Sunday, February 19, 2017


          Hit and miss.
          The trailer didn't look half bad. The premise being that the 5,500 mile-long Great Wall of China was built over the course of 1,700 years to keep out, not only invading hordes of regular folks, but also big weird monsters that attack every sixty years. When two European mercenaries, William and Tovar (Damon and Pascal, respectively), in search of legendary black powder, are caught by Imperial forces, only their great skill assisting in the fight against the monsters can save them--but for how long?
          Not one of the better Matt Damon roles. Usually he picks excellent material. But the character here is pretty thin, and not very likeable. Nor unlikeable. Just kind of not there. He also seems to slip in and out of a lukewarm Irish accent.
          The film does border on annoying by putting the Damon character at the forefront in China. There's no real reason to do it. And he's lacking. He doesn't even seem like a super-great archer whose amazing skills would be of invaluable service to so many other excellent archers who've spent their lives training to fight the monsters. When William and Tovar put William's amazing skill on display, it's done in such an impossibly silly way, no one could take it seriously. Not to give anything away, but the demonstration is dumb enough to be cringe-worthy.
          The monsters look all right. Vaguely resembling green lizard-like wildebeests, they charge around in vast numbers at great speed showing alarming intelligence. Like insects, their job is to feed the queen. And their chief quality is greed. The greed of the monsters seeking to invade China is the film's primary conflict.
          And just in case we can't figure that out, Westerners are there. Trying to get that precious black powder to use as a weapon. For killing and stealing.
          Willem Dafoe reminds us yet again of his remarkable acting skill. He plays a European dude who came to China looking for black powder twenty-five years earlier and never left. Also, Tian Jing as Commander Lin Mae is interesting to watch because she's a beautiful woman and also a military leader.
          Yet in the big picture the problem with The Great Wall is that the story has a message. Instead of being organically-driven with original characters, it's controlled and forced. Six writers were required to meet the intended product, and because none of them were surprised, neither are we.

Starring Matt Damon,
Tian Jing,
Willem Dafoe,
Pedro Pascal,
Andy Lau,
Hanyu Zhang
Directed by Yimou Zhang
Written by Carlo Bernard,
Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy
Based on a story by Max Brooks,
Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Runtime 103 minutes
Rated PG-13

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