The Great Wall review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
The Great Wall is not an exercise in filmmaking insofar filmmaking experiments go: there are the overused tropes of an imminent (CGI) threat that would wipe out the world; there are the heroic antics of peoples of ages long past gone; there are the archetypal heroes each wielding a different weapon and/or the power of wits; and there’s the quintessential action star found in the tired-looking Matt Damon who has difficulty imagining the imagined evil as embodied through these weirdly bizarre lizards looking to ruing everyone’s day in China. Despite all of the aforementioned though, and to the surprise of many myself included, The Great Wall is a fairly entertaining flick all throughout and a joy to be seen on the big screen (or a high resolution, to each his own).
The film starts off with William (played by Damon), who is on a quest to locate and retrieve “The Black Powder”, a plot devi… ehm, a deadly explosive, in order to employ its use for undisclosed reasons (yet). But, as his luck runs out, William gets entangled in an eon-lasting battle against monsters that attack every 60 years. He’s not the only hero however: Andy Lau plays the stoic Strategist Wand who commands his armies with an insatiable thirst for victory and glory; additionally, Jing Tian as Commander Lin Mae is also excellent, and for some reason, William Defoe is in this movie as well, which is awesome! Then, as the plot thickens, the creatures start attacking in hordes and it remains up to our heroes to save the day, and consequently, the movie’s financial investments as well.
The Great Wall features some shady decisions such as making the movie’s main antagonist a bunch of lifeless, ugly lizard-like monstrosities that elicit more chuckles than fear. To some extent, this is a reasonable move, since the film’s main selling point is its pandering toward 3D cinema enthusiasts and similar audiences that are only in for the spectacle and nothing more. But to another, the screenwriters could’ve thrown us audiences something to hang onto, instead of the lazy excuse that we got in order to justify the motivations of the attackers. Still, when the action is about to go down, one can really feel the sheer magnitude of what the filmmakers were trying to achieve, and for a while, this works in their favour. But, as our heroes employ seemingly impossible maneuvers to detract this great evil, the narrative structure quickly falls apart and the audience is left with nothing more than mere visual trickery to hold their attention until the end of the film.
All things considered, The Great Wall can be entertaining, as long as you’re not expecting to find any crouching tigers or hidden dragons in it.