The only reason my friend and I went to see The Great Wall at the dollar theater is because it starred Matt Damon. We are fans of his and so even though this film didn’t have the best reviews, we wanted to see it on the big screen. Yimou Zhang directed this action adventure fantasy movie. It was filmed in China taking place on the Great Wall.
The opening sequence states that there are legends about the Wall, and this is one of them. Taking place in the 11th century, The Great Wall promised outstanding computer graphics of battle sequences where innovative weaponry (for the times), and superior strategies of warfare are used to fight horrible beasts that storm the wall every 60 years. The queen of these beasts communicates with her offspring via a sort of vibrating membrane on her head. Kind of reminded me of ant colonies where there’s a queen above directing her worker ants. But I won’t give any more of that away.
William (Matt Damon) and his traveling companion Tovar (Pedro Pascal) arrive at the Wall in search of the mysterious black powder rumored to make anyone possessing it the victors in current warfare. Conveniently, Ballard (Willem Dafoe) has lived onsite for many years and has taught English to the Chinese military. So we get to hear mostly English and read some subtitles for Mandarin now and then. But the leaders speaking English so fluently is really a stretch.
The magnetic stone William possesses gives them an advantage in fighting off the monsters. Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) and William kind of spar off to see who is the superior fighter. Something I did like about the film was the women who held positions of authority over the military, and the women who fought beside the men in very dangerous maneuvers.
As long as you aren’t expecting too much, you might enjoy it. The special effects were pretty good, and the imagery of the weapons used in the fighting sequences was inventive. The music is not bad and the silk-screened effect of the end titles is really beautiful. You can probably tell I am attempting to be kind to this film.
Matt Damon took a lot of criticism for starring in The Great Wall. It’s the argument about giving roles to white actors instead of to someone of the ethnicity the film is about. I don’t believe this argument holds up because in the story William is an Englishman. There were probably explorers to China in those days, so I don’t see what the big deal is.
It is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy action violence. Perhaps teenage boys would like this film; teenage girls might like it even more. That’s because of the strong female characters, and although there is violence, it’s not as bad as some films I’ve seen of this genre. If you just want to chow down on theater popcorn and numb your mind, The Great Wall is for you.