Friday, February 17, 2017

The Great Wall (PG-13/1h 43min)

I must see this movie again!  And again and again!  I went to “The Great Wall”, last night and enjoyed every minute of it.  You must know, right away, that this is not, I repeat NOT, your typical war movie.  I must have only seen one of the shorter trailers, and even then, I didn’t pay too much attention because I hate that trailers ruin movies.  Anyway, this…is a monster movie.  Surprise to me!  Even though I was expecting a regular war movie, I was just as thrilled with what this turned out to be.  You see, I love a good monster movie, too. 

“The Great Wall” is Independence Day meets Mulan meets Cirque du Soleil meets The Last Samurai meets Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (the battle scene with all the super beautiful/hot elves; you know the one) meets who-knows-how-many-other movies. 

It’s about a couple of mercenaries seeking black powder to take home with them, who end up getting stuck in the middle of a centuries old conflict.  You know, just an every day occurrence in the life of a mercenary. 

There is not a lot of down time in this movie.  It starts out action-y and doesn’t let up much.  Even the dining hall scene had to show some bravado.  This is, by no means, a complaint.  Mainly because it’s not edge of your seat action through the entire movie.  I will admit that someone nearly got his fingers broken during the battle scenes.  Sometimes I think it might be safer for my friends/family if I watch intense movies by myself.   

The first battle scene nearly had me come undone.  The costumes, the props, the set in general.  My breath was taken away and I came dangerously close to loudly expressing my awe.  Not at the same time.  The costumes.  Wow!  I want to be in that designer’s head.  It must be an awe-inspiring place.  From head to toe, each soldier was a sight to behold.  And the colors!  This is not your typical blandly-clothed army you see in a lot of battle movies. 

Then there were the props, for lack of a better word.  If this Wall wasn’t amply defended, it certainly wasn’t due to a lacking in weaponry.  They seem to have thought of everything.  Sure, there were your basic bows and spears.  But then there were your catapults (remember, not much is plain old, plain old in this movie) shooting fire balls and spiky fire balls, your giant scissors (you’ll have to see it to understand), your special arrows (small but effective), and finally, there were the soldiers themselves. 

Let’s talk about those soldiers for a while.  If, in your mind, you picture the stereotypical, in the Western world, Chinese person (my apologies, in advance), you might be imagining men who are small in stature and not terribly muscular.  I think we saw maybe one or two instances of this.  The rest?  Not so much.  These men were huge in stature and commanding in presence.  And weren’t too difficult to look at, either.  These were men who are meant to intimidate their foes. Oh.  Wait.  Did I only mention the men?  If you’re thinking this is a testosterone tour de force, you are so wonderfully wrong.  The women were also a force to be reckoned with and, in my opinion, were much braver than most of the men while still coming across as feminine.  I can’t even begin to explain how this works.  You’ll have to see it for yourself.  It was the women, and what they did, that took my breath away during the battle scene.  I can’t get it out of my head. 

I have no idea where the first part of the movie was filmed but I must go there.  With a camera and several days in which I can take as many pics as I desire.  I never in a million years thought I’d ever describe a bunch of hills as lovely but they very much are.  Then we see the Wall.  It just has to be capitalized.  There’s no other way around it.  From the first moment we saw it, to the fog-shrouded scenes, to the final glimpse, it was nothing short of amazing.  I know I sound like I’m over-talking this movie but I was just that impressed with all the visual aspects of it.  And then they added the main actors.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Matt Damon.  While this seems to be a huge change from his last few roles, I still liked him as William, a mercenary searching for black powder.  But, even though I am a huge Matt Damon fan, I feel that this role could have been played by any number of actors.  Now, that’s just an opinion.  It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m right.  I just felt that he could’ve been so much more.  And that, in a manner of speaking, he was very nearly robbed! 

Actress Tian Jing came very close to overshadowing Matt during several scenes.  She plays Lin Mae, one of the commanders in the Chinese army.  You’ll quickly see that none of the commanders in this film just…well…command.  They head into the fray along with every other soldier out there.  Lin Mae is no exception.  She is incredibly brave and intelligent.  She expects no more of her soldiers than she is willing to give, herself.  And she believes that trust and loyalty are two of the greatest traits you could possibly have.  I like her.  I like her a lot. 

There were several other actors that probably deserve a small mention, at least, but I’m happy with the two I’ve already discussed.  Okay, okay.  I’ll mention a few more.  I didn’t like Willem Dafoe’s character.  At all.  Pedro Pascal is Tovar, the other mercenary.  He was okay.  I didn’t like some of his choices.  Finally, Lu Han is Peng Yong, a noble, if somewhat clumsy foot soldier.  I liked him a lot.  You will too. 

There is only one reason “The Great Wall” received a PG-13 rating.  The violence.  Fortunately, most of the gross has to do with the monsters so it’s a little easier to take.  Judging by the upset children at this showing, I wouldn’t recommend it for youngsters unless you’ve seen it first, yourself, and feel they can handle it.  The 20 to 30 minutes of crying was more than a little frustrating.  Apparently, that parent felt that it was all right to let everyone else enjoy their upset little one. 

I would highly recommend this movie.  As mentioned at the beginning, I will see this again.  If you can’t handle violence, monsters, or monster blood, I’d skip this one.  The rest of you should go see it.  This weekend.  Or tonight even! Just remember that it might not be safe to hold hands with your girlfriend during this one.