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"The Great Wall" embodies Hollywood's shortcomings when it comes to storytelling and casting, but if you can look past that, it's an amusing two-hour spectacle.
Early reviews for The Great Wall were so negative that I went in to the screening without a lot of expectations-and to my surprise, actually had a pretty good time watching it. His films have a distinct visual flair that is missing from The Great Wall because of the films pacing. Even so, these are not particularly good performances. To its credit, though, it's bad for entirely different reasons.
Its 1100 A.D. China and a band of mercenaries are arriving at their destination near the Great Wall. The courage and resourcefulness of the two survivors impresses the Nameless Order created to protect the nation.
Add that to the bad acting, the bad characters, the bad dialogue, the bad everything, and there's nothing great about The Great Wall.
Speaking of character, Matt Damon does his best with what he is provided by the script that was written by Carlo Bernard and Doug Miro (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer's Apprentice) along with Tony Gilroy (Bourne trilogy). He's traveling with Tovar (Pedro Pascal) and a Redshirt on a quest to China to find the fabled "black powder", an awesome weapon they want to take back west. According to legend, an alien race of monsters called Tao Tei arrived by a meteor to punish mankind's limitless greed every 60 years and, wouldn't you know it, the countdown is up.
The creature feature centers around William (played by Matt Damon with, what sounds like, a Canadian accent).
The same can not be said for the other two American characters, Tovar (Pedro Pascal) and Ballard (Willem Defoe), who both seem to become less like characters and more like caricatures who just fill out a subplot.
William and his colleague Pero (Pedro Pascal -Oberyn Martell in Game Of Thrones) are taken prisoner by the Chinese and imprisoned inside the Great Wall, but when their fighting skills are recognised, they are released to help overcome the ferocious Taotie. Instead of invading a foreign culture and "sanitizing" it for American audiences, Damon winds up functioning as Hollywood clickbait. Some of the appearances have been so artificial and decorative that Chinese critics have dubbed them "flower vases." He's an worldwide star and will bring a sense of credibility to what is essentially a Chinese film to an American audience. To suggest that he's taking the place of a Chinese actor ignores the fact that there are dozens of homegrown Chinese releases with Chinese casts each year that struggle to find a toehold in the U.S., where worldwide blockbusters fall in the gap between arthouses and multiplexes. Here is what I thought of his newest movie.
When one of China's greatest living directors asks you to star in a movie about mythical monsters attacking the Great Wall, you say yes.
Of course, #TheGreatWall is massively dramatized for the sake of entertainment- after all, it's a movie about monsters attacking the Great Wall of China.
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