– Spoiler Alert! –
Last night I watched The Great Wall, with Matt Damon. I had avoided seeing any of the trailers, so all I knew was that it was about the great wall of China and that Matt Damon was in it. Of course I had read about the controversy about white-washing an Asian story and about Matt Damon having 700 hair extensions to be able to sport a man bun, but that was it.
We were going to watch Hidden Figures as well, so I had to find out how long the movie was going to take. I was surprised when I found out it was only one hour and forty-three minutes. Most movies nowadays are two hours or over, especially epic ones like I thought this one to be. Strange.
The first few minutes of the movie was a great scene setter. It was suspenseful, it had action, and it had humour. That was exactly what the whole movie was. I was surprised about the humour in it. I had expected it to be all drama, but it wasn’t. It didn’t run over of one liners, one funny was actually used twice, but it was sprinkled enough to give the whole story an airy atmosphere.
If you don’t want to read about any spoilers, you can still click away now.
I was totally taken aback by the monsters in the movie. I didn’t expect these at all and they upped my liking of the movie. Awesome CG of course, but I couldn’t help comparing the monsters to the ones from Avatar, with gill like organs and eyes in weird places. The feminist in me found it great to see a Queen in charge of them all, but, again, reminded my of the Alien enterprise. Nothing new. As was the art (ink in water flow) used in the end credits, very reminiscent of the series Marco Polo, as was the outfits for the female warriors. For a moment I thought we had crossed movies and were watching elves from Lord of the Rings.
What annoyed me during the movie was the flow. In my opinion, scenes were cut short and I wasn’t given enough time to root for any of the characters. The (surprisingly non-existent romantic) relationship between William Garin (Matt Damon) and Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) could have been so much more. The fact that Commander Lin Mae was chosen to become General was a nice feministic touch, but highly unlikely in ancient China. Made it seem fantastical instead of worthy of belief. The to and fro alliance of Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) to William also seemed whimsical. I think the movie would have been so much better if these relationships had more to it.
Story wise there is a lot more to question of course. I’ll not go into that as ever action story on the big screen nowadays seems to hang together by coincidental occasions and faulty time lines.
As for the white-washing of the movie, I concur with Director Zhang Yimou that the character of William is a let down compared to the honour code the Chinese warriors live by. However, I find it a bit over the top that it is William, together with Commander Lin Mae, who defeats the Queen. Was there really not a Chinese warrior by the Commander’s side who could have done the same? But than again, we wouldn’t have been able to se Matt Damon in close up as much as we can now 🙂 .