Plot: What’s it about?
You know, I’ve long been a fan of Matt Damon. There’s just something about him that seems more relatable to me than some other “A” list Hollywood actors and I think that’s part of (or most of) his appeal. I’ve enjoyed some of his films and his choices, little-known films like Rounders or big budget movies like the recent The Martian. Whatever project he’s in, rest assured you’re probably going to get your money’s worth. So when I heard (or saw) the trailer for The Great Wall, I was a bit perplexed. A long-haired Damon in what looks like an action/adventure film about the Great Wall of China! Ok, I’m intrigued. Couple that with a relative unknown cast, a director that’s certainly not one of Hollywood’s names and, well, again – I’m intrigued. The result? Well, let’s find out.
Two mercenaries, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are in the midst of searching for black powder when they mistakenly stumble upon the wall (The Great Wall of China). They encounter a group known as the “Nameless Order” which is another way of saying they’re a military group set to defend the wall and everything behind it. From what, you might ask? Well a horde of monsters that repeatedly attack. Naturally. William and Tovar join forces with the order and with Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) in tow, they attempt to fight the creatures off. We also meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), someone who’s been taken prisoner by the Order and who might just be the saved by William and Tovar.
To say that this movie is a bit…counter culture is somewhat of an understatement. Yes, we’ve got films dealing with monsters, super heroes and the like, but this one seems to be in a league all its own. I had no problem with the performances in the film and I found it best, very early on, to suspend my disbelief else I’d be setting myself up for a fall. And that’s how you need to approach this film – let it take you on the ride. Don’t try and comprehend it, just sit back and relax and be entertained. I think audiences are expecting every movie to challenge their intellect and you just can’t have those kinds of expectations. Is it Damon’s best movie? Certainly not. But it might be one of his more entertaining.
Video: How’s it look?
The 4K version (as well as its Blu-ray counterpart) looks simply stunning. The movie encompasses a wide gamut of colors, detail, texture and everything in between. And the wide 2.40:1 HEVC 4K transfer leaves little to the imagination. The battle scenes look realistic, costumes and even things like the armor as if you could reach out and touch them. I’m not used to seeing Matt Damon sport a ponytail, so this is a first. At any rate, either version you choose will look its absolute best.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack really makes this movie come alive and it’s evident in nearly every scene. Arrows whiz by, things blow up, burn and each and every instance is accompanied by a sound that places you square in the middle of the action. Now that, my friends, is a soundtrack that immerses you! The included Blu-ray also features the same Atmos track, so no matter which version you choose – you won’t be cheated out of this atmospheric mix. Vocals are strong and clear, LFE are plenty active and surrounds, of course, do their part. No complaints here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted and Extended Scenes – About seven minutes’ worth, with a few extended sequences in the mix. Nothing is really added with these, however.
- Commander Lin Enters the Great Hall
- Guards Take Tovar to the Barracks
- Ballard Takes Tovar Inside the Wall
- Scheming in Ballard’s Suite (Extended)
- Funeral Sequence (Extended)
- Tovar and Ballard Wait for William
- Lin Mae Arrives at the West Tower
- Emperor Sequence (Extended)
- Matt Damon in China – Damon discusses his preparation for the role and a bit on the film as a whole.
- Working with Director Zhang Yimou – The cast and crew laud praise upon their beloved director.
- The Great Wall: Visual Effects – I enjoyed this one, it’s a breakdown of some of the visual effects and how they did them in the movie.
- Man vs. Monster – A trio of the battle scenes are examined.
- Weapons of War – A look at the “great wall” and its use a weapon.
- Designing a Spectacular World – A production design feature that shows some of the lengths that they went through to give the movie its look and feel.
The Bottom Line
Depending on your particular point of view, there’s a lot to like (or dislike) about The Great Wall. I found it campy and fun, but then again I’m not really “right in the head” (as my wife says). There’s no denying the technical specs are going to please viewers – it looks and sounds amazing. The supplements offer a little more incentive towards a purchase, but casual fans might want to give it a rental first.