What a mess!” was my exclamation at the end of The Great Wall. A mess that makes you scratch your head in puzzlement, at the level of facets that went wrong, even when so many accomplished people were involved.
The Great Wall itself was the biggest monster here: as a China-U.S. co-production, there is a prerequisite for the film to be blockbuster, as big names were attached from both sides. But the push to be great was overwhelming: it extinguished the minute working of character depth, pacing and wrecked what would have been well-written scenes. Everything was crushed in a rush and left to wither under the weight of the movie everyone wanted to make.
The Great Wall begins with mercenary friends William (Matt Damon slipping in and out of an Irish accent), Tovar (Pedro Pascal) and a few others on the run. The group is looking for the hard-to-get weapon of war called the “black powder” (aka. gun powder). The two friends survive after fighting a mysterious monster, and are soon caught by the Nameless Order – a secret group that protects a part of the Great Wall of China that is overrun by green lizard/dinosaur like monsters called Taotie.
The Taotie come from a gap in the mountains every 60 years. Luckily for the Nameless Order, our foreign heroes came to China in the open season, where their help would be much appreciated.
The Nameless Order are a colour coded division of warriors of purple, yellow, black, red and electric blue. The electric blue division is called the Crane Troop a unique group exclusively of women, who acrobatically jump of the sides of the wall attached with bungee like ropes, diving in and out of the rampaging hungry monster horde.
Bravery is one thing, stupidity is suicidal. The way the majority of the ropes tied to the warriors were coming out empty should have made the makers of the film rethink their tactics – or maybe it could be that the Order just didn’t like these ladies.
The leader of the Crane Troops, Commander Lin (Jing Tian) knows English, and is the way of communication for William; she also doubles as his love interest. Wang the Strategist, played by Andy Lau, also speaks English, while the rest of the Asian cast stick to their native tongue as the rest of the world makes do with subtitles.
The two Asians learned English and Latin from Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) who has been a prisoner of the Order for 25 years. Like every foreigner, he has his own nefarious scheme for the fabled black powder.
Taking the best of the best from China, director Zhang Yimou, the man of colour, grand sets and emotion, seemed almost absent creatively. Only a bit of his style can be seen in the grand palace in the film’s finale, and in the colour-coordinated sets of the Nameless Order.
Performances are nothing to write about. Matt Damon is stoic and impersonal and Pascal has close to no chemistry with Damon, underwhelming the bromance aspect; and what was Dafoe even doing in this small throwaway role anyways?
The Asian side of the talent doesn’t fare any better. Jing Tian has the meatiest role from the lot, while a talent like Andy Lau doesn’t even have space to extrapolate his character, let alone make an impact. The list of Asian actors is wasted as irrelevant bystanders, killed off in the name of blockbuster movie carnage.
The Great Wall is made up of an untidy collection of scenes that looked average at best. The cinematography credit is shared by Stuart Dryburgh who shot The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Alice Through the Looking Glass and Zhao Xiaoding who shot the House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower.
Superficial character interactions imply bonding, but in truth are just dialogues without a head or a tail. The story is by Max Brooks, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz the last two, are writers of The Last Samurai; Zwick is the director; the screenplay is penned by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy, the writer of the The Bourne Identity series. With so many colossal names rewriting the film, it is self-explanatory where things went wrong. Simply put “too many cooks spoil the broth”.
Clocking in 104 minutes, The Great Wall is blissfully short. I won’t dare want to find out if the choppy editing by Craig Wood, made it better or worse. •
The Great Wall is a mess that makes you scratch your head in puzzlement, at the level of facets that went wrong, even when so many accomplished people were involved.
The Lego Batman Movie and Split are the first two movies that made the start of this year exciting. The movie is so funny that even the frowniest frown turns right side up and it doesn’t even wait for the title credits to start to do this.
While Lego Batman has been part of the Lego toys and video game world for some time, the full force hit came when he was introduced to the big screen three years ago in The Lego Movie voiced by Will Arnett; to say he left an impression, is a meek statement.
The Lego Batman Movie starts with Batman (Bruce Wayne) with his nine pack abs, fighting crime, eating lobster, and watching Jerry Maguire alone in his giant home theatre, without any need for emotional inclusiveness.
The Joker (Zach Galifianakis), whom he just defeated, wants Batman to recognise his importance in life. However, Batman, with his compulsive nature can’t see anyone in any type of “ship” with him (as in relationship – one of the many, many puns in the movie).
Batman’s non-committal “ship” includes everyone connected to him: his father figure butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) wants him to have a family; his adopted son (by mistake), Dick (Michael Cera) can’t see anything wrong with him, and wants to call him Dad; the new commissioner, Barbara Gordon (Rosario Dawson), wants him to work in a team.
This Batman is so neurotic and haywire that when Joker asks who is your worst enemy, he spontaneously replies “Superman” – and insists upon it. However, he is not antisocial and becomes sad when he is excluded from the Justice League party given by Superman (Channing Tatum) in the Fortress of Solitude with who’s who of the superheroes world attending.
The movie has stellar voice acting by Cera and Fiennes, with Arnett completely dominating scenes with energy, mock gravely-grimness, and excellent comedic timing that made very line work a 100 times over.
Produced by Dan Lin, Roy Lee and directors of The Lego Movie Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (Chris McKay comes on as new director), the screenplay by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern and John Whittington, embeds the world of Lego with pun, deadpan visual jokes and pop culture references. Instances will tickle your funny bone silly, and make the most avid movie or comic book buff scream in delight. There are hilarious references to the 60’s Adam West Batman series and the 1966 Batman movie’s shark repellent.
The Lego Batman Movie is freshly brimming with robust energy that does the impossible – it does not lose its grip on the silliness. It’s a perfect pick-me-up flick, after a long string of weighty Oscar movies. •
The Lego Batman Movie is freshly brimming with robust energy that does the impossible – it does not lose its grip on the silliness. It’s a perfect pick-me-up flick, after a long string of weighty Oscar movies.
What a mess!” was my exclamation at the end of The Great Wall. ....Read Detail
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