WARNING: The following review contains spoilers, I’m telling you now so you don’t pretend to be outraged later.
It seems like at least 4-5 times a year, Hollywood makes a movie that offends the Asian community by either white washing acting roles (Just wait for the Ghost in The Shell review) or by adding a ‘white savior’ to a majority Asian cast. Well, Hollywood this time around managed to catch racial heat while simultaneously shilling to the entire country of China again as The Great Wall makes the point that Hollywood really doesn’t care about the Domestic Box Office anymore because this movie was not made for us. I try not to bite into the SJW whining about Matt Damon being in this film and while I do think the complaints are unfounded, this film does beg the question, why is he in this film to begin with? Could they not have sold this film overseas without him? Guess I should get into the issues with The Great Wall.
Set during the Song dynasty (whatever that means), The Great Wall is about a group of European mercenaries who are looking for a new weapon called ‘The Black Powder’ miles away from The Great Wall. The group is attacked by a creäture in the dark that only leaves William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) alive. The duo flees from a group of Khitan bandits and runs directly into a large army of Chinese soldiers called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). The Nameless Order is in the middle of a war against alien monsters who came from space (not making this up) and they are the last line of defense between the aliens and the Capital. It’s up to Matt Damon and a large Chinese army to prevent the world from being taken over by large green dragon/hyena looking monsters.
I have to say this, I went through the first half of this movie thinking “why is Matt Damon even in this film?” William and Tovar literally spend the first 60 minutes of the film doing exactly what the audience is doing…sitting in a corner trying to figure out what the hell is going on. A big colorful mile long army is prepping for battle against alien invaders using tactics from a Cirque Du Soleil show. It’s like two characters from Game of Thrones stumbled into an Ancient China Movie directed by Michael Bay and are just as confused as everyone watching the movie. While the film looks great as far as costume design goes, they don’t do a good job explaining the story to the audience. So instead of being sucked into the film’s great atmosphere and drama, it really feels like things are just happening on screen, making it hard to follow what the film is trying to present.
It’s difficult to knock a film about fighting space aliens in Medieval China for not being historically accurate; however, it’s hard not to be cynical about this movie too. I mean I’m sure that the great wall didn’t have a moving door built in and spinning death-blades in 1000 AD. The big ending finally draws when William and his lady friend, Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian) goes into an overrun capital and they have to take out the queen to save the world (BTW They actually try to force a love angle in here). Just like any other “hope is lost” film, they kill the queen and thousands of other aliens die at the same time bringing the invasion to a close. Director Zhang Yimou, who is known for art-house style films in China delivers some amazing visuals in The Great Wall. From the colors of the Nameless Order, the cinematography of the Wall, as well as the detail of the capital is amazing. On looks alone the film is a B+ however, it’s every other aspect of the movie that drags this one to a C- if I’m being very generous.
At the end of the day, The Great Wall is the largest and most expensive China-Hollywood co-production in history, and while Hollywood is increasingly focusing their efforts in the Far East, that doesn’t mean China will be exempt from bland characters and boring storytelling. The film is a cash grab for a foreign audience, which is fine, however forcing American ties to sell a poster was a pointless move, in fact, the film would have been a decent popcorn flick if they dropped Damon altogether and fleshed out the story better using The Nameless Order. As it stands, The Great Wall misses the mark by delivering a medieval Independence Day knock off that doesn’t have the excitement or the edge to be memorable.
OFFICIAL RATING: **
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