I have a confession to make.
Last week I went to go see The Great Wall.
I don’t think too many other people did, because I went to go see it in an IMAX theater, and I was all alone. Now, I’ve had movie theaters to myself before. I like going to movies at odd times, and I often don’t get a chance to catch them until they are almost out of theaters. But I’ve never had an IMAX screen all to myself one week after opening.
I can’t say I blame anyone. It was pretty bad. I knew what I was getting into, and I kept my expectations really low, but even doing so, the movie just barely cleared the hurdle.
But I had fun watching the movie, and honestly, someday, I might even watch it again.
A couple of years ago I tried to stop talking about media in terms of “good” and “bad.” Now – I realize I just called The Great Wall bad, but bear with me just for a moment.
There are a lot of ways that we can judge movies. We can look at emotional impact, how the movie made us feel. Were we excited, on the edge of our seats, laughing, or crying? We can look at the movie from a technical perspective. Were the shots well framed, the transitions powerful, the stunts well-executed?
But there is another way of judging movies, and it’s simple: did you enjoy it?
Everyone has different taste, and while society has a tendency to label some work “good” and some “bad,” really, it doesn’t matter. Did you enjoy it is all that matters, and enjoying a movie, or book, or music, is a very personal decision.
So, by almost any standard, The Great Wall was bad. Poor acting, a horrible story, and a lackluster ending. I suspect most people wouldn’t find too much to argue about there.
But I enjoyed the movie, because as sheer spectacle, it was pretty entertaining. I watched in IMAX 3D, so I certainly got the full experience, and I’m glad I did. The action and monsters were entertaining and over the top, and if you can’t get a kick out of what are essentially giant scissors coming out of the Great Wall of China to cut invading monsters into shreds, well, I feel sorry for you.
Movies can succeed on many levels. The best, and the ones I’ll probably write about the most, are the movies that have great stories that are well told. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sitting back and watching hundreds of monsters get slaughtered either.
Sometimes, spectacle is enough.