Thursday, February 16, 2017

REVIEW: The Great Wall

The Great Wall is...silly dumb fun just as I predicted it would be, but I will say that it thankfully has a somewhat competent story, which is honestly more credit than I originally gave it credit for. Watching trailers for this, it really didn't do much to impress me. But hey, I enjoy being proven wrong sometimes. Don't get me wrong, the movie is still very dumb, but damn it if it's not a little fun in all its dumbness if that makes a hint of sense. 

The story is based on a couple mercenaries on search of legendary "black powder" which is said to be one of the most deadliest of weapons. A simple concept, but one I can get behind. The movie begins with these mercenaries being chased by...bandits I guess. We never really get an idea who was after them, but they literally get chased into the legendary Great Wall of China, in all its CGI and colorful army glory. And they find themselves in the middle of this conflict against this large reptilian army from...Heaven apparently? Honestly the reason behind this reptile army (that most definitely are NOT dragons) being in this movie and fighting the Chinese armies is rather shoe-horned in, and kinda gives off this lazy "greed is bad" message. Taken prisoners, they impress the Chinese with their fighting skills...their stupid dumb flawless fighting skills and Matt Damon decides to help fight against this large army, because apparently there's something worth fighting for here. 

I might as well come forward and say it, the movie's driving force is the action. And the action isn't even really all that good at times, more than it is just flashy, and over-the-top in laughable ways. The very first major battle we see on screen shows us how the army functions. By color code! If you're in black armor, you're a footsoldier, if you're in red, you're an archer, if you're in blue, you're this acrobatic female that literally bungee jumps from the wall with spears in your hand down toward the army below (that's not a joke either), and if you're in purple armor....the movie forgets all about you. The CGI is very much present here in this film. The effects are very flashy, and at times, they're likely just meant to make the 3D more impressive. But honestly, having just watched it in Imax, I'm not even sure if the 3D is that impressive. The effects zoom in on arrows shot from bows, acrobat females leaping from the wall, and Matt Damon throwing a shield around like he's Captain America. The movie isn't afraid to go all out in its action to the point where it would make the elves of the Lord of the Rings blush. 

The characters aren't terrible in this film, though they can be kinda cutouts. Matt Damon, who doesn't play a Chinese soldier, so there's no need for whitewashing criticism here, does a fine job portraying his character William, even if at times, his accent seems to disappear, and I will say that many of these Chinese actors, making their debut appearance in American theaters are actually a lot of fun to follow. The commander, Lin can be a lot of fun, but they're pretty much the only characters I cared about. They tried to get me to sympathize with this younger soldier boy who's often harassed by his superiors and whatnot, and looks up to Damon, but the two don't really bond in any way, shape, or form, and I don't think I'm spoiling anything here, but by the time he dies, I just kinda chuckled. Damon's friends in Ballard and Pero really also contribute very little to the story, which baffles me because at times, the movie focuses on them a lot. They have this generic escape plot that really goes nowhere. It contributes next to nothing in this film. 

However none of this explains why I went to see it in the first place. The creatures. I was eager to see the monsters portrayed in this film that the Great Wall was apparently trying to keep out...and they're honestly kinda disappointing. We're not given a lot of explanation into where they came from other than the gods sending them because of the greed of an emperor or something, and the behavior of the creatures just isn't really explained to the fullest detail. That and the designs themselves aren't that intimidating at times. They actually kinda remind me of D-War, and I'm sure some of you know how I feel about that movie... It's just your generic Zerg rush army, lead by a queen that's really nothing different from them, and that's it. There's no diversity so much, there's no flying creatures, no really large creatures, they don't have any fun with these creatures, which leaves me, a diehard creature feature lover, wanting a LOT more. Hell, these things don't even breathe fire. C'mooon...

Honestly, I know I'm being overly critical here, but I don't dislike the movie. I'm kinda "eh" towards it. It's got a lot of really fun stuff. I enjoyed the musical score, and despite it being dumb, I enjoyed the over-the-top no strings attached action, and like I said, the cast is very likable. But the overall story just isn't fleshed out enough, and there's just not enough meat on the bones of this movie to really say, yeah I'd watch it again. I had fun, but it didn't really leave me on a high, and once I was in my car, I has practically forgotten about it. 

The Great Wall is a two and a half star rating out of four for me. And that might even be a little generous. But I will say that if you're like me, a lover of creature features, you'll likely get a kick out of one viewing. The film has its saving graces. Maybe they're just more apparent to me after having recently sat through that King Kong Lives movie, but for what this dumb silly movie was, I enjoyed it. I doubt I'll watch it again, but I enjoyed it. 

Please feel free to request any film you'd like me to have a look at. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading. 

Final Verdict: 2.5/4

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