So this review is long overdue… not that anyone was anticipating this review from me. But more there has been a list of movies I’ve wanted to see, but sadly missed in the theatres, but finally catching up on on rentals. BUT at long last, at least for me, the review for THE GREAT WALL!
Now THE GREAT WALL didn’t do too hot in theatres. If memory serves, this movie had the unfortunate luck in opening when lack of inclusion & whitewashing was at a fever pitch in Hollywood, specifically for Asian talent. With outcry over over Tilda Swinton’s casting in DOCTOR STRANGE… or it could’ve been that Margret Cho was stoking that fire. And of course, the outcry of whitewashing in GHOST IN THE SHELL.
And unfortunately I think people put THE GREAT WALL into this whitewashing bucket. Which I think definitely affected it’s box-office, but I’ll get into that later.
As for the movie itself, it focuses on two Westerners, William (Matt Damon) & Tovar (Pedro Pascal), former military/turned mercs/turned thievin’. hen they come across the Great Wall in their travels as they bare witness to a great army preparing to battle against an ancient force.
That force? Monsterous beings called the taotie, creatures in Chinese mythology, at least in the case of this movie, that attack the empire every 60 years to keep the greed of mankind in check.
From here, it’s an all out ride as William finds himself again, and a fight he can believe in, as we head into an epic battle.
And epic it was. Watching this, I couldn’t help but think what a perfect balance of business and filmmaking that this movie was. That being all the arial acrobatics, colors and martial arts you’d expect from a movie like this if it came straight out of China as a foreign film. But at the same time, from a business perspective, had the right amount of localization by weaving a story that allowed for incorporating named actors to get butts in seats.
It’s just unfortunate it didn’t work out that way.
As for my enjoyment of this movie? I really enjoyed it! I mean, sure, when all is said and done, it’s a little forgettable. But in the moment? I really fun movie.
If I had to pick a criticism? Matt Damon was performing with some sort of pseudo-European accent that just really wasn’t working for me. I don’t know if it was Matt Damon’s inability to deliver the accent, or it just wasn’t working overall? But yea, wasn’t a fan of it here.
But overall, THE GREAT WALL is definitely worth AT LEAST a rent if you dig the premise of the movie.
Now as for the whitewashing claims against the movie? It was something I didn’t get here. I mean, I don’t believe this is a movie is, taotie aside, based on some ancient folklore that the leads were changed from Asian to white. But if you wanted to get into it, more a movie taking elements from Chinese mythology to weave a narrative.
That said, based on the trailers alone, I always looked at this movie as one where Westerners wandered into an Asian world to embark on a adventure. As an Asian-American myself, never saw this a appropriation of Asian culture and/or whitewashing. So I’m not sure where that position came from from the critics.
And as for lack of inclusion in Hollywood. It’s natural to want a big sweeping movement for change. But baby steps people. And THE GREAT WALL was a HUGE baby step in that direction. I mean, sure, 2/3 of the principal leads weren’t Asian. BUT this is a movie with a predominately Asian cast, a predominately Asian crew, AND it’s had an Asian director!
And as a slight sidebar on inclusion, the other third of the principal leads included a wonderful actress, Tian Jing, who played Commander Lin Mae. And for me, if her performance was any indication, definitely the ability there to carry a movie.
But when all was said and done, I definitely have to give kudos to Universal and the other studio partners, hellva step in the right direction, and a fun movie to boot!