Movie Review: The Great Wall (2016)

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The Great Wall (2016)

So even adhering to my no-spoilers rule, there is so much I could talk about in this movie that I could vomit words at you for days and still, somehow, find more. I’ll try not to do that. But where to start?

Let’s try with what it says on the tin.

“The Great Wall tells the story of an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world’s most iconic structure.”

The opening covers, also, how long the wall took to build and asks the question: what were they trying to keep out?

I’m sure there are a lot of mythos about why the Wall was built, and some were true and some possibly weren’t. No one currently alive lived in that time period, so no one can say accurately that any myth or legend is wrong, only improbable.

We do know a lot of people were hunting for black powder at the time the movie is set, and anyone who brought it home would have been set up for life, which is what starts are opening scene: possibly the only white guy in the movie and his cohort are heading for China and dealing with bandits along the way.

And that’s one of the things I love about this movie. Not because it’s got diversity– and let’s be realistic here, a movie set in China about Chinese legends is about Chinese people, so the Chinese people don’t count as part of the diversity for the movie, the non-Chinese people do– no, that’s not it. But the movie deals with very serious, realistic hazards of the time period: bandits, long stretches of limited supplies, and how very dead you can be if you lose your food. Also the hazards of native fauna.

Although native is somewhat subjective, given the movie…

The ‘elite force’ in the movie is a massive army based entirely on the Wall, which I can gleefully tell you without spoiling makes an amazing fortification. That’s part of the reason the wall exists, right? Fortifications. The army is carefully designed and fully functional, and if they existed in that context today, nobody would dare dream of invading China. Or, you know, anywhere else with similar fortifications.

I kind of want to build those fortifications. Between those and the army, they’ll make a mean reference for tabletop campaign.

I think everything the people in this show pull off is within the human limits, given proper training and equipment. And I mean a lot of proper training. Please do not watch this movie and then try it at home. I’m serious. If you want to try some of this, go find proper methods of doing it. Bungee jumping, wall climbing, learn you some martial prowess. And then remember that even this army doesn’t do it without safeguards unless they have no choice.

The graphics for this movie were superb. I know a lot of it was computer generated and much of this likely took place in front of a green screen, but unless you know for sure which is generated and which is animatronics, it’s unlikely you’re going to guess it. I can’t say for sure animatronics are in this movie, but considering the huge comeback they’re making, I also can’t say they aren’t. Terrifyingly everything in this movie looks real enough, and plausible enough, that I should be very suspicious of alternate realities where they went over and filmed this nonsense occurring.

The plot of the movie is good too. It’s not a “hero from another land” — or at least, not in the traditional sense. Sure, he’s great at warfare. Sure, the movie focuses on him. But all movies have to have a lead point of view somehow, even if that’s just you. And it’s unlikely actual traders would have gotten very far, why not send a mercenary who knows how to fight and keep himself alive?

The characters are real, intrinsically human instead of two-dimensional cookie cut-outs. And for William, the POV character? His redemption arc is pretty solid.

Bonus for those of you who get twitchy? No romantic subplot!

–Natasha
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Guest Post: Anime taught me how to live.

Guest poster Vinayak writes a post that I can fully agree with. Read on! -Natasha

Vinayak writes:

When I was a little kid, I was very shy. Easily intimidated. Afraid of my surroundings. I never liked talking to people all that much, and as a result of that, I had little to no close friends. I was even bullied, for a little while back in fifth grade. Not because of me watching anime, but because I seemed to be easy prey. I didn’t let it last long, but it did happen. But I was okay with that. I had something which I, to this day consider to be better than any friends I could have had.

No, I didn’t play sports to let out any frustrations or energy. No, I didn’t passionately play an instrument that allowed me to express my emotions through sounds. I watched anime.

I was first exposed to anime when I was about five years old and Naruto aired on cable television for the first time in my country. I absolutely loved it. From there on, I went on to watch more and more anime. I watched Capeta. I watched Bleach. I watched Death Note. And before I knew it, I had fallen in love with a medium, which in my humble opinion is the greatest medium of all time.

I didn’t need friends, rather I didn’t want them, by that point in time. I had anime. All of the shows that I watched, all of the characters that I got the opportunity to meet… they mattered more to me than anything else in the world. And they weren’t just characters to me. They were my friends. I had friends who I cared a lot about.

I remember having cheered on ‘Capeta’ during his races harder than the animated crowds ever could. I remember having spent hours memorising the words to the ‘Naruto’ opening theme just so I could sing it each time it was played. I remember having jumped with excitement when I saw Ichigo turn into a shinigami for the first time. ‘Death Note’ successfully turned apples into my favourite fruits. During classes, instead of focusing on a word my teachers were saying, I remember spacing out while thinking about the Elric brothers and where their fate would take them next. I remember that I was on the verge of tears during and after the last couple of episodes of ‘Angel Beats!’.

To be very honest, I owe a lot to anime. If it weren’t for those fictional characters who I considered, and still consider my best friends, I honestly don’t think I would be half the person that I am today. Anime taught me to be empathetic, to listen to people. I surely will not be  the nicest person if you were to ever talk to me, but I will listen to you, and I will be your friend if you need me. Anime was there for me, for a lonely little kid who was so very much intimidated by the world, and it taught me to be there for other people, and I want to be.

I want to be there for people, like the anime characters were there for me. I want to help people, like the main character from ‘Yahari Oregairu’. I want to encourage people like the characters from ‘Naruto’ encouraged me. I want to cry for real people, like I cried for the characters during and after the end of ‘AnoHana’. And someday, eventually, I want to watch my own love story unfold, just like I have countless romantic sub plots.

You know what the best part is? It’s not just me. There’s the possibility that somebody reading this may be nodding their head in agreement and understanding. Anime is a medium which has brought together people from all over the world into a singular community. And in that community, I am not the only one who has been so greatly influenced by anime. There are literally thousands of people who would stand behind me when I say that, ‘Anime has made me the person that I am.’ And you know what? They would be right. Because all of us, in this little niche of ours, are what we are… because of us the single happy accident in our lives: stumbling across anime.

-Vinayak
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