The Great Wall (2016), PG-13
Directed By: Zhang Yimou
Starring: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian, Willem Dafoe, Hanyu Zhang, Lu Han, Eddie Peng, Kenny Lin, Junkai Wang, Zheng Kai, Xuan Huang, Cheney Chen, Andy Lau
Reviewed by Xavier Emaka
The good news is that Matt Damon is not being rescued in this one. He’s made a habit of biting off more than he can chew into a successful career, but he’s gone of that familiar path The Great Wall.
Before we dig into the review, let me tun a few titles by you: Iron Monkey, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Money King, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
If you only recognized one of those movie titles–two at most–then The Great Wall probably isn’t for you. It’s a martial arts flick in the traditional sense of over the top martial arts flicks. Improbable stunts, grand costume design, choreographed and impressive combat scenes… but it’s that particular type of movie so thoroughly that if such movie tropes aren’t to your liking, the The Great Wall won’t be either.
So, back to the review.
William (Matt Damon) and Pero (Pedro Pascal) are down-on-their-luck mercenaries who’d been searching for China and the mysterious black powder (gun powder) weapon that is the source of their legend. Their team of over twenty soldiers has been reduced to just five by bandit attacks. Having escaped the latest patrol, the five are attacked at night while camping by a creature which kills all but William and Pero.
William manages to kill the creature, and takes as a trophy a severed claw. They ride out of the hills, the next morning, only to be found by another patrol. Fleeing, the run, coming upon the great wall where they choose to surrender.
As captives, they find the country is preparing for a siege. They soon discover that a horde of lizard-like creatures known as taotie are set to attack. The taotie appeared after the crash of a meteor long ago and have been attacking the country every 60 years for the past 20 centuries. The Nameless Order and the great wall were specifically created to defend China against the ravening monsters.
The attack comes early, and William and Pero prove their worth in battle, slaying several of the monster and saving a soldier. Accepted by the order, it’s soon discovered that William carries a magnet, a “magical” stone that interferes with the creatures ability to communicate. The also meet Sir Ballard, another wayward mercenary who arrived some 25 years before with plans to steal the black poser and has been kept there ever since.
It’s not long after figuring out how to use the magnet to capture a taotie–which has never been done before–that the Nameless Order discovers the taotie horde had tunneled through a remote part of the wall. Meanwhile, William is torn between staying to help and escaping with Pero and Ballard with the black powder.
Like the movie mentioned above, the plot is straight forward and action driven, and the scenery is unbelievable. The CGI department did a fantastic job and the use of color is striking. Some of the scenes with the masses of the Chinese army are unforgettable.
If over-the-top martial arts flicks are your thing, you’re in for a treat. If they aren’t, don’t bother.