The Great Wall
When I first saw the publicity for this movie, I wasn’t sure I wanted to look into it. From what I could tell, there wasn’t much to make it something that I would enjoy spending time with. And then I gave in to the graphic novel that preludes it. Of course, I am being vague and not really giving too much information about what we are talking about yet. I bet you hate it when I do that.
The movie The Great Wall has a graphic novel of the same name. But they are not the same story, sorta… The concept is the same but the story built around the concept is different for each telling. And both of them are based on lore and myths that revolve around the Great Wall of China.
See in both, there is a legend that every 60 years, creatures of greed rise up and attempt to breach the wall and invade China. Their attack lasts until they are defeated or a week has passed. Then the cycle repeats 60 years later. There is a secret army housed within the wall with separate factions that live their entire lives in service to the defense of China. No one can know of their existence and they take great strides to ensure that the warriors have no family other than those in service with them. But this is about the only similarity between the graphic novel and the movie.
I read the comic first and knew I had to check out the movie. In the comic we have a run down of the invasion and the numbers of people injured and killed in service to their country. This runs as the back ground as the story of the key player is told in flashback and his command of troops along the wall. We are given a glimpse of the horrors of the war that these men and women train their entire lives for.
The movie gives us a different perspective of the shadow war through the eyes of outsiders. These are European men who fell into a bad place when they killed one of the greed creatures on their own. They are on a quest for gunpowder (though simply referred as black powder). It is through their service to the wall that William (Matt Damon) learns to fight for something more than just another meal.
The story is a great reflection of the concept of honor and self sacrifice, the need to do something greater than service of yourself. These are points stressed within the movie and shown many times within the graphic novel. Basically, the kind of story telling that digs deep to my core (could be my time in the Marines coming into play).
Now if it were just all of that, it would be a decent movie in my mind. But there were a few other things that jumped out to touch some of the nostalgia moments for me. Quite often the fight scenes took on a bit of the old Kung Fu theater movies I watched growing up. It wasn’t so much of the orchestrated fight scenes of modern Hollywood but something more like flowing art. Granted there were a number of scenes where nitty gritty fighting went on full display but there were a number of moments that fit something much deeper.
In the end I found the whole experience fit into several different levels of enjoyment. I suggest that if you happen to find the graphic novel, read it as intended, as background before you see the movie. It leads to a deeper understanding of the factions within the secret army and provides the needed background material to know the grand scope shown within the movie.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.