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The Great Wall (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)
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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 tells the story of an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world's most iconic structure. Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau also star in this sweeping epic.
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The Great Wall tells the story of a group of Western mercenaries, searching for a powerful substance known as black powder, in China. Soon, they get involved in protecting the Great Wall of China against an army of monsters, known as the Taotie.
Overall, there is a good balance between East and West. A Western screenplay by Max Brooks keeps things going quickly without the irritating self sacrifice and slow dialog of the recent Dragon Blade movie (Jackie Chan, Adrien Brody). Director Zhang Yimou is known for extravaganzas and sometimes the action does look acrobatic but it's not too bad. The excessive slow motion deaths and explosions that plague some Chinese movies isn't such a problem here.
This was an all-out action movie that explored the themes of greed and sacrifice, nobility and savagery. Yimou's masterful direction elevates the movie above standard action fare, giving moments of truly astounding visuals. His use of color not only adds to the visual flair, but also helps to add coherence to the movie while the editing is never confusing.
With a running time of less than 2 hours, viewers expecting in-depth characterization along the lines of "Hero" and "Curse of the Golden Flower" will be disappointed. The quiet scenes were a bit lacking, leaving the audience emotionally cold.
Nevertheless, it’s not a bad movie and certainly not ambitious enough to deserve any of the vitriol people read into the story without ever watching the movie. I was entertained but not awestruck.
+ In the vain of Hero or House of Flying Daggers, there is a fantastic use of color and visuals that great some great eye candy and a mood of "epic"-ness.
> Is it as complex a story plot as Hero? No. Pretty straight-forward story.
> Is it as epic feeling as the defense of Helms Deep in the LOTR movies? No, but it is still grand enough in scope to feel intense.
> We should have selected the Closed Caption option at the movie theater as there were a couple of parts in the dialogue that was difficult to understand. The blu ray will help with this for our second go around.
+ My wife did NOT want to see a mindless action movie (she just rolled her eyes at the Fast & Furious 8 trailer). This was not a mindless action movie. The action scenes are purposeful to develop and define the characters and plot. There was enough action for us guys, but not so much that others would be turned off.
> Interestingly there isn't a strong romance sub-plot. This is neither good or bad, but simply unexpected.
+ A good amount of banter and humor between Matt Damon's character (William) and his sidekick character (Tovar), played by Pedro Pascal. So much so, that my wife wasn't expecting that many jokes and banter, but it was welcomed and rarely did the humor fall flat. . .even for the jokes we've seen/heard before in other movies.
-- For acting ability, I'm most familiar with Matt Damon, William Dafoe, and Andy Lau. There was no real challenge in this movie for any of them nor anything to make them shine. Actually William Dafoe's character isn't a completely minor character, but when looking back the role could have been played by any Caucasian actor and still make the story work. Too bad the movie doesn't allow for them to demonstrate their skill more. . .it's not one of those kind of stories.
> On that note, the movie was entertaining and kept our interest. Could it have felt grander in scope or between music and direction made us feel more emotion for the characters? Yes. But. . .it seemed to stay focused on the story it wanted to tell and told it well enough without taking the chance of getting lost in trying to be bigger than it is.
In other words I kind of wanted more epic-ness, but still enjoyed it for what it is. We did NOT feel like it was a waste of a movie ticket for the two of us to watch it, but were pleasantly entertained.
European mercenaries make their way to the Orient in search of the super weapon ‘black powder.' They discover a powerful army with just one purpose: defending the world against monsters. However, are the true monsters us?
No. It is quite obviously the giant green lizard things.
What did I think?
This is a film about ideas. The story is pretty average, and the character motivations are thin on the ground. The film jumps from design idea to illustration idea and every time it is dazzling. It is a bit like flipping through the sketchbook of that art geek from high school who would shyly tell you what she would do if she had access to funding. Well, someone got access to funding. They do not know how to write dialogue, but their visual storytelling is epic.
The scenery and the production was breath taking, at times being of epic proportion. There is a "love" aspect which amounts to two people who eye each other. The film is not in any way historical with the wall and the Chinese having weapons that alludes historians. The film, at times had elements that looked like a LOTR siege, as I expected Orlando Bloom to show up at any time on a skateboard, counting Taoties as he shoots them...but they typically take far more than a single arrow.
The script has a number of plot holes. My big question is if why didn't they poison tip their arrows?
Guide: No F-words, sex, or nudity. There is killing, but nothing overly gory and graphic that lingers on the screen. Soft 4 stars.
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