• The Great Battle (2018)

    From Arelor@VERT/PALANT to All on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 15:24:27
    Hello, fans of junk movies! This week I have a nice treat for all of you: a review of The Great Battle, an Epic, somehow Historical, War film hailing from South Korea.

    The Great Battle, as a movie, contains EXACTLY what the label says. This film is the story of the Siege of Ansi, a 7th Century battle in which a seemingly unstopable horde of barbaric Chinesse was contained by a few brave, gl¤orious heroes from Goguryeo (read: Middle Age Korea), who represent all that is good, virtuous and laudable in a true Korean warrior. Or so the film wants us to believe.

    As such, this film is first and foremost a siege movie. It contains plot enough to sustain what the movie is actually about: a small garrison of warriors taking advantage of their superior abilities, courage and fortified position to keep a vast army of bad guys at bay. If you have watched 300, you know the drill already. The movie depends heavily on swordplay, scenery and massive war scenes in order to keep interest. Historical accuracy and plot consistency are secondary, because what matters here is to see heads rolling. Fine.

    Theplot is simple enough. Before the Chinesse realized they could take over the world by convincing everybody to relocate their manufacturing to China, they tried to conquer it via enormous armies, and Goguryeo is the next country they want to take. After crushing the main Goguryean army, only a small, insignificant fortress ran by a small lord stands in the way between China and the Goguryean capital.

    But the fortress of Ansi is not going to surrender, despite the fact there are more Chinesse soldiers than grains of sand in the beach, because they are fucking real men who bend knee to no Chinesse bastard and will rather die than call a foreigner Emperor.

    I must concede that, for a non-Hollywood movie, the fighting itself is very good. The ravaging Chinesse army is truly massive, and it only takes three shots of bourbon to stop noticing it is composed of soldiers made of average quality CGI. The battle scenes remind a lot of the Battle of Helm's Deep in
    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, with a savage horde storming the gates of the Korean ( I mean, Goguryean) fortress bringing new siege weapons each time they strike, each more imaginative than the ones that preceded them.

    The problem with siege movies is that, more often than not, they get borying unless they bring some secondary plot to the table, so the heroes have something to do while they wait for the enemy to strike again. I think the guys behind this movie knew and therefore tried their best. The main side-plot in the movie is that the commander of the Ansi forces is regarded as a traitor and a deserter by the rest of Goguryeo, and to punish him, they send a spy to kill him because of his dishonorable ways. This way, the commander has to fight both the Chinesse and the internal conflict which boils inside his own stronghold.

    This brings us to a concept that pops up in many Korean films. For all the naivety that plagues their plots, Korean films have something very clear: no matter how fucked up your neighbor is, because if a foreigner threat knocks on your door, he is your Korean brother. Sure, he may be a serial murderer of puppies who eats babies for breakfast, but he is your Korean brother, and you must settle your differences and join forces to fend off the external threat! This theme is definetively present at many levels, from the Ansi officers who hate each other but must work together, to the spy wondering whether to stick
    a dagger in the Ansi‡'s commander back or help him in battle. The patriotism
    is so rancid and in-your-face that I love it.

    What fails, as it is usually the case in these films, is the characters. The Bad Evil Emperor is quite beliveable and knows how to be a bad guy. "Take Ansi, take their possessions, enslave every men and children, and rape every women you find!" His main problem is that 40% of what he does is to scream Evil Orders (such as "Attack" and "Kill them all"). The Ansi commander is introduced to us as a charismatic leader people looks up to. He is given some inspiring speeches to deliver, but if they weren't acompanied by epic music every time he opens his mouth, you would not realize they are supposed to be inspiring speeches. Again, he has some nice character development lines "Do you only fight when you can win?" but most of the time he just barks quite obvious commands to his troops.

    The fighting is over the top. It is _Asian_ over the top fighting. The Imperial guard from China reminds of 300's Immortals. Thankfully, it does not move into 300's territory and therefore does not feature mutant fantasy creatures fighting for the bad guys. Instead you get anachronic siege technology and improbable martial feats. It somehow reminds me of The Great Wall, another siege movie, in their management of action scenes.

    So, is The Great Battle a good movie? If you liked 300 and The Great Wall you are likely to find this one entertaining. Certainly, it is nice to watch this and remember there was a time in which China didn't have the power to take over the world via 5G controlled nanobots. If you want deep character development and an ellaborate plot, then I recommend you to look elsewhere.


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