The Great Wall (2016)
February 17, 2017 8:12 AM - Subscribe

When a mercenary soldier (Matt Damon) is imprisoned within the Great Wall, he discovers the purpose behind one of the greatest wonders of the world and joins forces with his captors, a huge army of elite warriors, to confront an unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.
posted by carmicha (10 comments total)
I loved this movie, even though the premise is silly, because of the loving attention given to the costumes, sets, cinematography, etc. in the service of an incredibly detailed world. The weaponry and battle scenes were fantastic and the film, as a whole, was beautiful. Parts of it reminded me of Fury Road or even The 300, in the sense of it showing a very particular and novel reworking of known battle tactics and equipment by members of a coherent and specifically defined culture. Mr Carmicha chose this movie as part of his birthday outing, otherwise I wouldn't have seen it, but it was gorgeous to look at. Moreover, the director let viewers examine stuff without hiding, say, the weapons or the monsters behind overly dark settings or jump cuts. No regrets.
posted by carmicha at 8:18 AM on February 17, 2017

Haven't watched the film, and don't intend to. Wanted to share New Bloom Magazine's review and analysis of the movie by Brian Hioe. He argues that the film isn't a straight-up case of whitewashing/racebending, nor is it reliant upon the white savior trope, but ultimately perpetuates cultural stereotypes of both Easterners and Westerners alike, and does not provide the former with any depth beyond heroic stoicism. It is also a quite mediocre action movie, overusing special effects, and disappointingly artificial from director Yimou Zhang. That all said, I'm glad his essay revealed the existence of Dragon Blade, which I would like to watch now, because a Jackie Chan flick with John Cusack as a Roman centurion and Adrien Brody dressed like a Westerosi Northman looks too over-the-top bad to not be good to see.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:11 PM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Interesting essay; thanks for posting it. Anticipated whitewashing based on the trailer is why I hadn't planned to see the movie, and I was relieved that the Matt Damon character made more sense that the previews implied. I also liked that there wasn't a romance between his character and General Li, played by Jing Tian. Though I have no expertise or standing to weigh in on Brian Hioe's insights on Chinese whitewashing and its many tacit and explicit motivations, I see why his interpretation makes sense. And I also understand his points about derivativeness, plot cliches and cultural stereotyping.

I still loved looking at it, however, as spectacle. I had not realized that Yimou Zhang choreographed the opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics, but that makes total sense. Thanks again for the link.
posted by carmicha at 10:20 PM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I knew I would see this opening weekend as soon as I saw the first two seconds of the trailer. I love Zhang Yimou and this type of film is best viewed on the biggest screen you can find.

Due to the low tomato meter (at the time 38%), I went in expecting something truly horrific, but I loved every minute of this color-soaked monstrosity. Not Zhang's best work, not a good movie, but visually thrilling, fast paced, and lots of fun.
posted by chaoticgood at 7:01 AM on February 18, 2017

Two word review: Wall porn.

I would have probably been more able to enjoy this if we didn't currently have so much talk about walls, and casting everyone on the other side as some kind of horrible monsters.
posted by isthmus at 10:05 PM on February 18, 2017

if you mash-up the battle at Helm's Deep with the costumes from Soul Calibur and the monsters from Starship Troopers you would more or less get this movie.
posted by alchemist at 1:42 AM on February 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

alchemist - I had firmly decided not to see this in any form, but dammit all if you haven't just convinced me to see on on that hybrid premise!
posted by Faintdreams at 4:38 AM on February 20, 2017

the battle at Helm's Deep with the costumes from Soul Calibur and the monsters from Starship Troopers

Aaaaand now I know what I'm doing with my day off. Thanks.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:22 PM on February 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

That New Bloom article is thoughtful and fascinating, Apocryphon, with lots of good links. Thanks. It falls apart a bit at the end when the proofreader seems to have given up, and "I generally view myself as vindicated in my claims" might be the most unfortunate sentence in cultural criticism I've read this month, but Hioe raises a lot of interesting points about the Chinese movie business and race.

I am a bit confused by his claim that the movie had a "poor performance" in China. Box Office Mojo says it's earned $170 million in China since opening in December - compare to Rogue One's $69 million, e.g.

Fascinating article nonetheless. And yeah, demonic monsters swarming the Great Wall is high on my must-see-on-the-big-screen list this week.
posted by mediareport at 4:03 AM on February 21, 2017

I had low expectations (essentially that I would see Matt Damon + the Great Wall of China + monsters + battle scenes), but I really enjoyed it! Sure, it was cliched and a little too CGI heavy, and I did not like how a white man had to help a Chinese army who had way more advanced weaponry than he had ever seen. But as a spectacle, a romp, a fun diversion it totally worked for me.
posted by pianissimo at 4:54 AM on March 4, 2017

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