This Week's Review: The Great Wall and The Lego Batman Movie

I knew that I needed to fortify myself with cinematic vitamins (that may be an oxymoron) before I faced an onslaught of essays lurking in Turnitin. I stoked myself with The Great Wall and The Lego Batman Movie. Now that I have seen the essays, I wish I had seen more movies.

I started with The Great Wall, a Chinese film that briefly generated some controversy because of the casting of three American actors in a story set in thirteenth-century China. Whether the controversy was justified is unclear to me; even though the film is a fantasy, the idea of European mercenaries seeking to learn the secret of making “black powder” is more than plausible.

Matt Damon does well as a mercenary who discovers a sense of morality and William Dafoe, in a minor role, makes a sinister villain; Pedro Pascal, whose voice resembles that of Antonio Banderas, plays the third mercenary who finds it difficult to make moral choices. A Chinese actress, Jing Tian, plays a Chinese general.

The plot is very similar to that of Independence Day: Resurgence: “Kill the queen and the aliens will die!” The aliens, who invade China every sixty years, look like something left over in the Jurassic Park films. The creatures seem to have no technology, but that may be a thread to be pursued in a sequel.

The special effects are good; in the long run, the film is similar to the historical epics which filled the screens in the 1950s and ’60s, fun, but not of enduring value.

My second film, The Lego Batman Movie, had not been on my priority list, but enough people urged me to see it to make me change my mind. I had never seen a Lego film, so I did not know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the film explores almost every version of Batman we have ever seen, including the 1960s television series of dubious memory.

The film tries to include every villain Batman has encountered in the last seventy-five years; the producers also introduce a few villains we have encountered: Dracula, Lord Voldemort, Sauron, etc., etc. (I am sure the staff attorneys responsible for copyright clearances earned their salaries for this production.)

I could fuss about a few points, but I can cheerfully recommend the film. And now, I am out of excuses for ignoring that stack of essays …