Travel Magazine

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

By Saicho18

I didn’t think that I’d actually see this movie on the big screen – both the trailer and the theatrical posters looked wonky. I mean did Hollywood just really cast another white man into a film filled with Asian mythology? The last movie under the same category I saw was 47 Ronin (2013) and that didn’t turn out so good. However last Friday I was out running errands and my first appointment ended early, leaving me with free time between noon to three-thirty. What-the-hey, right?

Here’s my roundup of Yimou Zhang’s (House of Flying Daggers (2004)) The Great Wall (2016).

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

" data-orig-size="1024,1668" sizes="(max-width: 368px) 100vw, 368px" aperture="aperture" />The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

Please note that there may be spoilers.  Read at your own risk.

THE STORY:

Sometime during the Song dynasty, mercenaries William Garin (Matt Damon – The Monuments Men (2014)) of England and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal – Game of Thrones) of Spain find themselves alone in the desert. They used to be part of a larger group, all looking for black powder that they can take back to the West to sell to warring lords, but something has killed the other men. They continue up north until they reach a portion of the Great Wall where they taken prisoner by soldiers who call themselves the Nameless Order. Apparently both William and Tovar have stumbled upon a war between the Chinese people and monsters called the Tao Tie, monsters that resurface and launch an attack on the Wall every sixty years. Unfortunately, because they’ve already seen the Tao Tie, both Tovar and William are not allowed to leave.

THE GOOD:

  1. Pedro Pascual was a godsend in this movie. He looked pretty brutal but his comedic timing was ridiculously on point. Why isn’t he in more funny movies?

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Pedro Pascual in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="1280,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />He looks murderous here but he’s funny in the movie.
  2. The director’s signature use of bold colors. All those reds, yellows, purples and blues that dominate the screen really were striking to watch.

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Signature colors in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="1966,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />A bit like Power Rangers but it works
  3. It truly was a spectacle. It says on the tin that this is the most expensive film shot entirely in China and boy, does it show. They did not skimp out on any aspect; the CGI was good, the costume looked incredibly intricate and the weapons they used looked like they really could do some major damage. It’s nice to see a movie with a director that knows how to make his scenes stunning.
    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Excellent use of CGI in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="2036,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />
  4. It’s one of the few movies that actually show the specifics of tactical battle. It’s not your typical Hollywood “let’s all attack the enemy at the count of three” and it’s pretty cool to be reminded that there are different types of soldiers for the different types of battle.
    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Red archers in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="2586,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />
  5. The lack of a detailed back-story of William and Tovar. Thank GOD. I think it was the right choice because I personally feel that the story would’ve been burdened too much had they went into more detail as to how “bad” these two actually are. As it is, they just skimmed over the specifics, just throwing it out there every now and then that they’re not.
    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Pedro Pascual and Matt Damon in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="2112,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />
  6. NO ROMANCE! It wouldn’t have worked out story-wise anyway, but praise Jesus that they saved us from the awkwardness of seeing Matt Damon trying to make pretty with the a girl who is literally eighteen years his junior.

THE BAD:

  1. Matt Damon’s weirdly deep voice. It was distracting. And he’s English, right? No accent?

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Matt Damon in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="2254,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />It was a disconcerting voice that he used in this movie
  2. Willem Dafoe. I can’t believe he agreed to be in this with that particular role. It’s such a inconsequential character that they could have literally written it out of the story and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference.

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Willem Dafoe in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="1024,1088" sizes="(max-width: 565px) 100vw, 565px" aperture="aperture" />What a waste.
  3. Maybe they should have spent more time focusing on the other Chinese commanders? I think it’s a big part of the backlash because the story focused more on the white dudes. Sure, the story is told from their perspective but it’s not really their battle. The film could’ve given us more information about the other characters.

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    The Chinese Commanders in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="1024,1024" sizes="(max-width: 600px) 100vw, 600px" aperture="aperture" />Probably with a more interesting backstory than Willem Dafoe, tbh.

THE UGLY:

  1. The very thought of appropriation because with this movie, it’s impossible for the notion is bound to come up. I’m not sure if I understand the concept correctly though because I’m not convinced that there was any appropriation in here. While William is a white man, there was sufficient reason for him to be there. The character is an experience warrior who realistically would provide a different insight on how to fight these monsters. Although I admit that the filmmakers could have toned it down with the character’s talents; as it was he was too much of a Gary Stu to be taken seriously.

    The Good, The Bad, The Ugly: The Great Wall (2016)

    Matt Damon in The Great Wall (2016)

    " data-orig-size="1024,1630" sizes="(max-width: 377px) 100vw, 377px" aperture="aperture" />Maybe next time don’t plaster a white man’s face on the poster of a movie called THE GREAT WALL?
  2. There was no real tension in the movie. Despite the many sequences where the leads go face-to-face with the Tao Tie, there was never any real danger of any of the big names dying on screen.
  3. Couldn’t they have found more magnets? It’s China, I’m sure they could’ve scoured for more magnets.

All in all Zhang’s The Great Wall was an okay watch. Nothing too fantastic and certainly incomparable to his more famous hits but I suppose being financed by five different production companies was bound to mess up with his artistic vision. He did manage to keep a lot of the art in the movie though, especially with the aesthetics so there is that. Performances were all right for the most part, except for the notable exception of Pedro Pascual who basically stole the show every time he’s on the screen. The story was interesting and I think I get the whole “east meets west and finds out that they have more in common than differences” thing that the director was trying to get across, but by making the white guy too good at everything and making him lead somebody else’s battle, you’re bound to get some backlash.

THE VERDICT: 5/10

*All photos are lifted from the film’s IMDB page.


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