The Great Wall Review

            From casting controversies to disappointing box office results, The Great Wall (the latest film from Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou) has received a lot of negative attention from almost the moment that it was announced.  While the end product is not a good film, The Great Wall is not without merit and that is getting lost amid all of the negative publicity.  There is a lot of artistry put into the costumes and some aspects of the world building of this fantastical version of old China.  The film also has a surprisingly strong set of performances despite the controversy surrounding Matt Damon’s casting.  Yet all of this does not make up for the fact that this film puts no effort into building a story.  It’s a set of visuals with no meat to it.

            The Great Wall follows a group of traders as they search for black powder in eleventh century China.  After most are killed off by bandits and a mysterious attack by a monster with a green arm, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) find themselves at the Great Wall where they are taken prisoner by a splinter group of the Chinese army known as the Nameless Order.  They soon learn that the Nameless Order is tasked with stopping an apocalyptic attack by alien lizards known as the Tao Tie.  For such a weird story there is not a lot of effort building this fantastical world in the narrative sense.  Nothing during the course of this movie makes sense and what makes matters worse is that the motives of characters make even less sense than some of the plot elements.  It’s a mess of a script and a mess of a story that leaves little for the film to build on.

            Fortunately, the other elements of the film try really hard to make something out of this film.  Despite some shoddy CGI effects, the visuals tend to be really impressive.  The battle armor and weapons are some of the most detailed creations ever put onscreen, and there are some sequences that are allowed to dazzle under the direction of Zhang Yimou.

            It also helps that the film gets a strong set of performances from its cast.  Matt Damon is a sturdy lead that is able to remain interesting despite a script that really lets his character done.  Some of the lines he is forced to say could have been really embarrassing, but with his charisma he is able to avoid any downfalls.  Jian Tian is the real star of the film though.  Her performance in this film has all of the signs of a breakout performance, and it’s hard not to take your eyes off the screen when she gets to be the center of attention.  It also seems like Willem Dafoe and Pedro Pascal (it’s weird putting him on the same level as Dafoe but so far all he has done is proven that he’s the real deal) are incapable of giving a bad performance.

            There’s a lot going for The Great Wall, but none of that makes up for the fact that no effort was put into the story its attempting to tell.


2016 Cinema Awards

Best Visual Effects

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Neil Corbould, Hal Hickel, John Knoll & Mohen Leo)

Best Sound Mixing
The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (Adam Stein & Robert Turi)

Best Sound
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (David Acord & Matthew Wood)    

Best Production Design
The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (Craig Lethrop)    

Best Original Song
"Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", La La Land (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul)

Best Original Score
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Junkie XL & Hans Zimmer)

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Amanda Knight, Neal Scanlan & Lisa Tomblin)    

Best Film Editing
La La Land(Tom Cross)    

Best Costume Design
The Dressmaker(Marion Boyce & Margot Wilson)    

Best Cinematography
The VVitch: A New-England Folktale (Jarin Blaschke)    

Best Original Screenplay
Richard Linklater, Everybody Wants Some!!    

Best Adapted Screenplay
Josh Campbell, Damien Chazelle & Matthew Stuecken, 10 Cloverfield Lane

Best Supporting Actress
Janelle Monae, Moonlight
Best Supporting Actor
John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane    

Best Lead Actress
Anya Taylor-Joy, The VVitch: A New-England Folktale    

Best Lead Actor
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic    

Best Director
Martin Scorsese, Silence

Best Picture
Everybody Wants Some!! (Megan Ellison, Richard Linklater & Ginger Sledge)

4-The VVitch: A New-England Folktale
3-Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2-10 Cloverfield Lane, Everybody Wants Some!!, La La Land

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