Review: ‘The Great Wall’ Has Matt Damon ‘Great Wall Hunting’ For Substance
“The Great Wall” struggles to find its greatness.
“The Great Wall” tells the story of two mercenaries in search of the monetary rewards of black powder. While searching for the substance, they find themselves in the middle of a war between humans and monsters along The Great Wall of China.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Plot, etc.) – 2.5
I believe the intentions of “The Great Wall” were to wow audiences with stunning 3D visuals, much like the film “300.” The visual aesthetics of the film were more than adequate for the more “ocular” moviegoers. When exploring outside of the wall the vibrant exterior shots established a setting of surreal wonder. During the battle sequences, the motions were fluid with minimal judder which amplified the action. The action was further supplemented with slow motion sequences that essentially depicted the “kill shots.” Although this is a common shot, I enjoyed it to an extent. The one aspect of the action sequences I did not like was the “in your face” elements being thrown at the screen showcasing the movie’s 3D capabilities. When they occurred I momentarily disengaged from the film seeing these moments as more of a distraction.
While the action was a consistent focus, “The Great Wall” did seem to forget about other pieces of the film. Much of the context in regards to characters and plot were barely explored if at all. On a basic level, this film could be relegated to a story about two nomads assisting an army to fight monsters. For a viewer like myself, that is not enough to satiate my cinematic appetite. Little is known about William (Matt Damon) and about the same is known about the monsters he and the others face. Even if these monsters were attributed to being a MacGuffin, most everything about the film is generic and sometimes stale.
Despite “The Great Wall” falling into the realm of being negatively ubiquitous, most of the cast gave adequate performances. The one exception to this would be Matt Damon’s muddle accent. I could not determine if it was Irish or Scottish but it did not fit well. Outside of his accent it was much of what I expected from Matt Damon in regards to performance which was acceptable given what he was working with. Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, and Pedro Pascal also fell into this realm but with a discerning decision of maintaining their natural accents.
Overall “The Great Wall” sacrifices story and character development for some visual splendor. There were few moments where I felt invested in the characters or story since there was no substantial backstory or creativity throughout. I enjoyed the visuals and the fight sequences, but despite the battles being large, the setting felt confined. There were moments of intermittent lingering where I was hoping the film would progress but even the ending was a bit lackluster.
Entertainment Value – 3
Although generic in nature, there are some redeeming entertainment qualities. As mentioned, the visuals should appeal to those who enjoy their eye candy and the battle sequences had their fair share of fun to go around. To fight these monsters that attack along the Great Wall, the army gets very creative in a variety of ways. There are varying classes of soldiers that can perform different unique tasks. From massive projectiles being fired to one on one combat with a user’s weapon of choice, the battles should appease on a basic level.
But even with some unique action sequences, the lack of plot and character development kept certain moments of the film stagnant. A majority of the film is continuous action, but when the action subsides, things can definitely draw out and become boring. If the film was less generic, the action could have maybe outweighed the idle moments a bit more.
Re-Watchability – 2
Generic is the key word and due to “The Great Wall’s” formulaic nature, I doubt I would give it another chance. Maybe in passing I would watch while I was simultaneously engaged in other activities, but there are a number of other films like this that could satisfy me instead.
"The Great Wall" has a focus on visual aesthetics but quickly forgets to elaborate upon what we're actually watching. It's contextually dismissive and essentially a generic carbon copy of some other cookie-cutter action films we've already seen. While there are some creative moments throughout the battles, the lack of detail throughout leaves a lasting negative impression.