The Great Wall

The Great Wall of China has long been an architectural marvel. The long, sloping walkways have fascinated tourists for centuries. It has also been used countless times in films. From dramas, action and comedies, it has been well utilised for any cinematic occasion. ‘The Great Wall’ is a blend of historical fiction and adventurous monster movie. It’s an entertaining concoction making full use of the wonder and majesty of an endlessly intriguing Chinese creation.

When captured by an army called The Nameless Order protecting the Great Wall of China, mercenary warrior Willian Garin (Matt Damon), senses trouble. He is swiftly proven right when an armada of Taotie, ghastly beasts, invade. Rising from the depths every 60 years to wreak havoc, the creatures aim to destroy the land once more. Roped in to help protect those around him, William learns the value of courage as he faces the fight of his life.

An intriguing blend of fantasy and fact, ‘The Great Wall’ is a diverting slice of hokum. With its smattering of Chinese folklore, it embraces the premise with gusto. The wicked beasties are suitably horrific whilst the battle scenes are impressively spectacular. Story-wise ‘The Great Wall’ is very predictable with a ‘seen it all before feel’ in terms of its narrative. Just as well the script isn’t the most important thing about ‘The Great Wall’ – its’ dazzling set pieces is why it exists and runs with them well.

Nothing would work without good performances, of which there are several. Whilst it’s a little strange seeing Matt Damon starring with a generally all Chinese cast, he fits in well. Having his name on the poster won’t hurt ticket sales and he equips himself admirably in the fight sequences. Zhang Yimou’s creative direction shows his flair for developing interesting and energetic action scenes. Although the CGI used to bring the monsters to life isn’t the best, Yimou overcomes this with an overall epic sweep effectively conveying the majesty of battle and solidarity.

‘The Great Wall’ is a fun blockbuster showing every bit of its megaton budget. It might not have much emotional depth but as a visual feast it would be hard to beat. It also makes one want to visit the Great Wall itself – with dozens of good shoes needed to walk its many miles.

Rating out of 10: 7

T2 - Trainspotting

Making a sequel decades after an initial instalment is fraught with peril. Attempting to re-capture what was so popular at a given moment runs the risk of simply re-hashing what came before. Films such as ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ and ‘Zoolander 2’ have discovered this out at their cost. ‘T2: Trainspotting’ successfully manages to avoid this trap. A worthy continuation rather than remake, it grasps the original’s flavour whilst making a new one. With the original cast and director returning, it proves sequels can be relevant if crafted with care and intelligence.

Twenty years after stealing the proceeds of a heist from his friends, Mark (Ewan McGregor) returns to face the music. Finally back on home soil, he reunites with his former allies Spud (Ewen Bremmer), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlye). Old grievances and regrets surface as the quartet grapple with past actions. New allegiances are forged as they look toward an uncertain future.

Director Danny Boyle’s track record speaks for itself in telling compelling stories. The years since the first ‘Trainspotting’ have seen him conjure diverse movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and zombie flick ’28 Days Later’. ‘T2: Trainspotting’ sees his talents in full display. Backed by an ensemble effortlessly slipping back into their famous roles, Boyle successfully charts a story about shattered friendships and family ties. Re-connecting and accepting the past are things the characters must do in order to fully move on.

Whilst full of creative energy marking the first instalment, ‘T2: Trainspotting’ occasionally meanders. The loss of narrative focus decreases the level of urgency the script tries to convey. On its own merits, it’s still a solid movie with genuine emotional depth. Boyle remembers to not craft a ‘greatest hits’ of memorable scenes but makes new ones fully utilising the talents of all involved. The pulsating soundtrack and quirky moments are still in place with the strong performances smoothing over any slow sections.

‘T2: Trainspotting’ manages to easily walk the tight-rope of nostalgia. Maybe not as instantly captivating as its forebear, its’ ageing protagonists ring true with their actions. Good sequels take time to develop with the overall attention to its screenplay hopefully inspiring others will take note.

Rating out of 10: 7