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23 Feb 2017

A Sad Waste: Despite Matt Damon, a Legendary Director and a Massive Budget, 'The Great Wall' Is Truly Terrible

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Pedro Pascal and Matt Damon in The Great Wall. Pedro Pascal and Matt Damon in The Great Wall.

Something in the neighborhood of $17 bazillion zillion got thrown at this movie thing called The Great Wall, a mash up of American stars and kick-ass Asian directors.

That’s $17 bazillion zillion somebody would’ve been better off spending on masking tape and gummi bears. Matt Damon stars in this mess, and this may very well represent the low point of his career, a career that has included the atrocious Jason Bourne and Hereafter. He probably thought he was in safe hands, because The Great Wall is helmed by director Zhang Yimou, maker of such masterpieces as Hero, House of Flying Daggers and—one of my very favorite movies—The Road Home. Damon was probably all like, “Hey, Yimou is calling the shots. If anything, I’m going to look good in this pic!”

Then … he saw his wardrobe. It begins with big furry wigs and beards, and then declines into a sad man bun as the film progresses. He looks silly from frame one.

He sounds silly, too. He’s attempting some sort of accent here, a cross between Irish and Scottish and dickweed. Every time he talks in this movie, it hurts the ears, and the soul—especially the souls of those who love Matt Damon.

Damon plays Legolas … I mean, William, a mercenary, expert archer roaming China with his best mate, Tovar (Pedro Pascal), in search of the majestic “black powder,” which they hear can blow things up real good. One spooky night, the Green Arrow … sorry, William, slays a mysterious beast. He chops off its arm and stows it—something that will save their lives when they come into contact with The Great Wall.

You see, The Great Wall wasn’t just built for American tourists so they could run around on it and take Facebook selfies. Nope, it was built because the Chinese were trying to hold back attacks on their sovereignty by non-distinctive, shitty CGI creatures that look like a cross between a Gremlin and that ridiculous looking Ripley-alien baby that showed up at the end of Alien Resurrection. (I know that’s an obscure reference, but it’s totally true.)

Once the Chinese army discovers that Katniss … sorry, William was able to kill one of the legendary yet totally unoriginal beasts on his own, they invite him in for food, lodging and stultifying, inane dialogue. While inside, Robin Hood … oh, pardon me, William starts to like them and feel at home. He even shows them how good he is with his arrows, aided by more unimpressive CGI.

Willem Dafoe shows up as Ballard, a wild-eyed guy wearing an Obi-Wan Kenobi robe who hides in the shadows all bug-eyed and knows all about the black powder. He’s been living on the other side of the wall, inexplicably, for years, looking for his chance to escape. (I never did figure out if he was a prisoner, a willing resident or a male prostitute.) When Rambo … I apologize, William shows up, Ballard figures this is his chance to escape. As it turns out, his escape plan would’ve worked just fine on his own, and didn’t necessarily require somebody else, leading to one of the film’s many plot holes.

The wall itself is the product of more god-awful CGI. You would think with this budget (a reported $150 million, which might as well be $17 bazillion zillion), they could’ve made this movie look better. There’s one moment where Daryl Dixon … I beg your pardon, William is swinging with a girl in his arms, and it’s terribly obvious Damon’s face has been computer-glued onto a stuntman’s body. There wasn’t a single moment in this movie where the effects were impressive.

I don’t think Damon will be returning as Hawkeye … Jesus Christ, William in any sequels. The Great Wall is a great disaster of epic proportions, and an unfortunate English debut for the great Yimou.

Matt Damon should stick with movies about being lost in space and solving gargantuan math problems. No … more … wig … movies.

The Great Wall is regrettably showing at theaters across the valley.

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