Michael Simon ’19/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
For all the commotion that came about due to the controversy around the release of The Great Wall, it is rather easy to see that it wound up being a non-issue. To make everything clear, Matt Damon’s character William is not meant to be, nor is it ever implied that he is, a man of Asian descent. Instead, he plays a traveler in search of valuable materials who gets mixed up in the chaos of the Great Wall’s defense against fierce, other-worldly creatures. The cast is populated by wonderful Asian actors and actresses who deliver a very fair amount of representation, so this was not the movie’s issue.
The movie’s actual issues, and there are several, can be found in the pacing and dialogue that are meant to move the story along. The film is structured in a way where either every major event is happening at once, or nothing of importance is happening whatsoever, which makes the film rather hectic at times, and causes the viewers to get lost. Luckily, the story itself is decent and simple so the average viewer will be able to understand what is going on more often than not. If their mind starts to wander, or they lose interest during the slower parts of the film, it is no big task to fill in the blanks once the plot picks up again.
As for the actors in this film, some do a very good job of bringing their characters to life and do their best with a very wooden script. As stated earlier, Matt Damon drives the cast along with Tian Jing who portrays Lin Mae, the Commander of the Chinese forces on the Great Wall. If nothing else, these two characters do the best job at maintaining the audience’s interest simply because they are fun to watch. Even though the dry script makes much of the dialogue dreary and far too abrupt, they still manage to create an interesting dynamic.
The same cannot be said for the other two American characters, Tovar (Pedro Pascal) and Ballard (Willem Defoe), who both seem to become less like characters and more like caricatures who just fill out a subplot. Since the movie pays them very little attention, they are the worst victims of the dryness of the script. The scenes especially between Tovar and William seem so cut-and-dry that it’s hard for them to have the weighty impact the film clearly wants them to, and their little subplot becomes painfully predictable.
Now, there are plenty of good elements to this movie as well. For every dry scene that is boring to the viewer, there is an exciting and brutal action sequence that genuinely grips the audience. The battle sequences are thrilling and well-staged so that they never feel repetitive. Of the four or five battles throughout the movie, each seem different enough where the audience doesn’t feel as if they’re watching the same thing over and over again. The movie successfully releases information at a steady rate so that each advancement of the plot seems natural and reasonable. Additionally, the movie is very well filmed with some truly beautiful shots that blend light and color extremely well. This is most apparent in the third act when everything comes together, culminating in a final action sequence that is truly breathtaking.
Overall, the controversy over The Great Wall is fairly unwarranted; the movie is not white-washed beyond belief and still has very effective representation in terms of the cast of characters that drive the plot. The true issues with the film lie in the clunky dialogue and the dreadful pacing that ultimately make it a bit of a chore to follow. As stated above, the movie itself is not hard to follow, but rather the issues and overall blandness make the viewer question why they would bother in the first place. While there are parts of the film that work really well, they are so few and far between and not overly worthwhile in the end. This Great Wall simply isn’t so great after all.
Overall Grade: C+
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