It’s time to check out a monster film that didn’t stay in the spotlight for very long. The Great Wall had some potential as the trailer was fairly solid and the locale looked surprisingly good. Unfortunately, it ended up missing many of its objectives and the film fell flat. It has some good ideas, but fails to utilize them well which hurts the whole package in the end.
William and Tovar are shifty business men who steal stuff and make a profit. It’s rather vague what they are actually doing or the film just breezed by that description. Either way, their party is picked off by monsters and they are forced to surrender to the Chinese army as they were being followed by a pack of bandits. It was certainly a rough start for the heroes, but they were able to help fend off another monster invasion which earns them into the army’s good graces. General Lin in particular is impressed with William’s archery after initially wanting to kill him on the spot. William takes this in stride with casual insults and passive aggressive lines being thrown around by both characters. Can William survive the rest of the monster attacks or is he doomed?
As seems to be the case a lot of the time, William and Tovar aren’t heroes. Even though they were saved by bandits, they want to steal the army’s gunpowder so they can sell it off for a high price. William starts to drift away from this plan when he becomes attached to the war cause, but Tovar won’t be dissuaded. He never becomes a good character and does go as far as to betray the army and steal it anyway. He may be a bad apple, but William has influence so no harm ever really comes to Tovar nor does the guy ever learn his lesson. He surprisingly didn’t have any character development. Lin
William is a fine lead. He’s a super tough fighter who can be considered a prodigy and he accomplishes more than scores of other warriors right away. His skills are so legen…dairy that he becomes a hero rather quickly. That still doesn’t prevent him from getting knocked out by sucker hits and not making up his mind at times, but nobody can be perfect. Surprisingly the film didn’t go for a romance between him and the main heroine which was realistic for a change. They’re in the middle of a war so I’d like to think that romance wouldn’t be the first thought in their minds. I would have liked to have seen William do a little more as he never really becomes that notable, but he’s probably the second best character here by default.
After all…the cast is basically just 3 characters. We have an old guy who’s also a traitor and a tactician who isn’t bad, but their roles are very minor. Lin is the final main character and she’s a solid fighter. She’s clearly high ranked in the army and moves up quite a bit by the end. Her armor looks pretty cool and on the whole I liked the blue color scheme as it reminded me of Mega Man. I do have to say that her method of fighting in the army is rather in efficient though. Her duty is to jump from the roof, slash a few monsters and then get pulled back by the rope. The problem is that it only lets you hit 1-3 of the monsters and there is a high chance of dying instantly. Since the monsters are numerous in number, I can see why the humans are losing the war. It’s just such a terrible tactic and it’s too bad she was saddled with this job. She was instrumental in the climax though and at least mastered her duty.
Here’s where the problems start. First of all, I didn’t like it when China appeared at the end or when William admits that the rest of the modern world exists. At the start this feels like a fairly apocalyptic type film where there are just ravagers left and monsters all around. If not that drastic, then the heroes are at least deep in the past so everyone is primitive. No, apparently China just blocked itself from the outside world so they don’t really know what basic things are like magnets and gunpowder. Fortunately, William has been around the block a few times and tells them about the modern world. Personally, I’d say that it wrecks the atmosphere completely and just really changes the film.
Another issue is with the monsters. Don’t get me wrong, the actual monsters are great. They show exceptional teamwork and intelligence. They stay one step ahead of the army throughout the whole film and it’s quite impressive. The fact that they also look after their injured made me root for them instead of the main characters the whole time. By the same token, they felt more like animals than monsters the whole time so seeing the heroes stab at them was pretty gruesome. The fights are intense and the only weak point for the monsters is naturally the eye. This makes the whole thing that much worse. As a result, the action scenes were the weakest part of the film for me and pretty much single handily drop the score all the way down. It’s just not fun to watch as the monsters should have won. It doesn’t help that the humans are just generally unlikable aside from William and Lin, but those two are just yes men so it’s not as if they will stop the others.
The visuals are definitely nice in this film though. I like how all of the groups are color coordinated. The armor designs are really on point and are probably some of the best ones that I’ve seen in a film in quite some time. The monsters also looked acceptable for me. I don’t care for the third eye stuff but a monster is a monster at the end of the day. I would have preferred a large city backdrop like NYC, but the Great Wall works well enough as well. The wall is definitely large though and it’s easy to see how traitors can hide around. Nobody knows what the other is supposed to do after all.
Overall, I can’t help but feel that the film and it’s entire premise are ripped off from Attack on Titans. It is a fun plot to play around with though so I can see why films would borrow from it a bit. This film isn’t bad for the most part. The writing isn’t anything special, but it’s all right. The main leads are good and help to make up for the rest of the cast. The fights are just a downer since you’ll be rooting for the monsters the entire time and once the main part of China gets involved, things get a little sour as well. I gotta give props to the monster queen’s body guards. Those guys did a pretty good job throughout. You can certainly do better with monster films and I’d recommend one of the new Godzilla’s. It has the right blend of humor and action.