Tuesday, February 28, 2017

[Review] The Great Wall

What do you get when you throw warriors, monsters, and explosives into a film and base it around the Great Wall of China? Unfortunately, a crumbling disappointment.

The Great Wall is a mediocre epic that majorly lacks a distinct identity, and I'm not even referring to the controversial lead casting of Matt Damon in a film that takes place in Ancient China. It's not that director Zhang Yimou has created an atrocity or anything, but this truly doesn't seem like a film that came from the same helmer of legendary films like Hero or House of Flying Daggers. It's low-level fantasy fare. A way (way) lesser piece of The Two Towers. An underwhelming alt-"Game of Thrones".

Barin (Damon, buried beneath a beard and a manbun--also I'm not sure what's going on with his accent here) and his sidekick (Pedro Pascal, "Game of Thrones", "Narcos"), are mercenaries in search of "Black Powder" (basically gun power). After a run-in with a vicious beast, they're captured by a Chinese army called The Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu). But the two prisoners impress with their fighting skills, and it's enough to get them recruited to fight alongside the soldiers for the next big battle against a charging legion of screeching dragon-like hyena creatures.

It's as ridiculous as it sounds but somehow not nearly as entertaining as it sounds. This thing is a CGI overload and hollow spectacle, through and though. A Helm's Deep-lite (way lite). There isn't much development on any front, and therefore not many reasons to invest in what the hell is going on. The film does showcase a few pretty sequences though: The synchronized lines of soldiers and crisp pounding of drums. The surreal night sky of floating lanterns. The blue-cloaked warriors acrobatically diving into battle against the muddy grey tones of the monsters. As far as the monsters go, there isn't much explanation about their existence (aside from a random meteor crash), how exactly they inhabit this world, and why they all decide to band together and attack the humans every 60 years.

Jing Tian as a Troop Commander is easily the most intriguing part, and I can't help but think there could've been a great film in here somewhere if she was the main protagonist and the story was fleshed out more. But I guess that's asking a lot, especially as the film is racking up at the global box office anyway.

( 5/10 )

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