blind Wink Productions)

Directed Gore Verbinski, the film follows a young executive (Dane DeHaan), who is sent to bring back the company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness center” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. However, he soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. The film looks really eerie and creepy, and I can’t wait to see what Verbinski does with this. The film also stars Mia Goth and Jason Isaacs.

 

24th

Limited Release: Bitter Harvest

Based on historical events, the film tells the story of the Holodomor, the genocidal famine created by the Joseph Stalin. The film follows a group of people that rebel and try to fight the powerful forces looming over them.

 

Limited Release: Tulip Fever

Based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, an artist falls for a young married woman while he’s commissioned to paint her portrait during the tulip mania of 17th century Amsterdam. The film has a pretty impressive cast of Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane DeHaan, Jack O’Connell, Cara Delevingne, Kevin McKidd, Tom Hollander, Holliday Grainger, Zach Galifianakis and Judi Dench

 

Rock Dog (Animation – Lionsgate/Dream Factory Group/Huayi Tencent Entertainment Company/Mandoo Pictures/Eracme Entertainment)

When a radio falls from the sky into the hands of a wide-eyed Tibetan Mastiff, he leaves home to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician, setting into motion a series of completely unexpected events. The voice cast includes Luke Wilson, Eddie Izzard, J.K. Simmons, Lewis Black, Kenan Thompson, Mae Whitman, Jorge Garcia, Matt Dillon and Sam Elliott.

 

Collide (Action Thriller – Open Road Films, Silver Pictures, IM Global Film Fund, DMG Entertainment, 42)

An American backpacker (Nicholas Hoult) gets involved with a ring of drug smugglers as their driver, though he winds up on the run from his employers across Cologne high-speed Autobahn. The film was supposed to come out last year, and it didn’t look that bad from the trailers. It looked like a fun little action film that would be passable, but got pushed back for some reason. The film also stars Felicity Jones, Marwan Kenzari, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley.

 

Get Out (Horror – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/QC Entertainment)

Directed by Jordan Peele, a young African American (Daniel Kaluuya) man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) cursed family estate. The film looks like a real psychological horror film, and the fact that’s directed by Jordan Peele is pretty interesting. Also that first trailer was just ridiculously crazy. The rest of the cast includes Betty Gabriel, Lakeith Stanfield, Caleb Landry Jones, Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford.

 

What are you looking forward to?

New Podcast: Suicide Squad Response, Drama and Mini Review & Tons More

This week podcast is live!

I tried to control all the craziness of movie news that was this week, and yes give you a mini-review of Suicide Squad. The review will be up tomorrow.