Sunday, 19 February 2017
#17 THE GREAT WALL
Starring Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. Written by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy. Based on a story by Max Brooks, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Budget $150 million. Running time 104 minutes. Certificate 12A
Not only the first ever English Language film directed by Zhang Yimou but also the most expensive, at $150 million, Chinese film ever made. Two European survivors of an mercenary expedition sent out to find the legenday 'black powder' (gun powder), Irish man William and Spaniard Tovar (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) stumble across a mysterious murderous unknown beastie know as a Taotie and kill it, just before stumbling, again, this time across the Great Wall of China. It turns out the wall was built to protect North China from an alien species that crashed to Earth thousands of years earlier. It also turns out that every 60 odd years this alien horde led by their Queen surge across the landscape in their millions looking for food and the only thing standing in their way are the secret Unnamed Order of the Great Wall - a super-trained army of incredible warriors.
Although initially mistrusted and taken prisoner by the Unnamed Order, our plucky heroes soon prove their valour during an astonishing assault by the monsters upon the wall. Not only do we see the sheer scale of the horror our heroes are fighting against but also the sheer ingenuity of the Unknown Order and their dazzling, bungee-jumping, all-female warriors known as the Crane Guard led by Commander Lin (Jing Tian) who fearlessly dives off the top of the Wall to kill the monsters armed with nothing more than spears.
After that it's a breakneck battle of attrition as our heroes fight again and again against the monsters leading up to an exciting and thrilling climax in the walled capital city of Bianliang.
Cards on table. I went into this movie expecting a disaster. It's never a good sign when a movie has its previews one day before its due to open and the odds seemed to be stacked against it. Plus it's clearly been cast with the American market in its sights and it just felt like a train crash waiting to happen.
Well, I have to say I bloody loved it! First off all, by using China as its backdrop and location, we get to see vistas and landscapes like nothing we've ever seen before. There's a scale, and not just the size of the Great Wall, to the proceedings that makes it vastly more interesting than if it had been a western movies set in China. The sets are massive and filled hundreds of extras and the action is exciting and thrilling. Not everything works, some of the CGI is a bit ropey and some of the acting is a bit panto-like and Matt Damon's accent slips out of its soft Irish brogue in every other scene. However, on the other hand, the design and feel of the proceedings are fresh and original and the scenery breath-taking. I loved the action, the silliness of the whole thing had a real sheer sense of genuine energy, if there's any faults it's the films strict adherence to the classic 3 act structure and the it does lose momentum in the third act when a subplot is finally resolved. But it's a minor quibble.
This was a fun, action-packed and downright silly adventure and I loved it.