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The Great Wall

Here is a guest post from Cameron Mooney, who I’m hoping will become a regular reviewer for the website. 

I have become ambivalent about international blockbusters in recent years. Much like any seventeen year old, a common feature of these films is high ambition and poor self control. Like the strange child produced in a marriage between the production design of Lawrence of Arabia and the campiness of Starship Troopers, The Great Wall is a film birthed into this blockbuster trend.

Matt Damon plays the European mercenary, William, (I should tell you that I had to look that name up because I don’t even think I ever heard it out loud) who travels to the Far East in search of the legendary black powder weapons. William and his trusty Spaniard sidekick, played by Pedro Pascal, end up getting captured by the grotesquely large garrison at the Great Wall of China. The heroes become embattled in the struggle between the valiant forces at the Great Wall and the monsters which threaten the destruction of China and the rest of the world.

The production design of this film is nothing short of epic. I thoroughly enjoyed the elaborate sets and richly colored costumes, not to mention hundreds of extras moving across the screen. This film gave me a real sense of scale in the first act, which I so desperately wanted to carry the entire movie. Instead what was served was a multi-million dollar dripping paper bag of microwaved french fries; sort of hard to digest but I guess some people are into it. When a multi-national venture like The Great Wall is produced, you get otherwise decent actors and directors who are transplanted into working with a secondary language. Much is the case for the Chinese cast in this movie, who morph between vibrant and monotone characters depending on which language is coming out of their mouths. Matt Damon forms a convincing character given the weaknesses of the convoluted narrative. It’s obvious that Mr. Damon was pulled onto this movie to broaden the appeal for western audiences. I’ll admit, I probably would have never seen this if I didn’t have Jason Bourne in it. Willem Dafoe made a surprising appearance too. I don’t have much to say on that as it would probably be as brief and as meaningless as the character he plays.

Monster movies are my jam, and this was definitely one following suit to one of my favorites, Pacific Rim. Something about these movies holds a certain place near and dear to my heart. I love huge ensemble casts working together to fight off the world-destroying monster. It doesn’t matter how bad the movie may be – the genre is prone to certain informalities when it comes to being an enjoyable movie. The Great Wall was a movie I enjoyed, but by no means was it a good movie. It’s one of those lowest common denominator films, trying to appeal to many people all at once but never going much deeper than necessary. The young boy inside of me was eagerly fed by this movie (coincidentally I sat a row away from five disorderly pre-teens who offered unamusing banter during the runtime). Man, I do love over the top action scenes, and pretty colors. I guess if you like those things, I would recommend this movie for you. If not, you should take a pass on The Great Wall.

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