The Great Wall stars Matt Damon, in the largest budgeted Chinese made film ever, as William Garin; a bearded 11th century soldier of fortune alongside his cohort Tovar (Game of Thrones Pedro Pascal). They are searching for “black powder”. While camping for the night William amputates a strange looking creature and is soon captured by The Nameless Order military sect. This army is overseen by Zhang Hanyu’s General Shao who is tasked with taking down marauding beasties known as Tao Tai who come out to feed every 60 years. After the opening battle in which William and Tovar prove extremely useful with weaponry. The Tao Tei, attack in hordes for the good of their “Queen” that controls them by an appendage on her head.
Directed by Zhang Yimou, known by a western audience for the visually stunning wuxia epics House of Flying Daggers, Curse Of The Golden Flower & Hero (a movie Quentin Tarantino championed way back in 2002). The Chinese born helmer expertly handles the epic battles possibly inspired by his work conducting the opening & closing sequences of the Beijing Olympics but is sadly let down by a poorly plotted script based on a story idea from World War Z author Max Brooks.
Matt Damon is fine in a role that Kevin Costner would’ve possibly played 20 years ago, despite being saddled with a dodgy Irish accent, he proves to be quite adept in the fight sequences. The supporting cast mixed with upcoming Asian pop star Lu Han,Yimou, Yimou regular Andy Lau (underused) and Willem Dafoe are given moments to shine amongst the slaughter.
The Great Wall follows the same principles that Menaham Golan followed when running Cannon Films of “B” movies on “A” budget’s and possibly something he would have done if the late wheeler dealer producer had gotten the opportunity to work in China. The visually arresting action choreography from one of the greatest directors of the genre makes the film enjoyable if it takes itself a little too seriously and overuses CGI in some moments. Great Wall on its US release was a disappointment making only $45.2 million but elsewhere in the world made $286.8 million against a production budget of $150 million. While in China it joined Terminator Genisys, Warcraft and xXx: Return of Xander Cage as the only Hollywood releases to earn $100 million in China without making $100 million in the United States.
This home format release from Universal Pictures contains a small amount of supplemental materials such as six minutes of deleted scenes and behind the scenes featurettes discussing various aspects of the production. The Great Wall would make an enjoyable double feature with last year’s Dragon Blade a similar coming together of Hollywood acting talent with Jackie Chan, John Cusack as a Roman Soldier and Adrian Brody playing a Mongolian Warrior done on smaller budget.
Dir: Zhang Yimou
Scr: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy, Max Brooks ,Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz
Pro: Thomas Tull,Charles Roven,Jon Jashni,Peter Loehr
Cast: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Zhang Hanyu
D.O.P: Stuart Dryburgh, Zhao Xiaoding
Music: Ramin Djawadi
Run time:103 minutes
The Great Wall available on Blu Ray, DVD and Download now