The Great Wall - Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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The Great Wall



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Movie: :3stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :4stars:



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Movie

The Great Wall was the subject of much discussion for the last year, and mostly for some pretty eye roll worthy reasons. It was announced that famed Hong Kong director Yimou Zhang, who was known for such films as House of Flying Daggers, Raise the Red Lantern, Curse of the Golden Flower and Hero, was going to be making a giant fantasy epic and fans went wild. Then it was announced that he was casting Matt Damon as one of the lead characters (because he and the casting director were found out to be huge fans) and the internet EXPLODED with people screaming about “white washing” and “white Hollywood” trying to ruin Asian cinema. Celebrities like Constance Wu spoke up and made public comments about the evils of white washing etc, but when push came to shove and the movie actually came out, it was exactly as the most level headed of us expected. A big, dumb, Honk Kong fantasy action film that just happened to have Matt Damon as one of the stars. Nothing more, nothing less.

We all thought that the great wall of China was meant to keep out the Mongolian hordes. Well, just like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter we appeared to have been lied to. What it REALLY was built for was to keep out legions of dragon like beasts that arise every 60 years and devour anything in their way. A few hundred years ago was the last uprising, occurring as a handful of Western European soldiers lead by William (Matt Damon) trek across the Chinese border looking for black powder to fuel the European war machine. When the group are ambushed by these green monsters (later revealed as the Tao Tei) all that is left is William and his friend Tovar (Pedro Pascal). It seems that these men have stumbled right into the middle of the 60-year uprising and barely are able to make it to the great wall, where they are captured by Chinese forces who are hunkering down for the battle of a lifetime.

It doesn’t take much to figure out what happens next. William and Tovar prove their worth the lovely General Lin Mae (Tian Jing), and the duo team up against the beasties in order to save all of humankind, yadda yadda yadda. Well, things aren’t all hunky dory in our click, as Tovar wants to steal the black powder weapons and escape during the battle with a captured European (Willem Dafoe), but William has grown a bit of a conscience and is planning to stay by Lin Mae’s side and fight to the bitter end. This is naturally thwarted when Tovar makes an escape plan, and the idiotic Chinese nobles capture a Tao Tei and lead it RIGHT into the capital city where it can call upon the hordes of other beasties to come in and wipe out the reigning populace.

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If you’re expecting The Great Wall to be a giant epic film like House of Flying Daggers, Hero or Curse of the Golden Flower then you’re going to be in for a bit of a disappointment. The Great Wall is exactly as the trailer portrays. A chinse fantasy epic that is short on plot, but high on explosions, fancy martial arts choreography and stunning costuming. It’s big, it’s dumb and it has Matt Damon trying his best to not be Matt Damon in the middle of an ancient battle. That’s about it. There’s no white washing of history, there’s no real plot (besides defeat the queen and all the hordes of minions will fall) and there’s LOTS of high flying wire work and some AMAZING cinematography. It’s simple really. If you’re expecting something intense and sweepingly epic you’ll be disappointed, but if you want to see pretty colors, lots of alien monster blood and Hong Kong actin tropes, then by all means, you’re going to be entertained.

It’s interesting to see Yimou Zhang and the entire epic cast of great Hong Kong actors blend in with Hollywood budgets and co-production. You can definitely see the blending of the two styles with every step of the way. Much of the pacing and dialog is VERY Hong Kong like, while at other times you can see the American Hollywood influences amongst the plot. Damon and Tavor REEEK of your typical American heroes, but there is such a weird blending of the two styles that sometimes it’s hard to see where one begins and the other stops. Andy Lau is sadly VERY underutilized as chief strategist Wang, but the lovely Tian Jing gets front and center with a semi-romantic roll between herself and Matt Damon. I was really wondering if Matt was going to be the lead and just usher everyone to victory, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that while he was a main character, he didn’t dominate the on-screen time and pull the whole “hero who saves the day”. His bow is influential, but he and Tian Jing both are given a fairly harmonious working relationship at the end of the day.




Rating:

Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy action violence




Video: :4.5stars:
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Well, one thig is for sure. The 2.39:1 AVC encode for the Blu-ray is nothing short of STUNNING. Typical of Hong Kong cinematography, we have huge sweeping shots from all angles that highlight some fantastic high flying stunts. The colors are just simply off the charts, with bright shades of purple armor, red blood, golden silk brocaded robes and green CGI monsters. Sometimes some of the sweeping amounts of CGI can become a bit spotty (as is the case with a majority of Chinese/Hong Kong films), but it’s never wildly obvious considering the fairly large budget they were given (again, for a Hong Kong film). Blacks are deep and inky, and even in the dark recesses of the wall’s dungeons there is plenty of shadow detail. Fine detailing is sharp and clean, with razor like features and everything from the curves in the uniforms to the stubble on Matt Damon’s face showing up precisely. The only things that had any negative effect on the picture was some banding that shows up in low light scenes (usually under the wall in the store room) and the occasionally wonky CGI.






Audio: :5stars:
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Well, even if you’re not a fan of the movie, and even if the video encode is not PERFECT you’re going to love the Dolby Atmos mix. This film was MADE for Atmos with a thunderous bass line that just roars and reverberates throughout the movie from start to finish. Overheads and surrounds are given incredible amounts of energy and allowed to open up with an amazingly spacious sound field. You can hear arrows whistling overhead, or the sounds of Tao Tei footsteps crunching from behind the listener, and the chaos of battle just pulls you into the middle of a maelstrom. As I said, the LFE is bone crunching, and doesn’t let up the entire film, filling out the low end with pretty much nonstop energy. The vocals are still crisp and clear (although Matt Damon goes through a gambit of Irish accents that seem to change from scene to scene) and only a few times was I not able to hear what was said due to the aggressive dynamic range.
.






Extras: :3stars:
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• Deleted/Extended Scenes
Matt Damon in China
The Great Wall Visual Effects
• Working with Director Zhang Yimou
• Man vs. Monster
• Designing a Spectacular World
• Weapons of War






Final Score: :4stars:


The Great Wall is a stupidly fun movie, and by that, I mean it’s stupid….and it’s fun. The movie is your basically a Hong Kong monster movie with the budget and marketing prowess of Hollywood. Something which I GREATLY approve of as I’m a HUGE lover of Hong Kong cinema and would love for them to get more coverage. There’s nothing wildly special about The Great Wall, but it serves as a lavishly set film that excels in flair and style with lots of butt kicking to keep a happy grin on my face. The audio and video specs for the disc are more than well done, and border on perfection, and there’s even some decent extras that talk about the intricacies of combining eastern and western filming practices. Definitely recommended as a fun, mindless, popcorn movie.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, Tian Jing
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Written by: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Core), Spanish, French DD 5.1
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 103 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: May 23rd, 2017







Recommendation: Cheesy Dumb Watch

 

Todd Anderson

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This looks like great Saturday afternoon couch material!
 

Michael Scott

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pretty much... except it NEEDS a great sound system.. the audio IS one of the best I've heard in a while. one of those "sonic assault" type mixes
 

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You had to say that, didn't you... I guess i'll just have to move my mouse up to the Buy It Now button :help:.
 

Michael Scott

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lol, you sick man
 

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It does say "Dolby Atmos" :devil:
 

Michael Scott

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well, I have to agree. if it says Dolby Atmos on it I have a bad habit of collecting it, even If I don't like the movie lol
 

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Been wondering about this one... now I know. Thanks for the review!

I think I'll preorder the 4K version... yes? It's just a few days away.
 

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I just have to comment on the cover... something about Matt Damon's face just doesn't quite fit in with entire scene. It's like Goodwill Hunting was transported to the Great Wall!
 

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haha, yeah there's some serious photoshop on that cover
 

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I really don't know about this one... even with Mike's stamp of "approval" on this one, I just have a hard time thinking I would enjoy this one.

It's not about Damon or any of the other Caucasian actors in this film, I actually don't have a problem with that at all, but everything about this film just seems quite out of place.

Maybe I'll have to rent this one just to experience the audio...
 

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I was thinking the same thing about Damon's face last night when looking at the cover... he just doesn't fit this role in my opinion, but I will get past it for the overall film... I hope!
 

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haha, no he doesn't fit the role. As I mentioned in the review, he changes accents almost at will during the movie, and is almost a side character at times.
 

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The Great Wall​
is a stupidly fun movie, and by that, I mean it’s stupid….and it’s fun. The movie is your basically a Hong Kong monster movie with the budget and marketing prowess of Hollywood. Something which I GREATLY approve of as I’m a HUGE lover of Hong Kong cinema and would love for them to get more coverage. There’s nothing wildly special about​
The Great Wall​
, but it serves as a lavishly set film that excels in flair and style with lots of butt kicking to keep a happy grin on my face. The audio and video specs for the disc are more than well done, and border on perfection, and there’s even some decent extras that talk about the intricacies of combining eastern and western filming practices. Definitely recommended as a fun, mindless, popcorn movie.​
Go Mike! Thanks for framing the film in the context of your preferences and favoritism. That makes it easier for the rest of us to make buying decisions. Personally, I'm a fan of the mindless action genre (among others). Your review has me chomping at the bit for a look-see, both for content and presentation. The only question in my mind is whether or not the first viewing will be rented or owned!
 

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I bit the bullet and rented this from RedBox. Great audio. Absolutely fantastic Atmos activity!!

Very middling movie... and Damon... oh, Matt Damon... he couldn't shake facial mannerisms that you'd expect see on the streets of New York. Just doesn't fit for a period flick.

Audio - Awesome :T

Movie - Fail :dizzy:
 

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It's too bad you didn't experience this on UHD, Todd. The colors are some of the most spectacular instances on UHD Blu-ray thus far. The stained glass pagoda and the Chinese Army's various colors of armor are all so very vivid!
 

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I was thinking that as I was watching....wondering how it would look. The colors on Blu-ray alone were pretty fantastic.

The story though. For me, kind of tough to overcome a rather unimaginative plot and some absurdly fantastical action.

Question: Those female soldiers doing acrobatics with the rings around their waists... they were essential flying to the ground to throw a spear, only to be taken back up to get another speaker. Why not just stand on the platforms and throw spears??? :ponder:
 

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LOL! I thought the very same thing very briefly and then remembering telling myself, "Oh well, they look awesome doing their thing..."

The movie itself definitely was sub-par, but the highly stylized action was what I was really watching this for. Oh, and the visuals and the audio. :)
 

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LG Electronics 65-inch B6 OLED, Sony 65-inch X900F
Definitely A+ to the visual and audio!
 

Sonnie

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Emotiva A-150
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OPPO UDP-205 4K UHD Player
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MartinLogan Classic ESL 9
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MartinLogan ElectroMotion ESL
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SVSound SB16-Ultra x 4
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Epson 4040
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Universal MX-890
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Dish Joey 4K / Apple 4K
Now that I've seen it... I thought it was a pretty good movie. It makes more sense that Damon and his sidekick were outsiders who ended up helping out others who might not have been so similar in culture, but were similar in heart. It will actually be one I'll watch again.
 

Michael Scott

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Cheap Thrills Mains
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Cheap Thrills Center
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2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
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JVC RS-46 Projector
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Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
agreed, glad you liked it. It was nothing super SPECIAL, but it was a fun flick with lots of pretty visuals and a great audio mix. I have no regrets watching it
 

phillihp23

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4k version only $20 at BB this week.
I guess the question is even if the movie itself is not great, would it be a top pick for demo due to audio and video quality?
 

Michael Scott

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Cheap Thrills Mains
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Cheap Thrills Center
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Volt 10 Surrounds
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Volt 10 Reach Surrounds
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Volt 6 Overheads
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2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
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JVC RS-46 Projector
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Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
demo wise, most definitely. Great audio and even though I wasn't able to review the 4K disc, I've heard from several trusted sources that it is just as demo worthy as the Blu-ray. A true 4K master that really shines with HDR (all those colors have to be insane with a good HDR capable set)
 

JBrax

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Klipsch rf-7 II
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Klipsch rc-64 II
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Klipsch rb-51 II
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It's too bad you didn't experience this on UHD, Todd. The colors are some of the most spectacular instances on UHD Blu-ray thus far. The stained glass pagoda and the Chinese Army's various colors of armor are all so very vivid!
That stained glass was simply amazing. My wife and I both said wow at the same time.
 
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