Movie Spotlight: The Great Wall

Welcome to a little corner of the site we like to call, Movie Spotlight! This is where we take the time to showcase some films from the past, present and maybe even from the future! Okay, that’s a lie, there aren’t any films from the future here. We do have candy and an assortment of cheese though – so sit back, relax and take a gander. You might discover a film you never knew about for your Netflix or Showmax watchlist!

The story…

When a mercenary warrior is imprisoned within the Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of the world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront the unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.

Starring global superstar Matt Damon and directed by one of the most breathtaking visual stylists of our time, Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers). The Great Wall is the first English-language production for Yimou is the largest film ever shot entirely in China. The Great Wall also stars Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau.

So, what makes this film so great?

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way. This film is one of those accused of whitewashing. However, I believe in this particular instance it suits the story to not have an entirely Asian cast. On top of that fact, this film has Zhang Yimou at the helm, is shot in China, doesn’t snub its Asian cast members and to be quite frank, you can’t get further from whitewashing than that. The Great Wall is not one of those films where they put a random white guy into a distinctly Asian story just to sell it to American audiences and if you take the time to admire it for what it is, you’ll see what I mean.

We see Matt Damon and his companion being from a far-off land, following stories of a magical black powder that explodes. Obviously hoping to get this weapon for themselves, the two stumble upon The Great Wall in China, where they encounter an army of soldiers defending their homes against what seems to be…aliens? Okay, I’m not sure what the Tao Tei are. In the film, they get passed off as having come to Earth on a meteor as punishment for an Emperors greed. Alternatively, it might have just been a big coincidence. We’re really not sure at any point in the film but if they came from space, that, to me, says aliens.

All I know is, Tao Tei are rather badass and I think it’s quite entirely possible that the Tao Tei Queen is even more dangerous than a Xenomorph Queen – but that’s a debate for another time.

There’s some great originality in this film. Everything from the setting to the weapons and fight scenes have been marvelously handled. The fantasy epic elements work well mixed in with some traditional action and call back to an age in cinema where seeing a film was an entire journey, not just a two-hour distraction from life. The Great Wall feels magical. It presents things that should be impossible and makes them normal and that right there, for me, is the mark of a truly great fantasy film. Sure, we see fantastic things on screen all the time in other films but there’s just something about The Great Wall, a warmth at its core that I can’t quite explain.

I got lost in this movie. All the bright colors, amazing details, and scenery sent me right back to my childhood where I sat in awe watching the likes of The Neverending Story and Star Wars for the first time. The Great Wall contains so many familiar feelings from films like The Monkey King, The Myth and even Lord Of The Rings that I couldn’t help but love it.

See, many people would call bullshit right here. The Great Wall steals some content from other genre’s and films to drive itself forward but in this rare case, I didn’t mind that. I think The Great Wall is a magnificent example of what could be accomplished if Hollywood properly works with Asian Film Makers. When you see films like this one, it restores some hope that eventually there might be more to follow. That, though unlikely, is not impossible and I personally hope we see more like this sort of film in the near future. Despite some plot and character flaws, The Great Wall is a film that was put together with great care to accomplish something amazing.

Alas, the Box Office did not agree and fans alongside critics tore it asunder. It enjoyed limited success and while not entirely unpopular, it got hurt by whitewashing accusations on opening weekend and now appears on many ‘examples of whitewashing’ film lists. Sadly, it seems that very few people will look beyond that and decide for themselves about The Great Wall.

This right here is what going to the movies is supposed to be all about and if you’ve been on the fence, unsure about this film up until now, give it a try.

You won’t be sorry.

Grand Moff Morris
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Grand Moff Morris

You know, this was supposed to be my day off. But nooooooo. Instead, you got me out here dragging your heavy ass through the burning desert, with your dreadlocks sticking out the back of my parachute.
Grand Moff Morris
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