Anthony's Film Review
The Great Wall (2017)
East meets West in a rather entertaining action spectacle...
The Great Wall is a movie that unites East and West. I'm not just referring to the plot that centers on European mercenaries who end up in the midst of a battle between a Chinese army and a horde of monstrous creatures. I'm also talking about the production of this movie and how it's essentially a joint project between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry. The result is an action-adventure that can please fans of both American and Chinese movies. You have Lord of the RIngs-type fantasy action on an epic scale mixed with elements of an epic Chinese military film. The cast consists of predominantly Chinese actors and actresses plus a few Hollywood actors such as Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe. If there is a sign that the movie business, like virtually any other kind of business, has globalized, you got it right here with The Great Wall.
In fact, when the movie starts, it's really hard to imagine it as purely Hollywood or purely Chinese. It could go either way. That's how well the two major parts of the moviemaking world have collaborated on this. Anyway, the plot involves a band of European mercenaries who travel to China in search of explosive black powder that they could take back home and use as a powerful weapon. But after moments of facing a few dangerous adversaries, the group dwindles down to just Matt Damon as William and Pedro Pascal as Tovar, both of whom are captured by a Chinese army and taken to the Great Wall of China. However, decisions about what to do with William and Pedro are pretty much on hold, because the first priority for the Chinese is to defend themselves against an army of green monsters called the Tao Tei.
You don't have to wait long to see the first action scene. While William and Tovar are still in captivity, the Chinese have to defend themselves as a massive horde of Tao Tei storm the Great Wall. They have plenty of neat weapons, like arrows from archers and balls of fire launched from catapults. There are also a few unique methods that I didn't expect to see, such as spear-wielding warriors doing repeated bungee-jumps to repeatedly attack monsters climbing the wall. So if you like fantasy action, you don't have to wait too long to see it. At the same time, it's not all action scenes throughout the movie. There is also a story and a set of interesting characters to watch.
For example, there's Tian Jing as Commander Lin Mae, who is a brilliant and respected military leader. There's also Andy Lau as Strategist Wang, whose wisdom helps maintain the Chinese army's effectiveness. And let's not forget Willem Dafoe as Ballard. He is the one Westerner who has lived among the Chinese for years, because he, too, had once come to China in search of black powder, only to be forbidden by the Chinese to return home in order to keep their creations a secret. It is this man who, after being in captivity for so long, cannot help but find a way to escape back to the West, especially as William and Tovar enter the scene.
As for the story, you have enough of one so that the movie is not a poorly written one. While you shouldn't expect a phenomenally awesome plot, don't assume there is no plot or a plot with big gaping holes. There are some developments in the story that will make you wonder what will happen next. So yeah, there is a story, just enough for the movie to hold together. The best part is that the climax is rather good. It is something to look forward to and a good way to wrap up this movie.
I thought this movie would be an average or subpar action movie, but I ended up liking it more than I expected. It mixes exciting action with a decent story. I also appreciated the production value of the movie. The special effects, costumes, and set design provide a pleasing visual spectacle. And let's not forget the director of this movie: Yimou Zhang, who previously directed other great Chinese movies such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. If you are familiar with how entertaining his movies are, you can be assured that The Great Wall is in good hands. Overall, The Great Wall manages to stands tall enough as a solid movie.
For more information about The Great Wall, visit the Internet Movie Database.