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Mr. Movie review: 'The Great Wall' beautifully done, but predictable horror movie

Mr. Movie review: 'The Great Wall' beautifully done, but predictable horror movie

"The Great Wall" is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy action violence. Moments later the group gets attacked by guards on horseback with William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) the only ones escaping.

While the battle scenes are impressive and the cinematography is eye-catching along with the soundtrack from Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man), The Great Wall is overall rather a mess.

The Chinese soldiers or Nameless Order wear different colors of armor and in one conversation between William and Tovar, we know what color means what kind of soldier they are - I suppose in some ways it helps us to know who is who once the battle ensues.

The Great Wall comes out today.

Damon and Pascal have come to the Wall looking for explosive "black powder", but they're soon enlisted in the Chinese army's fight against a bunch of giant dog-lizard monsters that swarm the Wall every 60 years.

The creature feature centers around William (played by Matt Damon with, what sounds like, a Canadian accent).

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"Tell the world what you have seen", a character exclaims in "The Great Wall", "and what is coming!" And while the Taotie spend too much time roaring and gnashing their teeth at the screen - a problem that afflicts most CGI beasts in movies these days - their queen is a frightening creation with shades of "Alien" in her DNA.

The Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper adds: "Director Yimou is an fantastic visual stylist and he delivers a few wonderfully outrageous sequences, but what we're getting here is basically a pricey monster movie with uninteresting monsters, and [one-dimensional] human characters". Fortunately, Good Will Hunting shows up to teach them that not all white people are bad. It was just referenced enough to make me think "I get it!"

That his character exists at all speaks to the problem at the center of the whole production: the larger calculations behind-the-scenes, the fact that "The Great Wall" has an agenda behind simply entertaining its audience and imparting a message about global cooperation.

Some have said Damon is honoring the ancient Hollywood tradition of whitewashing, in which Asian roles are given to Western actors. A joint production of USA and Chinese studios, the film is the first English-language production for Zhang and famously (or perhaps infamously, depending on the final box-office numbers) has the highest price tag of any movie ever filmed entirely in China. But look, Suicide Squad made a bunch of money and that was garbage. News. "I was like, 'I am old".

It's fun, but it's not enough to save "The Great Wall" from the weight of its exhausted conventions.

Demetri Ravanos is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and has reviewed movies for Raleigh and Company, Military1.com and The Alan Kabel Radio Network.


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