Reel Geek Review: The Great Wall

It’s become more obvious in recent years that Hollywood has set out to make movies with the global market in mind, namely China.  You can see this quite visibly in the fact that so many blockbuster movies have large scale scenes if not plots set around the country.  (Avengers: Age Of Ultron,  most of the Transformers franchise, etc)  so it was only a matter of time before there was a large scale American/Chinese movie made and released.

The Great Wall stars Matt Damon as mercenary William Garin, whom, along with his partner Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal-Game Of Thrones) are attacked while trying to acquire black powder (gunpowder) in the 9th century along with the rest of their crew by an unknown monster, leaving the two of them on the run and they come across The Great Wall of China, which is occupied by an army called The Nameless Order, led by General Zhao (Zhang Hanyu) .  They are captured as thieves, but soon prove their worth in battle against the monsters, which they later learn are called Taotie, and they are the reason that the Great Wall was constructed, to keep the rest of the world safe from these things.

They also encounter another English speaker, Sir Ballard (played by Willem Defoe), who went searching for the same powder years ago and was captured by the Nameless Order, and who keep him as an English and Latin tutor.     Another Taotie attack happens soon after, leaving the Order in the care of Commander Lin Mae (Jian Tang)  and they find a weakness in the monsters which may just save them all.

Like a lot of people I was a bit iffy on this movie at first, another white guy in Asia movie who can save them all, we’ve all seen that whitewashed story a thousand times over already.  But this was different, it wasn’t about that, if anything it’s better than expected.

Visually, the movie is quite stunning, with these fantastic armored costumes for the Nameless Order which reminded me a lot of the video game series Dynasty Warriors, and the Taotie monsters look menacing as they should, I liked the look of the queen Taotie especially, reminded me a lot of the Marvel alien menace The Brood, but green instead of brown.

I must also say that it was a nice change of pace to see a movie with a female hero put in power, and not just used as a love interest for the lead male character, it seemed like they could have gone that route,  but that wasn’t necessary for this movie.  The action sequences are quite thrilling.  I especially enjoyed the crane troops, who jump down from the wall like a Cirque De Soleil show of violence to attack the incoming monster horde.

This movie does have some pacing issues unfortunately, leaving me to check my phone a few times during the non action sequences, I felt a good portion of the movie’s 109 minute run time.    The script had 6 writers overall on it, three on the story, three on the screenplay, and you could feel the ‘too many cooks’ in this particular kitchen.

The acting is decent, you get better performances from the Chinese cast than you do the rest of them, which a lot of the movie felt very phoned in, which was a shame.  But I really enjoyed seeing Jian Tang as the leader of the soldiers, she does a great job in the movie.

Overall, The Great Wall is more like The Ok Wall,  if you see it in the theaters at all, I’d suggest a matinee.  Not worth a full price movie.

Final Grade: C-

The Great Wall hits US theaters on February 17


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