The Great Wall is based on one of the biggest man-made structures in human history. It’s appropriate that this film had a lot of expectations around it and after all why wouldn’t it? As it stands, it’s the biggest ever joint venture from an America-China co-production. It’s also the most expensive movie shot in China. Add the fact that it’s the first major project from Zhang Yimou since he directed the 2008 Beijing Olympics and you think “What could go wrong” right?
How The Great Wall sets up
Matt Damon is William, a mercenary from, well possibly anywhere from Madrid to Dublin. His accent is more than a little tough to place. William and his fellow Mercenary, Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are travelling the Chinese wilderness. They are searching for black power with the aim of weaponising it. On their journey, they run into an army deployed on the Great Wall to defend China from monsters. They soon find themselves in an army alongside lance-wielding, bungee-jumping female warriors.
How it plays out
The acting, on the part of many of the main characters, is very stiff, particularly on the Chinese side of things. Perhaps the cast were under pressure to learn English. Jing Tian, Commander Lin Mei, seems like he’s in slow motion for most of the movie.
Many touted the Great Wall as the West meets the East. The casting of Damon, Pascal and Ballard (Willem Dafoe) is the only element representing the West. And Ballard seems to be there purely to explain how Commander Lin learned English.
The Chinese side of the script is riddled with clichés. There are plenty of speeches about working together to help the greater cause. As for Matt Damon, the film does not wholly pivot on him here and rather than it being a case of whitewashing, it’s more grey.
Can the CGI save the day?
The CGI monsters that serve as the antagonists aren’t much better. Despite impressive design, you can spot the Eastern influences with the anime-like design. Every major aspect of their behaviour — such as their main vulnerability and communication methods — comes across as a blatant device that the heroes can use to overcome them.
The Great Wall is in cinemas now.