'The Great Wall' Surprised Me with its Epic Sets and Deadly Monsters

Posted February 19, 2017

It's the 11th century AD and two Western mercenaries, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal, aka Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones) have ventured deep into China in search of black powder (gunpowder).

"The Great Wall" is a great, fun ride that immerses audiences into the fantasy world of warriors confronting an unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.

The warning is about the mythical mass of marauding monsters that is sweeping down northern China but it could just as easily be for the kind of Hollywood-China collaboration that is "The Great Wall". Zhang Yimou has created handsome films before with thoughtful characters and incredible visuals, but with The Great Wall the story, the mythology of the creatures and the characters all take a back seat to the admittedly eye-popping visuals.

The reviews for the massive budgeted US-Chinese co-production "The Great Wall", starring Matt Damon are in... but they're not great. "From this perspective, it makes little difference whether the enemy is people or monsters".

Amid the film boycotts due to the controversy of casting Damon - whose unconvincing Irish accent wavers throughout the film - as the lead in a predominantly Chinese cast, he doesn't do well in justifying the casting choice. There's a script by a team of Hollywood writers, and direction from one of China's most acclaimed filmmakers (Zhang Yimou). The story it tells is a really good one, and although a few parts are predictable this is still a good movie.

- It's impossible to watch TV right now and not see an ad for The Great Wall. Following the chase Garin gets attacked by a Tao Tei, an ugly beast that preys on humans every 60 years. But too often The Great Wall is determined and dutiful. Anytime a semblance of character development was about to occur, it was interrupted by some inane dialogue with the commander or threat of yet another attack from the "Tao Tei". The Great Wall might not even have the highest-grossing weekend for a new release, with the comedy Fist Fight expected to pull in as much as $22 million in its opening weekend. The Nameless Order is divided into color-coded warriors in jewel-toned armor - archers in blazing red and acrobatic women in sapphire blue, bungee jumping from the wall with spears in hand.

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When it takes a moment to be still, The Great Wall sometimes looks like traditional Chinese painting.

Beauty is hard work - just ask Matt Damon.

So, I'm walking through my local multiplex a year ago and, imagine my surprise, when I come across a poster for THE GREAT WALL, Matt Damon's giant white face taking up about 80 percent of the surface area and dwarfing China (and I'm assuming Chinese people, not that I could see them they were so small) at the bottom corner.

There are other things going on in the story - Willem Dafoe hangs around in the background as a thief in a low-level villain role - but "The Great Wall" comes down to a war between man and monster.

Yimou's images are nearly entirely computer generated in "The Great Wall". The trailer is exactly what we thought the movie would be, no so great. The president took to Twitter on January 26 and said if Mexico refuses to pay for the wall then "it would be better to cancel an upcoming meeting" with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.