The Great Wall (2017)
Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Written by: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy
Rating: PG-13 Running Time: 1 hr 43 min.
Do you remember, Starship Troopers? A great film in my humble opinion. An over the top visual effects heavy violent sci-fi actioner, but beneath the surface, a very self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism.
The Great Wall is very similar in a lot of ways. Like Starship Troopers it pits our heroes against hordes of alien monsters, it’s loaded with passable visual effects, and it’s quite violent (though it never reaches Paul Verhoeven approved levels of gore). And like Starship Troopers, it forgoes in-depth individual character development in favor of spectacle and subtext.
In this instance that subtext compares a supposedly superior Chinese spirit of cooperation against barbaric western greed. The Chinese characters are presented as a clean, well dressed, and organized unit. Whereas the western characters are dirty, unruly and would gladly betray each other for wealth and power. Keep in mind, this is a Chinese film first, looking to play to a worldwide audience (hence Matt Damon’s mug on the posters), so it shouldn’t be surprising that The Great Wall plays like the opening of the Beijing Olympics. This isn’t so much a story told, as it is a public relations package for China.
Putting that subtext aside, it is possible to enjoy this as a simplistic action adventure film. The colorful battle sequences (by far the most entertaining moments in the film) are totally worth the ticket price alone. This is a big beautiful firework display, and the production design, costumes, music and photography are superb.
If you’re in the mood for big monsters and big action set pieces, this is the film for you.
The first major battle sequence was a lot of fun to watch.