Matt Damon is a Spanish? (he’s Russel Crowe-ing it a bit with the accent here) mercenary travelling china with his mate Pedro Pascal on the search for valuable black powder stuff. However they unwittingly find themselves on the Great Wall of China helping the Chinese army defend the country from a huge army of monsters.
The Great Wall looked for all the world like it was going to be 2017’s Gods of Egypt. Fictitious historical setting? Check. Whitewashing Controversy? Check. Outdated CGI? Check. The Great wall was dead set for turkey-town. Except that, unlike Gods of Egypt, The Great Wall is actually ok.
So first of all let’s address the whitewashing controversy. The outcry was because this predominantly Chinese production stars the very white Matt Damon as its heroic lead. However I wouldn’t for a second point the blame at any one involved creatively with the film. The fact of the matter is production companies need only look at whom America (the country with the biggest box office bucks) just voted in as their president to know that if you star a non-American as your lead you probably won’t make as much money as you would have hoped. Should this be the case? Absolutely not. Could literally any actor pull off Matt Damon’s role? Almost definitely. Would the film be as marketable? Unfortunately not. Although to me this does seem to be a gateway movie to further Chinese-American cross over blockbusters which is a really good thing.
In Yimou Zhang the Great Wall has a wonderful director – responsible for masterpiece Hero and the highly praised House of Flying Daggers – and that really shows through. The use of colour in the movie is exceptional and more than anything the style of the movie carries it. The fight scenes also have a far more stylistic approach to them than you often see in blockbusters.
Unfortunately the film does suffer from a poor script. The monsters are revealed far too early and the film doesn’t manage to convince the audience of how terrible an adversary they really are. The CGI is also a little wobbly for 2017 and it sort of feels like a movie from around 2012. Oddly enough though the rest of the film’s pacing is dead on – it’s fast paced the action scenes come at the right times, I just could’ve done with more build up at the beginning. The Dialogue is a little patchy. Much of it is very derivative and expositional and the central obligatory straight romance lacks chemistry. Although Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal do not lack chemistry and actually generate some laughs.
You know what, I was really pleasantly surprised by the Great Wall. It had no right being anything more than enjoyably terrible. But it isn’t terrible. It’s actually alright. It doesn’t take itself too seriously moves along at a jolly old pace and is generally quite a good time. Sure, so far I’ve only seen four 2017 movies so far but I have to say – this is my favourite.