Hello everyone, sorry about the lack of updates. A combination of money transferring issues (leading to the loss of domain name and inability to hire an editor for the books I have written), work and holidays has led me to be unable to update the website. This year, I promise to work harder to keep this website updated and keep the writing coming. An American in China: A Gonzo Investigation of American Chinese Relations is about half way done and is currently being worked on. I will provide a sample chapter in some time. In the meantime, here is a review of the movie that is yet to come to the United States, The Great Wall.
The Great Wall, a 2016 film that would be a collaboration between the Chinese Wanda Group corporation, the China Film Group Corporation (a Chinese state owned film enterprise), Le Vision Pictures (a Chinese production and film company) and Legendary Pictures, which has made Straight outta Compton, Warcraft, and the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy (Legendary Pictures is now owned by the Wanda Group Corporation which is buying out a lot of movie production studios and AMC Movie Theaters). This would be a one hundred and fifty million dollar film production that, if proven successful with critics and the box office, would be the foot in the proverbial doorway that film production companies would want to exploit for that sweet international box office cash.
This film would already find controversy from its inception due to the claims of white washing a Chinese story by having the very white Matt Damon playing the savior of the Chinese people and the world from an ancient and violent menace. While some would argue that this is blatantly racist considering that a film that is essentially ninety-five percent Chinese made, still has to rely on a white lead, the film does have some large Chinese actors in it such as Jing Tian, Andy Lau and Lu han (a pop singer whose more noticeable claim to fame is starring in Chinese KFC commercials).
So, how does this movie hold up?
It’s sh**. It’s pure unadulterated sh**. I mean, watching this movie from beginning to end was bad. This is the first movie that I have watched that I physically and emotionally got angry at. There were times that I said out loud in a theater full of people “Are you f**king kidding me?!?”. Fair warning, this review will have spoilers.
The movie starts off with Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal and several unnamed extras playing the roles of Spaniards who are searching for gunpowder. Of course they are, in the Song Dynasty (979 AD – 1279 AD), what the hell else are they looking for? The Ark of the Covenant? They find themselves hiding for a short amount of time before the Spaniards (save Damon and Pascal) are killed off by a Tao-Tie, a Chinese creature of myth. The two of them manage to kill it and cut off its hand, before continuing to the Great Wall. After going to the Great Wall, they find that there is a large militia known as the ‘Nameless Order’ who is tasked with killing the Tao-Tie invasion when it happens every sixty years. They meet the commanders of the different sections of the Nameless Order, who of course, don’t trust them. So what immediately happens when Damon and Pascal are captured? The Tao-Tie attack.
Now, this part of the movie begins what is considered many of my angry moments of watching this film. The use of CGI in this film is rampant, like excessively rampant, to the extent that it is easy to see that the use of practical effects were used only for the sets and the costumes. The landscapes, the monsters, the fights, all CGI.
To start off with the monsters, the designs of the creatures are supposed to come off as lizard dog creatures with thick green skin and multiple eyes which are their weak spots, but if you look at these things, they look like the Skrags from the Borderland series. The guardians of the queen are just larger green versions of the Chaos demons from the Dragon Age Inquisition game, and the queen…The queen looks exactly the same as all the smaller soldier monsters. Now…Imagine every film that has a monster queen such as Aliens or Starship Troopers, the queen is distinctive and looks imposing, whether if it is with the design or the size of the monster themselves. The queen is supposed to look different from all of the other monsters, but the queen in The Great Wall looks the same as all the other monsters, which makes it difficult to tell which one is the queen or if they are doing a close up on a random soldier. What the f***? One hundred and fifty million dollars and you can’t come up with original monster designs that were not blatantly stolen from other intellectual properties?
The Great Wall, as described by the film makers, is the Great Wall if designed by Leonardo Da Vinci; a great structure which machinery and devices that are meant to keep out the Tao-Tie. Wait a minute… A large wall that is equipped with devices to keep monsters that eat human flesh out in order to keep humanity safe. Where have we heard of that before…Oh right, Attack on F**king Titan! I am not even kidding about this, if you go to the Wikipedia page, there is a hyperlink at the bottom of the page for the series Attack on Titan which says “a manga series with a similar premise”. What the legitimate f**K? How much is this movie going to rip off other creations? I hope that Hajime Isayama sues your asses.
As for the battle, if there was a certifiable scale to measure plain stupidity in both concept and writing, this would be over nine thousand. So, the main weapons that we see at first are catapults that shoot large flaming balls, soldiers with spears and arrows, and I kid you not, women who jump off the side of the wall with spears and killing the Tao-Tie while bouncing up and down like human yo-yos. Guess what happens to the women…For all except the lone commander, they all die. Did anyone look at the script and say “This is incredibly f**king stupid?”, I mean who said this was a good idea?
So Damon and Pascal get free during the battle and kill one lone monster on top of the wall, which immediately garners the respect of all of the people in the military. Then they meet William Dafoe, who like them before, was looking for that sweet gunpowder. The three of them plan to work together to steal the gunpowder and return to Spain under the false pretense of helping the Chinese, but guess which one is having second thoughts?
You know the answer to this. It’s Matt Damon.
So, after looking over an ancient scroll that they have had for over a thousand years that specifically says that the Tao-Tie can be weakened by magnets (Just wait), they decide to test it out by capturing one of the Tao-Tie and using Damon’s magnet on it to see if it will cut if off from the hive mentality these things have.
Now, in the few minutes that this scene has, it opens colossal plot holes in the story. First off, magnets…F**king magnets…Are you kidding me? The key to defeating this ancient menace is to use the same thing that confuses the Insane Clown Posse? Also, why is it that Matt Damon is the only one in this movie that has a magnet? Magnets can be found all over the world and they could be found as early as back then. Why don’t they cover the walls and their spears with magnets? Also, if they had this scroll that says how to stop these creatures that come every sixty years, why didn’t they open it earlier? They could have prevented needless bloodshed from happening and saved a ton of lives.
So, using harpoons covered in sleeping formula (that looks like yellow paint), they decide to go fishing for Tao-Tie in the fog. They manage to get one, so Damon goes down to secure it. He gets surrounded and Pascal comes to save him. But when it becomes too much for them, the Nameless Order breaks out the weapon they should have been using the entire time: gunpowder bombs.
Now, this opens another large plothole in the story, which caused me to shout out loud “Are you f**king kidding me?”. If they had the ability to make bombs, then why were they not using them before? Why didn’t they make mines that would blow up when the Tao-Tie came? Why not make catapult bombs that could be launched at the queen? This was so infuriating when I saw that they had something that could kill these things easily, but did not use them. Are you telling me that women who go up and down like yoyos, being slaughtered almost immediately, was a better idea than throwing bombs off of the edge of the wall? This is insulting to the film goer’s intelligence.
So, after capturing one of the Tao-Tie, they test the magnet and it works. It is also at this time that the female commander tells Damon that the Tao-Tie were the god’s punishment for mankind’s greed.
This is the filmmaker’s ham-fisted attempts at making an allegoric statement about greed being bad. The message that they are trying to convey is so forced, that all the children programming and after school specials would tell them to tone it the hell down.
The Tao-Tie that is captured is taken to the capital, where the emperor stupidly decides to remove the magnet to test what the safe distance is, thus allowing it to send a message to the other creatures. But while this is happening, the other Tao-Tie, including the queen have tunneled under the wall and head to the capital. Dafoe and Pascal decide to take the gunpowder now, leaving Damon to blame. But as they travel through the desert, Dafoe betrays Pascal by taking the horses and he gets killed by the mountain bandits.
When the Nameless Order realizes that the monsters are going to the capital, they decide to break out the new technology they have had this entire time…are you sitting down for this? They decide to use hot air balloons to go to the capital.
This is the second moment in the movie that I had shouted “Are you f**king kidding me?” during the runtime. They had a means to fly over the creatures this entire time and they did not use them? This, combined with the fact that they had bombs, creates plot holes that only a moron would allow on film. Why the hell didn’t they carpet bomb these monsters from the air where they would be safe? In the film, they show that a lot of the hot air balloons burn upon going into the air, killing some of the soldiers, but why didn’t they make this technology an imperative to perfect? Again, they chose human yoyos instead of an aerial attack? I am sorry, but I am not letting that go. That is the worst idea put to film, worse than having Samuel L. Jackson playing with a foot in The Spirit or having Fin Shepard killing sharks with a chainsaw in Sharknado.
They decide to kill the queen by taking the captured Tao-Tie, covering him up with explosives and filling him up with meat before sending him back to the queen, where they will use an arrow to detonate it. The female commander and Damon climb one of the towers, kill the queen on the third and most dramatic try, and this causes all of the monsters just to stop. Yeah, without a queen, these things just stop moving. You know, in nature, if a queen bee or ant dies, the other insects still are capable of moving around. Killing the queen of any species does not stop the entire species.
So Damon makes the decision to forgo the gunpowder in order to save Pascal (who was captured by the Chinese) and the two of them return to Spain.
This also creates another few plot holes with the ending. If they killed the queen, does that mean another queen can be created and the Tao-Tie can attack again? What is stopping Pascal and Damon from telling everyone about what they have witnessed? With the capital in shambles and the militia that was on the wall decimated, what is stopping another country from invading China? Does the existence of the Tao-Tie mean that there is a god and with that, wouldn’t it undermine all of the world’s religion to the brink of causing a holy war(s)? Wouldn’t this lead to an increase of deadly weapon development?
Another complaint that I would have about the movie (If I didn’t already have enough) would be the lack of character development for any of the characters. All of the actors, both western and eastern, were wooden and did not give a good performance. There was a lack of emotion when characters inevitably died, there was no determination or drive for any of them, even from Matt Damon who is the literal poster child of the movie. By the end of the movie, we know nothing of the characters from since we started watching it. There is little to know about any of the characters and none of them even stand out. Lu Han’s character becomes a martyr in the movie by killing himself to save the others, but we feel nothing for this character’s loss because he only has THREE lines in the entire movie. The only enjoyable character in the entire movie is Pedro Pascal’s character and that’s because he provides some of the more humorous dialogue.
This was a horrible movie that should not be seen by the public. It is insulting to the viewer’s intelligence, the CGI is excessive, the characters are cut out tropes and stereotypes, there is an endless stream of plot holes and inconsistencies, it steals from other more successful properties and yes, it is racist as golden hell. The only good things that I can say about this movie would be that they avoided the stereotype that the white protagonist hooking up with the female lead.
Funny enough, two media sites Maoyan and Douban gave the film a 4.9/10 and a 5.4/10 respectively, which caused the People’s Daily (the Communist Party’s/Chinese Government official media outlet) to harshly criticize both the outlets for causing harm to the Chinese Film Industry. Yeah, two reviews are going to destroy an already abysmal industry that sought reform after the United States made better Chinese films with the Kung Fu Panda series. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a forty percent and it shows. But unfortunately this film already made its money back on the Chinese box office with earning 161 million on a 150 dollar budget.
I implore you, I beg you, do not see this movie. This was a travesty and an insult to film on all fronts. Please, go see La La Land with Ryan Goesling and Emma Stone which has one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a long time or Rouge One: A Star Wars Story which has the most badass scene with Darth Vader.