The Great Wall might have amazing armor designs and decent cinematography but it can’t escape the 90’s era CGI or the basic story.
Director: Yimou Zhang
Summary: European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.
There are several reasons that people even care about The Great Wall though the main was the casting. There was the knee jerk reaction from a lot of people as they looked at the leads and saw a bunch of white men in a movie about China. However, the actual reasons behind the casting and why this movie even exists isn’t rooted in racism or whitewashing; it’s rooted in China trying to be Hollywood for good or ill. The Chinese audience isn’t sick of the white action heroes like the rest of us are so if they are trying to make a huge, worldwide blockbuster, of course they are going to cast a movie star. Damon is never made out to be the real hero of the story; it’s more like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s just a shame that The Great Wall very much feels like a modern Hollywood movie in that it’s mostly garbage.
To start off with the good; the armor in this movie is beautiful. When you find out that the genius’ at WETA were involved that should be even more apparent. No one is better at making fantasy gear look real, beautiful and detailed than WETA. The Chinese army separates divisions by color and those colors are bright. Even the black armor somehow has more color than some of the blockbusters made in the west. However, it’s just a shame that all of that is in a movie that is so boring on every other front. The thing that is most apparent is how bad the CGI is. WETA was only involved with the armor and weapons because these are some ugly looking monsters. They have no weight to them and when that clashes with the beautiful armor it looks terrible. The opening shot is a CGI shot of the great wall that looks like something my Playstation would have rendered twenty years ago.
This is a silly movie but those types of movies can be saved if the tone is right and the tone for The Great Wall is all over the place. While Damon, Pedro Pascal, and Willem DaFoe all seem to be taking the goofiness of this movie with stride, the rest of the Chinese actors are playing everything totally straight. Perhaps Damon and Pascal were there to provide some sort of comic relief but they end up making the tone feel off, and like the armor versus the terrible monsters the pieces don’t fit. As for DaFoe the only reason he is in the movie is so there is an excuse for several other cast members to speak English.
The Great Wall was made with the intentions of mimicking Hollywood and it certainly does that. The story and characters are threadbare, the action scenes vary between pretty and unbelievable and the tone is all over the map. They are mimicking the disposable, executive driven Hollywood blockbuster to a T with all of the bad and none of the good.
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