Friday, June 2, 2017

3+1 Short Paragraphs: The Great Wall

2016, Yimou Zhang (Hero) -- download

AV Club said, "is a stupidly awesome eyeful." The Telegraph said, "One thing The Great Wall gets absolutely right is the walliness, because watching it feels like repeatedly banging your head against one. The LA Times said, " 'The Great Wall' is poised to take a great fall, creating the kind of mess not seen since Humpty Dumpty sat on a similar structure." There were a lot more fun bad reviews in the first week, but those are now buried under the weight of the Top Critics of the Internet.

The Great Wall is a silly movie with a silly premise, more made for D&D playing adolescents than anyone. Long ago, a meteor crashed into a mountain and the Great Wall was built to protect Song Dynasty China from the monsters that emerged from the crater. So, 5500 miles to keep out a valley full of creatures that are pretty much the beasts from After Earth or Outlander. But it's not just the wall, but the trained units of soldiers, all with their own specialties (and colours!!), that help protect the land beyond. Two Europeans, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) come blundering along, while on the hunt for fabled black powder. They are caught, but after some rescue antics, where they prove their mettle, they are allowed to go. But William has grown a conscience and wants to help protect China. Tovar wants to steal the black powder and run. And then everyone notices that the monsters have a bad reaction to William's magnetic lodestone; and no, that's not a euphemism.

So, washing aside (*ahem*) the critics of this movie, William is a rather amusing character. Starting off as a dirty European with a hint of some accent (Irish? Welsh? Proto-American?) he does so fancy bow & arrow tricks to bring him up in the eyes of the Chinese soldiers. Once washed, the new general (a woman!) actually likes him. But Damon plays him as a straight up cardboard hero, lots of wry comments, heroic looks and a grim look constantly on his face. This was more cosplay than character.

Zhang's previous movies have been such bombastic, well crafted pieces of Chinese cinema. It's a shame that this one is just a low rent Lord of the Rings mixed with classic wuxia and (?!?) The Power Rangers. Little of the movie makes sense. Things are done just because they look cool, plot happens to encourage action, characters never say much of import. But really, do most big budget American action movies ever reach further? I liked this movie, not loved, but I will not be amazed if the Blu-ray joins The Shelf.