Legendary’s The Great Wall was good. I’m as surprised as anyone, but for a mindless fantasy-war epic, the enjoyment far outweighed the ridiculous spectacle. Despite the great black-lash of casting Hollywood darling Matt Damon in a film about the Great Wall of China, his presence is far less bothersome than you’d expect.
The Great Wall opens with a bit of history about the wall; that it took 1700 years to complete, stretches 5500 miles, and holds secrets the public won’t ever know. Turns out, every 60 years, a race of four legged creatures attacks China and an army called The Nameless Order defeats them from on top of The Wall.
Mercenaries William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) encounter one of the green creatures while escaping hill tribes on their search for the mysterious ‘black powder’ men from the West wanted. They unintentionally run right to The Wall, surrendering their weapons rather than fighting yet another group of hill tribe warriors, and are brought to General Shao (Hanyu Zhang). No one believes William’s story about being ‘traders’, their full armor kinda gives it away, so does his weird accent. Commander Lin (Tian Jing) calls for their death, but luckily for the mercs the creatures chose this time to attack.
The Wall’s defenses are imaginative and pretty awesome to watch unfurl. There are giant mechanical arms that toss flaming bombardment ordinance, there are archers dressed in red who rain arrows down, there are a troop of women dressed all in blue who fly over the wall on guidewires to stab the creatures in the eyes (seemingly the only way to kill them). I mean really, the spectacle of watching the battle happen is super enjoyable, and I feel no shame in saying so. William and Tovar manage to NOT get eaten by one of the creatures, and end up killing two who have jumped over the wall by themselves. This is a big deal to the Nameless Order.
We find out the creatures are called the Taoti, and General Shao has been working on building up his army to push them back for several years. We get a backstory for the creatures, that a meteorite struck a nearby mountain and the Taoti came shortly thereafter. Their only other weakness is magnets, because meteorite/magnets, makes sense.
While not as exciting as you may think a film built around such strong mythos, director Yimou Zhang does deliver a visual world I wanted to see more of. Knowing his previous work however, many fans of his lush style and pretty well rounded storytelling will more than likely be disappointed.
SCORE: 2.75 OUT OF 5, viewed in 3D, would see again in standard non 3D.
I can’t help but feel Matt Damon was attached to this project in order to get it pushed into mainstream theaters and in front of your average viewer. His presence was not really all that important to the action or the storyline, even though yes, he did help land the final blow on the Taoti Queen.
And let’s remember that this is the first release from Legendary after the resignation of their CEO. Anytime a large film house’s CEO resigns, it’s big news, and maybe some readers missed with Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures stepped down in January of 2017. The reasoning reaches far and wide, but one of the most resonating ones comes from The Hollywood Reporter. “Sources say Wanda became frustrated with his management and recent projects such as The Great Wall and the currently shooting Pacific Rim 2,” THR wrote.
All in all, The Great Wall was enjoyable enough, and hopefully audiences will give it a chance. The Great Wall opens in the US on Friday February 17th, 2017.