Against the advice of my Black Geeks, my better judgement, and my Blerd community, I decided to purchase a ticket and go see Matt Damon run around on The Great Wall. After a few days straight of some intense computer work, I needed some mindless entertainment away from my multiple monitors. Fandango offered me a few options for this momentary reprieve. I figured this movie was exactly the remedy to my fatigue.
There are two aspects of this movie that I need to review. First, I want to look at this film as just another action fantasy movie. Second, this appears to be another movie where people of color have to be saved by the “great white hero”.
This review is spoiler-free, so read on with peace of mind.
If you are not familiar with The Great Wall, check out the trailer.
I find it interesting how the trailer centers so heavily on Matt Damon, but the movie spends mosts of the screen time with protectors of the wall. I suppose the star is more important than the story. #sarcasm
The Great Wall is set in China around the 9th dynasty. The story is not based on factual historical events, but around what they call one of the “legends” of The Great Wall of China. One of the aspects of the movie that I greatly appreciated was the advanced technology shown during that time period. Nothing in the movie was too far-fetched for the people or the time period. The engineering concepts were brilliant, yet simple. (Good job, technical advisers.)
The action sequences were well choreographed. A few of the scenes were a little over the top, but still made for an exciting experience. For the most part, the CGI was pretty solid. The rendering of the antagonists were creative and flawless. There were a few moments, however, where the background scenes did not feel quite genuine.
With all the action, dialogue, and exquisite costumes, I was a little surprised by the background story. The mythology behind the antagonist was pretty weak, but that was about the only element of the story that felt incomplete. I also hoped that this was not another one of those movies where there has to be some romantic tension between the main character and another major character. Thanks to one scene near the end of the movie, we were all spared the full brunt of this often used story feature.
This was yet another movie where the white hero wades into a foreign land, is embraced by the people, and plays a key role in the victory as the “great savior”. (*sigh*) This trope is old and just does not seem to go away. There are some movies, like Exodus: Gods and Kings, that deserve a strong visceral response. Movies that misrepresent the historical aspects of a people or culture deserve to be rebuked and boycotted. Going into The Great Wall I was not sure if this was one of those movies.
By the end, I knew it was not.
While Matt Damon’s character of William still played “White Savior” the movie was steeped in the culture of the period. The majesty of the Chinese culture really shines through in this movie. William and Tovar, (played by Pedro Pascal), move within their foreign environment without disrupting it much.
This movie is bittersweet.
You still have the “great white hope” as your main character, but he does not subjugate the dominate culture of the movie.
Since we are talking about tropes, it’s also another one of those movies where the bad boy has a crisis of conscience and becomes the anti-hero. Don’t go see this movie with any grand expectations of some twisted plotline. The movie is just a straight up, in your face, action movie, with great graphics, and a fair amount of combat.
I do want to call out one small item that I found irritating. NO ONE… NO ONE… washes dishes in battle armor. What the heck? Did they not think that we (the movie going audience) would not be able to tell the red shirt sidekick without the battle armor? That was just wrong.
I give Matt Damon and The Great Wall, 3 out of 5 cosmic afros for the art, CGI, costuming, fight scenes, a few laughs, and almost making me cry at the memorial scene. Those drums, and the show of love for the fallen, was just beautiful.
This is not a must see movie.
This is a, “Well… I have nothing better to do and wanna see something cool since I have a $5.00 off coupon to the movies” kind of movie.