A Head-Scratching Monster Movie
By Skip Sheffield
“The Great Wall” is a real head-scratcher of a movie. Is it supposed to be an historical drama? Is it a really low-key comedy? Or how about a full-out monster movie?
There are plenty of pre-historic-looking CGI monsters swarming about and Matt Damon plays William, the dragon-slayer.
Perhaps something was lost in the translation. This is the first English language film for Chinese director Yimou Zhang (“House of Flying Daggers”). Also it is in 3-D format, which puts me at a disadvantage. I am blind in my left eye. In order to appreciate 3-D one must have full binocular vision. I have never had that. When I put on the silly 3-D glasses the image becomes clearer, but not perfect. There are ghost images that can only be realized by a fully-sighted viewer.
The plot, such as it is, involves William and his sidekick Tovar (Chilean actor Pedro Pascal) searching for “black powder,” which is another name for gunpowder. The duo gets imprisoned within the Great Wall just in time for an invasion by the CGI reptiles. The time is about 1,000 years ago, and black powder was a mysterious new invention. William’s main weapon is a bow and arrow, and of course he is a deadly shot. William enlists the help of Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) who happens to be an attractive young woman. Willem Dafoe plays a character named Ballad, whose purpose I never quite understood.
Predictably there is a final battle royal between William and all those CGI monsters. Guess who wins? I’m done with my head-scratching. See “The Great Wall” if you’d like. Visually it is very impressive.