The Great Wall, one of the famous wonders of the world and a prime example of architecture to test time. Chances are though you have not heard of the legend behind its crafting and the real terror held back by its strong stone. Tonight, I got to see that legend come to life in a movie entitled The Great Wall. Led by Matt Damon, this movie promised to be an interesting spectacle whose quality was up in the air. What are the results? As always read on to find out.
- Creature design
- Culture references captured on screen
- Impressive visuals
- Semi-exciting battles
SUMMARY: When the first trailer opened up, I wondered what the mysterious beasts that lurked in the great beyond looked like. While latter trailers portrayed them as mere lizard dogs, the Great Walls Tao Tei were a nice spin to modern paranormal monster. Both deadly and bizarre, the monsters had clever integration of biology meeting magic, to craft a worthy rival capable of testing the might of China’s army. These beasts fit very well with the theme of the movie, taking extraterrestrial and mixing it with influences from the Chinese culture.
Speaking of culture, the movie does a nice job designing artificial sets and costumes mirroring many of China’s strong traditions. The armor, while a little fake looking, was a blend of beauty and lethality with colors and symbols being organized into various roles in the defense. The landscape mirrors the pictures in National Geographic, vivid and bright that contrast the strong, stoic grey of the wall. And while the visual specs are certainly stunning (probably better in 3-D), the values of honor, friendships, and trust are hammered deep in the dialogue/cinematography of this movie, primarily through the two lead characters.
When not portraying the culture though, the impressive visuals are primarily for crafting the “exciting” battles that Great Wall promised. This film pays great homage to the art of CGI, with many elements mirroring the effects seen in the Lord of the Rings films (Helms deep anyone). Realistic extras seemingly blend into the massive chaos that are the fights, mixing with their relatively realistic behemoths they are trying to hold. Outside of the visuals, the battles have some exciting moments, taking the defensive concept and adding clever toys our soldiers use. The first battle in particular gets the gold for quality as it is fast, dynamic, and the most detailed of the five soirees of death. If only the fights could have continued this momentum, perhaps the movie would have been even more exciting.
- Matt Damon’s acting at times
- The rushed story/editing
- Characters lacking development
- The battles drop after the first one
SUMMARY: Certainly the first dislike is not the best dislike to have, but hear me out. Damon is known for some stellar performances, but this direction didn’t work for me. He was supposed to play a rather skilled night, and while his choreographed battle moves hit the mark, his cool guy dialogue failed. Damon’s delivery was an awkward, stiff attempt to be funny, which only had me giggling at how out of place it was. Others struggled to make up for it, but Damon could have brought some more Bourne elements to his rogue nature. As I said though this is the minor dislike
While others seemed to enjoy the story, I felt it needed some tinkering to make their tale as strong as the wall. Much of the story was hastily developed, answers coming in a plethora of “Ah-Hah” moments as they conveniently stumbled on miracle pieces of information. Moments that were supposed to hit the heart hard or add some build-up to the spectacle were edited to blunt sequences where things were solved too quickly. Even worse was most of the character development. Many of the lieutenants, squires, and even the Tao Tei had so much potential for deep, edgy tales that helped us relate to either hero/beast and get us hooked into the moment. Nope, again like the story, many of the characters are stacked like wobbly Jenga blocks only to be knocked down with little more than a few Chinese words. This is sad, as deeper characters and plot could have taken this movie out of the hoakie realm and put it closer to the winner’s circle.
However, the biggest let down for me were the action scenes. As mentioned the first battle (seen mostly in the trailers) had the break out of the gates excitement you wanted to see. After that battle though, many of the fights quickly grew monotonous, the hasty editing doing little than show gruesome deaths, overdramatic lunges with weapons, very short bouts of destruction. I had hoped that each battle would lead to a grand finale where army and hive drones clashed, glorifying our generals with strategic warfare that pushed both to their very limits. Yet, once again Hollywood Studios decided to give mediocre, simplistic, drawn out sequences that once more tied up rather conveniently. Sigh…
Great Wall certainly is a spectacle to the “eyes” as Damon leads the charge in impressive visuals and decent military bouts. Friends who liked the Chinese mythology, will certainly enjoy this comic book like tale and all the “excitement” it brings. Yet, despite all the good, Great Wall really lacks in the complete story department and character building, leaving the predictable plot a little dry, lacking, and dare I say rushed. Perhaps this would have been offset, had Universal Studios put their money into bolder fights and more dynamic moments. Worth a trip to the theater? For visuals, yes (including 3-D), but for everything else I recommend saving your money for something else you fancy.
My scores are:
Movie Overall: 5.0