The Great Wall

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By: John M. Delia, Jr.

 

Visually amazing and thrilling, the movie The Great Wall certainly has the best effects and story thus far in 2017.  Even though most of the film makes the use of a massive amount of CGI, that’s not a bad thing here as the production certainly warrants it. If you are a fan of high impact movies like World War Z, then this film should be on your list to see this weekend.

 

It’s 1100 A.D. China and a band of mercenaries are arriving at their destination near the Great Wall.  Moments later the group gets attacked by men on horseback with William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) the only ones escaping.  Following the chase Garin gets attacked by a Tao Tei, an ugly beast that preys on humans every sixty years.  Chopping off the beast’s arm, the two escape and arrive at the Great Wall of China.  There they are saved by Chinese bow men and taken into the confines of the wall.

 

The Chinese Imperial Army created a special division called the Nameless Order. They will attempt to defeat the hordes of monsters that will stop at nothing to honor and feed their queen. The Nameless Order is led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) as his army gets ready for battle against this mighty foe. With help from his excellent historian and strategist, Wang (Andy Lau) and Commander Lin (Jing Tian), they will stop at nothing to protect the people of China.

 

After proving that they have come to China for peaceful purposes, Garin and Tovar find that they are safe for the time being.  When the hordes of Tao Tei start to attack, the battle for survival begins.  Direction by Yimou Zhang, who brought House of the Flying Daggers to the screen, uses many of the ploys that made that film exciting.  His mastery of the art of aerial choreography produces an acrobatic display of fighting against the Tao Tei and the swordsmanship and archery equals his movie Hero.

 

Zhang does an impressive job using computer generated imagery or CGI style special effects. He presents his creatures, scenery and battle scenes with much more clarity than recent films and gives it an amazing realistic effect. Seeing this movie in the 3D format brings out the special effects even more, making them come at you repeatedly. It’s as if you were on the wall taking a beating with darting spears and arrows.

 

Matt Damon does his ordinary best with his character William Garin, this time saving China instead of Earth as he’d done in the past. Damon is not at the top of his game; however, showing the lack of energy in his character with the other supporting actors upstaging his performance.  It may be time for the actor to move on to less demanding roles.

 

Coming to the forefront Jing Tian saves the film from being just another chop suey cinema.  She’s a vibrant fighter as Commander Lin Mae of the Crane Troop that swings down and stabs the Tao Tei.  Taking on Garin as his teacher and protector, she goes into battle with purpose holding her enemy from taking over the wall.  Jing Tian can be seen next in Kong: Skull Island and in 2018 in the movie Pacific Rim: Uprising.

 

The Great Wall has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of fantasy action violence.

 

FIINAL GRADE: I give this a B for its original fantasy storyline brought to the screen with amazing special effects.

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