The Great Wall, currently, is the most expensive film ever shot completely in china – with a whopping reported budget of $150 Million. It tells the story of a western mercenary, played by Matt Damon, who is imprisoned at the Great Wall, and while there discovers the reason behind its construction is to repel wave after wave of marauding beasts. While imprisoned at the wall he is forced to fight alongside an army of elite warriors to confront the unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force of lizard monsters.
While the film is directed by Yimou Zhang, the Chinese director who is best known for great films like House of Flying Daggers and Hero, this is not his finest film. The Great Wall does have trademarks of Zhang, such as beautiful colors, and great action set pieces, but it has glaring flaws that really bring the film down.
The Great Wall’s first 20 to 30 minutes show off impressive action, with bright colors and very imaginative ways of fighting – all which Zhang is best known for bringing to his movies. I really thought was in for a fun time at the theaters. However, after the first action set piece ends (which is the best one of the movie) I was then forced to watch the film trip over itself while trying to present extremely boring dialogue, boring character development, and honestly, a boring story.
Watching the credits after the movie, I saw several people credited with writing the film – both American and Chinese film writers. This is painfully apparent when watching the film because it constantly switches back and forth between pandering to American audiences and foreign audiences. I’ll start getting used to characters and their interactions in one way, then everything abruptly switches to the “super-hero” (Damon) then it switches back again.
The CGI is a problem in this film too. The monsters in close-up shots are surprisingly detailed, but the backdrops are very obviously green screened in to the shots. And it is so obvious that it took me completely out of the movie.
Keeping this review short and sweet/sour (mostly because there isn’t much to talk about with this movie) – I did think the action set pieces were entertaining. The color palate is beautiful, and the mythology does have promise. But the character interactions, dialogue, and script are bed enough to sink the film. Maybe see the film at a matinee price if you’re in need of some color in your life, or just wait for the Netflix release.
I’m giving The Great Wall a 2/5 rating.