So, SCMP recently reviewed The Great Wall and give it a 3.5 rating. No offence, but ... erm, no.
Okay, for those of you who've not seen the movie, beware: spoiler alert ahead! Also, a special alert to fellow trypophobes (people who have a fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps), STAY AWAY from the movie. Trust me, one computer-generated beast is hard enough with all the bumps on their skin, you can’t stand thousands of them charging at the Great Wall.
So the story begins with William (Matt Damon), Tovar (Pedro Pascal), and three other survivors from a European mercenary group searching for black powder being pursued by Khitan bandits. The mercenaries were then attacked by a monster and only William and Tovar survive to be taken by the Nameless Order at the Great Wall.
It is then revealed that the monster is of the Taotie species, which in Chinese mythology are greedy beasts who eat anything. And in the movie, there’s a Taotie invasion every 60 years as a punishment, ever since a tyrant took power in China. Fun for all the rulers after him, right??
Now, here’s the first question: it’s clear Taotie only target the Han people who live on the Central Plain, and show no interest in the Khitan; but then ... why were William and Tovar also attacked?
I worried about the logic, or rather, the lack of it, of the blockbuster the minute the film began.
Anyway, William and Tovar become involved in the fight against the monsters, and were wow’ed by the Chinese troops' preparation for battle. Now let us examine that.
The army is divided into five companies. General Lin (Jing Tian) – the heroine – leads a company of female soldiers prepared to do anything, including diving off of a platform from the Wall with bungee cords attached in order to attack the beasts. I can’t help but question: what’s the point? Remember their rivals are flesh-eating monsters? Not to mention they can totally jump up to the top of the Wall if they wanted to. To me, these poor women are more bait than soldiers.
All of the fancy-yet-not-efficient military tactics and colourful uniforms remind me of a large scale Olympic opening ceremony - which Zhang Yimou also directed in 2008. Maybe he just couldn't get over the peak of his career?
At this point, Tovar and another European they met at the barrack, who had been kept prisoner for more than 20 years, see a chance to escape with the black powder that is the whole purpose they're in China for, but William is convinced to help the Chinese fight against the monsters. Just because Lin told him it’s not about money, but all about trust in this army. (If you're thinking, "huh? What? What does that have to do with anything?" Then ... exactly!) And just like that, after a couple of days with the Chinese army, William finds his conscience.
But I get it, anything for the heroine.
I forgot to mention, Lin has by now become the commander-in-chief because the previous one died during a Taotie ambush. What a convenient way to give the heroine the spotlight. But I guess at least this gives an Asian female lead more screen time.
And then, the Chinese army finally learns the Taotie’s Achilles' heel: magnets. If there’s a magnet close to a Taotie, it deafens the monsters to orders from its Queen, rendering it helpless. Here's the best part: magnets are not something new in China. Everyone in the film seemed familiar with it when William produces the tiny magnet he happened to carry around on his person. But apparently, there isn't a single magnet anywhere in China. Only William has one, and with it, the Chinese are finally saved.
I. Can’t. Even.
I’ve sacrificed my time and money to watch and blog about The Great Wall so you don’t have to waste a cent. However, I’ll admit that Zhang Yimou never disappoints in his trademarke visual grandeur. So if you can’t get enough of Olympic-scale effects on a big screen, go for it.
Oh, and this is a blog and not a review because this movie doesn't deserve a rating.