Aug. 20, 2017
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The Great Wall Review: Leapin’ Lizards!

To whom do you suppose Matt Damon owed a favor?

February 22, 2017, 12:00 am

Picture it: a bunch of mostly white mercenary types from various countries set aside their differences to journey to China in seach of black powder—a most poweful weapon that’ll basically make ’em rich, or at least help them with a cool fireworks show. Pursued by desert-dwelling maniacs, said mercenaries wind up either dead or captured by a Chinese army inhabiting the Great Wall which, as it turns out, wasn’t built to keep Mongol hordes at bay, but rather a bizarre meteor-propelled alien species of quadruped lizards that emerge every 60 years from some glowing mountain to eat everything in the world/feed everything else in the world to their gigantic lizard queen. Yeesh.

So anyway, Matt Damon is William, an Irishman (maybe, because he phases in and out of whatever accent he’s trying to convey, like, every couple seconds) who, along with his Spanish pal Tovar (Pedro Pascal of the Netflix hit series Narcos), came for the weapons but, wouldn’t you know it, has a change of heart and decides to put all of his axe-swingin’, trick-shootin’, pony-tail-flappin’ war experience to good use saving the planet. Because, y’know, if the lizard aliens ever get past the wall they’ll probably just eat everyone everywhere.

From a simple CGI/action point of view, The Great Wall is exciting and enjoyable enough—full of explosions and light elements of gravity-defying kung-fu á la other works of director Yimou Zhang (Hero or House of Flying Daggers). And this would be fine if the film didn’t fall victim to tired movie missteps, such as plans devised with knowledge about the lizards Damon and company couldn’t possibly have, or the unfortunate white savior trope. Oh sure, they kind of sidestep that by giving us a whole song-and-dance about how William and Tovar are strangers in a strange land just looking for gunpowder, but c’mon—let’s call a spade a spade here.

By the time we’ve had our fill of female-led bungee jumping units and crazy-ass lizard explosions, what’s left is a pretty thin premise despite truly gorgeous sets and some midly enjoyable action sequences. Hats off especially to the character Lin Mae (Tian Jing from the upcoming Kong: Skull Island) who proves a strong female lead without a tacked-on love story. But, sadly, even she can’t save this movie from itself.


+ Tian Jiang!

- Dude...Lizards? C’mon!

The Great Wall
Directed by Zhang With Damon, Pascal and Jing
Violet Crown, Regal
103 min.


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