The Great Wall
Starring Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Tian Jing
There is a wall in this film but it isn’t portrayed as anything great. In fact, the title of the film falsely suggests the wall as the focal point. It’s a fantasy epic which uses legend to explain the implementation of China’s famous five-thousand-mile-long wall. While The Great Wall is the most expensive Chinese film ever made (budgeted at $150 million), one third of the salary (or more) went to American star Matt Damon whose face and popularity have allowed the action movie to enjoy a more international release. “That movie became one of the worst movies in China,” Wang Haige, chairman of the Huading Awards (China’s Peoples Choice Awards) recent said in an interview. Accusations of whitewashing ran rampant after the first trailer. The film also stars American actor Dafoe (Spider-Man) and Game of Thrones Pascal from Chile with the remaining cast made up of Chinese actors.
William (Damon) and Ballard (Pascal) are the two surviving members of an expedition in China seeking the substance known as black powder. They are captured by the Emperor’s army, soldiers of the Nameless Order, who protect the great defensive wall. The prisoners quickly learn why this wall exists, and the flesh-eating creatures it keeps out. Commander Lin Mae (Jing) witnesses William and Ballard’s skill in aiding the Chinese army against the beasts. William carries with him a magnetic rock that could be the key in defeating the monsters called Taoties, which originated from the sky and attack the Chinese people every 60 years. Spending his entire life as a thief, liar and killer, William may at last have discovered a cause worth dying for.
A complete reversal of progress for the acclaimed director Yimou Zhang, sacrificing artistic integrity for dollar signs.
Compared with the look of Yimou Zhang’s previous films (Curse of the Golden Flower, House of Flying Daggers), The Great Wall is less aesthetically pleasing and tries to mirror Hollywood action epics. Zhang proved himself an effective storyteller with his 2015 film Coming Home that discarded flashy filmmaking techniques for dramatic storytelling that focuses more on performance. The Great Wall is a complete reversal of progress for the acclaimed director, sacrificing artistic integrity for dollar signs. In an effort to create a picture universally appealing for an international audience, The Great Wall is instead an unsatisfactory failure for all countries involved. The story (which has six American screenwriters) is your basic monster epic, good versus evil; no revelations for the audience.
Matt Damon, whose only Oscar is for writing ironically, was not one of the writers. Clearly cast for his marketing ability, Damon is on autopilot for this paycheck, delivering a run of the mill action hero performance. Pascal, whom many will recognize as Oberyn Martell, delivers the closest thing to a memorable performance. The unmemorable original score by Game of Thrones composer Ramin Djawadi also doesn’t aid the spectacle. The award winning special effects team WETA, never reach the award winning quality of the Middle Earth Saga that put their company on the map. The Great Wall is an expensive revival of the cheesy monster movies of the 1950’s.
A misguided monster movie that lacks originality and revelation.