<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Zhang Yimou. Starring Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Tian Jing, Andy Lau
Running time: 1 hour 44 minutes
Another attempt at a China-Hollywood merger turns out to be an average action flick let down mainly by some terrible CGI.
Chinese settings and characters in Hollywood films seem to be the in-thing nowadays. With China’s huge movie-going market ripe for the picking, the West is doing what it can to appeal to their sensibilities. The Great Wall has been directed by one of China’s leading filmmakers, Zhang Yimou and is produced by Legendary (Chinese-owned Hollywood studio). With only Matt Damon representing ‘white Hollywood’, the film is indeed very Chinese.
Why was the Great Wall of China built? To keep out invaders and even aliens! The somewhat ridiculous plot is made even tackier by the 90s-quality CGI. On the other hand, the massive army of the Nameless Order looks startlingly real. It’s as if they’ve made good use of their huge population in this film. The synchronisation of the army, the battle armour, the weaponry and defensive equipment used on the wall are impressive and give the feeling of enormity and power. If only the CGI alien monsters could match up to all that.
Thankfully, engaging performances by Matt Damon and Tian Jing help you focus on the human elements. Their interactions provide some interesting moments in the film. It also serves to illustrate the similarities between the East and the West. How they must co-exist and even though their values may sometimes be different, the philosophies of loyalty and honour are common. The fact that Tian Jing plays a Commander of great strength is wonderful too.
Using the monsters to represent human greed on one side, and the mercenaries who want to steal the ‘black powder’ created by the Chinese on the other is a clever way to get a message across: we must set aside petty issues and work for a greater good, especially in the divided world we live in today.