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Elektra Boogaloo

Episode 236 — The Great Wall (Live)

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Live from Boston, Paul, June and Jason discuss the 2016 action film The Great Wall. They talk about space dogs, Matt Damon’s accent, magnets, and much more.

 

 

... am I the only one who didn’t know this was about aliens OR Pedro Pascal?  I don’t know what is going on anymore.

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When he shoots the arrows and catches the bowl the people on the other side of the pole who cant see are applauding

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“YEAH! Magnets, bitch!”—Jesse Pinkman, Breaking Bad (a quote I’ve always wanted to use! And this film would have been so much more awesome if Matt Damon had said it in his multi-flagged accent!) Honestly, I cant believe that line wasn’t referenced during the show.


As for the movie, I saw the preview for this before it came out in the theater, so unfortunately the space dogs reveal was ruined. Although my reaction to the preview—when I saw the space dogs—was still “what the fuck?”

On a positive note, I will say I liked the use of color in the film, except for the building in the finale (was it a temple??) that was SO rainbow-colored that it looked like My Little Pony threw up in Rainbow Brite’s house. I think I know why the army wasn’t using it’s gun powder all the time: the public must have been huffing it if they had to spend time in places like this. The army sold the gun powder to the public to make a profit so they could pay for their drum troupe  (which were awesome, but were they PRACTICAL in a battle against space dogs?).

Speaking of that black powder, wasn’t there a sequence where they shot a bomb right next to Matt Damon to save him from the Tao Tai? Wasn’t he so close to the blast that he should have been dead but miraculously survived? Just checking.

The CGI was laughably terrible at several points. During most of the battle scenes, I laughed out loud at how generic it was.

Unlike Jason, I felt like I was watching this movie on fast forward. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film set up SO MANY conflicts just to blow past them a couple of minutes later!!!! This happened too often to mentally keep track of each time, but it seemed every scene was a set up to a conflict that was resolved by the next scene—or even occasionally in the same scene! One example is how Matt Damon is about to be executed for stealing the black powder, then a couple of minutes later he’s back in action.

Perhaps because of the aliens, This film REALLY reminded me of Live. Die. Repeat. (AKA The Edge of Tomorrow). I would have loved it if Matt Damon had been stuck in a time loop and every time he reset, he had a different accent.

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20 minutes ago, GrahamS. said:

I would have loved it if Matt Damon had been stuck in a time loop and every time he reset, he had a different accent.

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Wouldn't it have been such an easy fix to say that Willem Dafoe's character had learned how to make black powder in the 25 years that he had been prisoner/guest there?  Then they'd have a reason to escape with him since he's infinitely more valuable than a couple of saddlebags full of gunpowder.

I bet the recruiting numbers for the Nameless Order are pretty great in years 1 through 40 after a Tao Tei attack.  Start to dip some after that and then in year 59 there is no way those guys are hitting their quota.

 

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Assorted musings:

- The preview for this film was one of the first times i remember seeing a piece of media, and out loud, for real, saying " Oh NO...! ". I became, as the kids are saying these days, " Woke " and " Shook ".

- I told my co workers about it. Then i had to show them the preview, because they thought i was kidding. They too were shook ( not all of them got woke though ).

- I thought they'd be fighting dragons. Would it have been stupid? Yes. Would it have made more sense? Yes.

- Whenever i see the Great Wall of China i think about the Futurama gag where they knock it down and then the Mongols invade. 

- When June was relating to the Taotei, she said " fightfightfight ", like on the Itchy and Scratchy Show theme song. COINCIDENCE??? Yes.

- The Taotei life cycle is very insect like. Ants, wasps, bees and termites all have social hierarchies, and each has a different body type ( maybe the ones around the Queen were drones ). Cicadas have a very long larval development stage, as a reproductive strategy to minimize the number of predators that they face when they eventually emerge. The Taotei life cycle seems to be 60 years, which would definitely make it longer than the average human life expectancy in the middle ages. Unfortunately for them, humans have developed the concept of time, so they knew when they were coming. Guys, maybe the Taotei were REAL, and Matt Damon helped make them extinct.

- Migrating birds have tiny metallic beads inside their heads, and that's how they know where to go, using the Earth's magnetic field. Do magnets screw them up? I don't know, try it out with your local geese.

- Jason Mantzoukas seemed confounded by the idea of bipedal animals; Examples of bipedal animals include: Jason Mantzoukas.

- This film wasn't as bad or cringey as it seemed at first, but the same can't be said of Matt Damon 😕

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50 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Is the Nameless Order really nameless?

And why do they all have names?

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22 minutes ago, Omaxem said:

 

- The Taotei life cycle is very insect like. Ants, wasps, bees and termites all have social hierarchies, and each has a different body type ( maybe the ones around the Queen were drones ). Cicadas have a very long larval development stage, as a reproductive strategy to minimize the number of predators that they face when they eventually emerge. The Taotei life cycle seems to be 60 years, which would definitely make it longer than the average human life expectancy in the middle ages. Unfortunately for them, humans have developed the concept of time, so they knew when they were coming. Guys, maybe the Taotei were REAL, and Matt Damon helped make them extinct.

 

 

The Taotei reproduce upon being fed by their own offspring. From a certain point of view, they are basically inseminated by their own kids.

Is that insect-like? Is there any example of a living creature that is that incestuous, fictional or otherwise?

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25 minutes ago, joshg said:

The Taotei reproduce upon being fed by their own offspring. From a certain point of view, they are basically inseminated by their own kids.

Is that insect-like? Is there any example of a living creature that is that incestuous, fictional or otherwise?

Yes. It's not super common, but it can happen in the social insects i mentioned if the colony is under stress or if there aren't any suitable partners elsewhere, which would be the case here, as it seems that there is only one Taotei colony. Even in mammals, it happens in zoos ( not so much nowadays ), in feral cat colonies... Inbreeding is the way you got all the different dog/cat/fish/bird/cow/goat/sheep/insert-any-domesticated-or-somewhat-domesticated-animal-here breeds. And some fruit flies actually seem to favor incest, because why change a winning formula? If your children inbreed, that's your successful genes beeing spread. 

And then there's mites, where at least one species has the male impregnating his sisters while still inside the womb.

You asked.

 

But there are lots of different, non sexual reproduction strategies. Maybe all the Taotei we see are clones, or clonal. Aphids can have super complicated life cycles, where at one point, clone females are born already pregnant with the next generation of ( different bodied ) clone females. In the words of a famous philosopher, " Life, uh... Finds a way ".

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11 minutes ago, Omaxem said:

In the words of a famous philosopher, " Life, uh... Finds a way ".

Maybe he wasn't philosophizing so much as speaking from his own personal experience as a fly.

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3 hours ago, Omaxem said:

 

- I thought they'd be fighting dragons. Would it have been stupid? Yes. Would it have made more sense? Yes.

 

I don't think dragons are bad in Chinese mythology. I am a white lady so I can't speak with confidence. 

I learned today that the two tei or taotie are a mythological creature in China. They represent gluttony, which I think Paul referenced when namechecking WALL STREET's "greed is good." It doesn't seem like there is a standard depiction, as with many fictional creatures. (I have had fights about how many legs a dragon has.) But the alien/bug device seems new... 

They really look like greener versions of the Outriders from AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR to me. Rocket even calls those "space dogs."

 

What was with the boob plate shot of the Crane Corps jump? 

 

It was weird to me that each of the different corps had a color and an animal on their helmet. It made me think of Power Rangers. 

ETA: Also I have a question. When Matt Damon goes to the key fumbling guy and tells him that he is beaver than he knows... Does that guy speak English? 

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Nobody could seem to figure out what type of accent Matt Damon was going for in this movie.  And apparently that was by design.  In an interview with Yahoo, Damon discusses the character's accent, which he created with acclaimed Hollywood dialect coach Tim Monich. "The accent we made up," he says. "It had to be understandable. It couldn't be modern English. And then [Monich] made rules for it -- the way he does with any dialect we're working on -- so we kinda cobbled it together that way.”

Who wants to speculate on what those rules could possibly be?  I’m guessing they were based on the color of the outfit each character that Damon spoke to was wearing.  If the person wore blue, Damon spoke in an Irish accent.  If the character wore red, he spoke with a Texas twang.  And so on.

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4 hours ago, DrGuts1003 said:

Nobody could seem to figure out what type of accent Matt Damon was going for in this movie.  And apparently that was by design.  In an interview with Yahoo, Damon discusses the character's accent, which he created with acclaimed Hollywood dialect coach Tim Monich. "The accent we made up," he says. "It had to be understandable. It couldn't be modern English. And then [Monich] made rules for it -- the way he does with any dialect we're working on -- so we kinda cobbled it together that way.”

Who wants to speculate on what those rules could possibly be?  I’m guessing they were based on the color of the outfit each character that Damon spoke to was wearing.  If the person wore blue, Damon spoke in an Irish accent.  If the character wore red, he spoke with a Texas twang.  And so on.

I won’t lie: I like that. Fuck easily pinned-down accents!!!

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There is a shot in the harpoon scene when everyone is standing around while a couple of actors are doing some great winch work. there is no dialogue just winching for about 10 seconds you can actually see Matt Damon break character as if everyone was waiting for the director to call cut. I wonder how much of this movie-length was scenes going just a few seconds too long i suspect around half.  Also, what were the Taotei  an allegory for? capitalisms spread? a mirrored domino theory perhaps. N E Who i think it would be great to see a sequel with monsters inspired by a different negative human traits we had greed could we have an attack from lethargy octopus or low self-esteem bats ? just try bring it into the 20th century.

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At first, I wanted to call shenanigans on the hosts for suggesting that all of the characters should have been decked out in magnets to protect themselves from the tao tei as there was a line in the movie where Strategist Wang calls it a “strange stone,” implying that they were somehow unaware of the existence of magnets, or at the very least, unaware of the effect magnets might have on rabid space mutts. However, while searching for the scene to support this with a quote, I stumbled on another scene where Strategist Wang not only refers to the stone as a magnet, but that they actually have an ancient record of another instance where a magnet was present and the tao tei simply stopped attacking and allowed themselves to be slaughtered. 

Okay, if the presence of a magnet was that conspicuous during this weird outlier encounter that it was worth being recorded in their tao tei tome, then yeah, there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t have spent the subsequent six decades stockpiling magnetite. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve known it works for at least 60 years! According to Wikipedia, magnetite isn’t even all that rare, and that it is commonly found with iron ore. In other words, the same material they’re using to make their armor, weapons, comically large pruning shears, and Cirque de Soleil bungee hoops is lousy with the exact material they know for a fact will peacefully subdue their enemy. I’m sorry, but there’s just no excuse why that entire wall isn’t just overlaid in lodestone.

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At one point in the movie, they hypothesize that the magnets deafen the tao tei, and that being unable to receive audible directions from the queen is what causes them to freeze up. However, there is absolutely no science that magnets have any affect on hearing at all. I’m not even sure how that would work. In fact, all speakers and earbuds are equipped with magnets as part of the speaker diaphragm. If the movie had posited that the tao tei communicated through some kind of magnetoreception (a sense that allows an organism to detect magnetic fields) then they might have had a compelling argument, but the movie specifically says “deafen” while showing them communicate exclusively through audible means.

Furthermore, the Earth is essentially a gigantic magnet. That is how compasses work! They aren’t called the North and South Pole for nothing! It is literally magnetic polarization from the Earth’s molten magnetic core. If tao tai were that sensitive to magnetism, they would be in such a chronic state of lethargy that they would have probably starved to death within days of crash landing their jade meteorite on Earth. 

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I chuckled when Paul talked about Andy Lau and how he starred in Infernal Affairs. Andy Lau is a HUGE star in China and around the world. He never quite penetrated North American recognition the way Jackie Chan or even Tony Leung have, but... yeah. Like those other two, just a seemingly ageless megastar actor and singer (yes, Jackie Chan is also a very popular singer).

I think all three of them are in Drunken Master 2, though Andy's part is more of a cameo. Jackie and Tony are costars of the film Gorgeous, and Andy's costar in Infernal Affairs was Tony. Now I want to watch a bunch of Cantonese movies again. Maybe I'll do that in these self-isolating days leading up to some parental leave. I'll make a list if anyone is interested. I've literally seen hundreds of them starting from the early 90s especially, thanks to an early interest in John Woo* that led to watching any movie that came on the Chinese station from Toronto.

Anyway, I think Jason alluded to the fact that The Great Wall is a Chinese production, but the podcast (understandably, given their location) pretty much just focused on the American actors, especially Matt Damon. Considering the insanely cheap and quickly made quality of older Chinese films, it's wild to see their industry start to take these steps, making more and more self-mythologizing period dramas with hired guns like Damon to shore up the global box office.

I think people also commented on how shitty the CG was. Which is certainly fair. But really, for the most part the Chinese audience doesn't seem to care if the effects are clunky. These are people used to traditional theatre performances and crazy wire work in movies.

Personally, I don't like the CG alien dog things but it's not because of the CG (though it is bad) - it's because I don't like the trend of action movies creating a weird creature that the heroes can literally just mow through and we gross human beings who get bent out of shape if someone is mean to a kitten will look at these alien creatures, judge them solely on their looks, and say yeah, that thing has to die.

*I hate every movie he made in the USA. Yes, even Face/Off.

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So...when Damon pulled that archery trick with the bowl, did he really just let that first arrow go careening into that crowded hall?

When the shot ended with the bowl being propped up by the other two arrows, I really wanted to see an extra in the background staggering through the throng clutching an arrow sticking out of their chest.

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17 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

So...when Damon pulled that archery trick with the bowl, did he just let that first arrow go careening into that crowded hall?

When the shot ended with the bowl being propped up by the other two arrows, I really wanted to see an extra in the background staggering through the throng clutching an arrow sticking out of their chest.

I mean, that’s how I shoot arrows in public. It’s natural selection, man. You got a problem with that?🤪

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Posted (edited)
On 3/28/2020 at 8:18 AM, Elektra Boogaloo said:

I learned today that the two tei or taotie are a mythological creature in China. They represent gluttony, which I think Paul referenced when namechecking WALL STREET's "greed is good." It doesn't seem like there is a standard depiction, as with many fictional creatures. (I have had fights about how many legs a dragon has.) But the alien/bug device seems new... 

Yeah, the taotie is one of four legendary creatures often called The Four Fiends. So with all the talk of sequels, you got at least three more to build the Great Wall universe. The Hundun, a formless creature of chaos with six legs, four wings, and no face, although it's also been described as a large sack; Qiongqi, a cross between a hedgehog and large tiger that flies with giant wings; and the Taowu, a shaggy beast with a human head and long boar-like tusks. It's clear the moviemakers just wanted to use the Taotie in name only to refer to the alien dogs that act like hive-mind insect swarms, but for the record the mythological Taotie are creatures with a giant ram's body, tiger’s teeth and human face and hands, although its eyes are hidden under his armpits and has a baby’s voice.

The Four Fiends are the evil counterparts for the Four Auspicious Beasts, one for each of the Four Courners of Heaven, aka the cardinal directions of East, West, North, South: the Blue Dragon, the Vermilion Bird, the White Tiger, and the Black Tortoise. I kept looking for ways that the movie might make the human characters stand-ins for one of the Auspicious Beasts in order to symbolize the mythological rivalry, but then I realized I was giving more thought to it than the filmmakers did so I stopped.    

Disclosure: not Chinese, just a folklore enthusiast. 

Disclosure II: not Chinese, but after living in Shanghai for five years, I've become *That Guy* who cringes every time every single person mispronounced Taotie. It should be "tao-tee-yay", but I'll forgive if you don't have a falling tone on the last syllable. I did look up "tao-t-a-i" that slant rhymes with "bow tie", and apparently "淘汰" could be read as "natural selection" or "elimination as in natural selection," so that fits!   

  

Edited by DannytheWall
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Western audiences are probably most familiar with director Zhang Yimoufilms Hero and House of Flying Daggers — which also have super-colorful, hyper-kinetic wuxia fight scenes —   but the bigger reference point might be his directing of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games' opening ceremony If you've never seen it, it's definitely worth a watch, especially as it features a similar holographic scroll powerpoint presentation!

Those big set-pieces with thousands of ornately-costumed extras were definitely evocative of some of the more mind-blowing elements of those ceremonies. And they're also in keeping with some of the big themes of Chinese communitarian unity and sacrifice, versus western individualism and greed. 

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On 3/30/2020 at 7:28 AM, E.Lerner said:

Western audiences are probably most familiar with director Zhang Yimoufilms Hero and House of Flying Daggers — which also have super-colorful, hyper-kinetic wuxia fight scenes —   but the bigger reference point might be his directing of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games' opening ceremony If you've never seen it, it's definitely worth a watch, especially as it features a similar holographic scroll powerpoint presentation!

Those big set-pieces with thousands of ornately-costumed extras were definitely evocative of some of the more mind-blowing elements of those ceremonies. And they're also in keeping with some of the big themes of Chinese communitarian unity and sacrifice, versus western individualism and greed. 

I was going to bring up that Zhang Yimou directed this movie!

To me it's also a little wild that people now know Zhang as the guy who directs big empty (albeit very colorful) spectacles like this. Hero and House of Flying Daggers are certainly better than this movie but also basically big spectacular action movies with fairly pro-China messages.

If you look at his earlier work from the 90s, Zhang once made social dramas that are explicitly critical of China's authoritarianism and restrictions on individual liberty: Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, To Live, etc. These movies are straight up masterpieces, the kind that got him into trouble with the Chinese government but also got worldwide acclaim. To me it's pretty depressing that he's gone from being that guy to the guy who makes junk like The Great Wall. It's like if Martin Scorsese just gave in and started making Transformers movies or something.

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It seemed like June was a fan of Matt Damon’s hair in this film, but someone who wasn’t a fan of it was Damon himself.  In an interview he said “I mean they put 700 extensions in, it took like 12 hours and then I had to try and keep them. By the time they cut them out it was like a rat’s nest. I took a picture of it, I think there was stuff living in there.”  He also said that he just left the pile of hair on the flood of a production office in Hungary when he was finished filming.

Maybe that’s how they set up a sequel...a new breed of Tao Tei were living in Damon’s hair and grow up to once again wreak havoc on China.

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