The “Great Wall” is actually just a series of pretty okay walls that we’ve joined together over time. They were being built as early as the 7th century BC, in order to protect China’s borders from invading nomads. It was built over a period of 1700 years and stretches over 8850km.
The film The Great Wall is not nearly as impressive an accomplishment, even by blockbuster standards. It’s an action-adventure-monster movie that represents one of the several legends told about The Great Wall, and the things from which it was supposedly built to protect.
Somebody obviously has some compromising nude pictures of Matt Damon, so he stars as the ambiguous white guy who’s been roaming around with a group looking for black powder. Lots of his men have been picked off and they should have turned back, but instead the remaining men run into a scary beast that eats all but two. Then William and his pal get picked up by the Chinese army near the wall and are more or less taken prisoner, but it seems only so that the white guys can be really impressed by all the Chinese ingenuity.
They’ve been preparing to face these beasts for 60 years. They have special units with special skills: the armoured bear troop engages in combat, the eagles specialize in archery, the tigers have catapults and burning rocks. The crane troop is an all female group who bungee down a pit with spears, and the unlucky deer are the cavalry.
The white guys decide that while the Chinese army is preoccupied with the beast attack, they should seize the opportunity to rob them and run. I was wholly confused by Matt Damon’s American accent in a time period when Americans did not yet exist. A lot of people balked about Matt Damon being cast in this film, but this is not whitewashing as we know it. His character was always supposed to be non-Chinese. I just don’t understand how he’s a medieval Bostonian.
As you can imagine, the battle sequences are pretty eye-popping with all these fancy fight techniques and inventive weaponry. It feels both ancient and futuristic at the same time. Certainly director Zhang Yimou has a visual flair but this movie overly relies on effects and imagery at the expense of literally everything else. Zhang Yimou’s special spice blend is missing. There’s no subtlety. There’s no sensitivity. And the story is just plain lacking. It starts to feel repetitive even within its 104 minutes. But it’s gloriously explody. It is that. Kaboom.