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Review: The Great Wall

The Great Wall
02.16.2017
5 10

PLOT: In Song dynasty era China, a roving mercenary (Matt Damon) and his partner (Pedro Pascal) are interrupted in their quest for an elusive black powder by a supernatural attack that ends with them prisoners of a Chinese Military order stationed on the Great Wall. There, they discover that every sixty years, the country is attacked by supernatural beasts that the wall has been built to repel, and that should the beasts reach a populated area, they could lead to the end of humanity.

REVIEW: As the film industry in China grows to rival that of the U.S, Zhang Yimou’s THE GREAT WALL is a big experiment. Can they make a tent-pole movie that can compete with major studio efforts, packed with enough A-list talent to bring in the worldwide foreign audience? A co-production with Legendary, a company that’s had huge success in China in their own right with WARCRAFT, THE GREAT WALL is an ambitious but silly effort.

Star Matt Damon is badly miscast as the Western hero, a mercenary who finds himself fighting alongside the Chinese on the titular wall. Adopting an accent that comes and goes (is it Irish?) Damon has never been such an ill-fit on the big screen before. A very contemporary actor, he doesn’t have the thing needed to make a star believable in a period epic. Someone like Christian Bale, Russell Crowe or Tom Cruise might have been able to get away with this. Wearing period garb that’s only a few steps removed from tights, with his hair swept into a ponytail, Damon almost looks embarrassed and certainly doesn’t look like he belongs fighting CGI monsters with a bow and arrow.

Much has been made about how THE GREAT WALL follows a “white saviour” narrative, but truth be told that isn’t so. Damon is more of an observer to the action, like Antonio Banderas in THE 13TH WARRIOR. Sure, he’s a little more bad ass than most and gets more screen-time, but you could have totally excised him from the script and it wouldn’t have been that different, with Jing Tian’s Commander Lin more of the lead, with even her potential romance with Damon taking a back seat.

The influence of “Game of Thrones” is clear throughout, with the whole narrative playing like “The Night’s Watch” in China, with Jing Tian part of “The Nameless Order", who are stationed on the wall for life and can’t leave once they’ve made the commitment. Not to mention, “Game of Thrones’s” Pedro Pascal plays Damon’s sidekick, while series composer Ramin Djawadi does the score.

In addition to Jing Tian, several other big Chinese stars are on-board, with mega-icon Andy Lau getting the biggest part as Lin’s adviser, although it’s a drag this iconic action star (who’s like the Tom Cruise of Asia) is stuck playing a mostly action-less part. Other Mainland actors like Zhang Hanyu and Eddie Peng have suspiciously small roles, making me wonder if a longer cut of this exists in Asia. All of the Chinese heroes are upstanding, as usual for films coming from there (very much like Yimou’s last film, THE FLOWERS OF WAR), while Willem Dafoe is the only squirrely character, being a longtime prisoner of the fort, a convenient way for Lau and Tian’s characters to know English.

Technically, this rivals any Hollywood tentpole, with the CGI critters being well rendered, even if their design isn’t terribly imaginative, nor is the big secret that finally allows the heroes a glimmer of hope that they can be stopped. Yimou’s action scenes are well shot, but the wire-work is poor for Tian’s character, a far cry from his Wu Xia classics, HERO and HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS.

Overall, THE GREAT WALL is an acceptable watch if you’re bent on seeing something this weekend, but have exhausted all other options. It’s probably best left for the Netflix cue and definitely too by-the-numbers to really impress an audience that routinely sees better fantasy epics on HBO whenever “Game of Thrones” is on.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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11:36PM on 02/17/2017

I enjoyed the movie

I thought it had good action scenes and an alright story. Yeah kinda predictable but I really don't think this is meant to the biggest hit with western audiences. I think it was a Hollywood movie made for eastern audiences. People use the term "white wash" to evoke some type of racial ties. From my experience, having a very marketable star such a Damon is viewed as a good thing to a lot of people and for a lot of new films that may get made because of it.
I thought it had good action scenes and an alright story. Yeah kinda predictable but I really don't think this is meant to the biggest hit with western audiences. I think it was a Hollywood movie made for eastern audiences. People use the term "white wash" to evoke some type of racial ties. From my experience, having a very marketable star such a Damon is viewed as a good thing to a lot of people and for a lot of new films that may get made because of it.
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3:51AM on 02/17/2017
Wow... I don't support some of the statements made in these comments. First of all Matt Damon hasn't done a paycheck role in years. 2nd, Matt only works with the best directors, it's as if he has a list of all the greatest living directors and he's just crossing them off one at a time. I don't even follow celebrity news, but I've heard that Matt donates like 80% of what he makes every year. If the guy wanted a truckload of cash don't you think he would have said yes to the 4th Jason Bourne
Wow... I don't support some of the statements made in these comments. First of all Matt Damon hasn't done a paycheck role in years. 2nd, Matt only works with the best directors, it's as if he has a list of all the greatest living directors and he's just crossing them off one at a time. I don't even follow celebrity news, but I've heard that Matt donates like 80% of what he makes every year. If the guy wanted a truckload of cash don't you think he would have said yes to the 4th Jason Bourne without Greengrass? I haven't seen the film yet, had the chance but I am waiting to see it on the big screen.
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5:20PM on 02/16/2017
du du du damon wh white wash == crap.
du du du damon wh white wash == crap.
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+1
3:56PM on 02/16/2017
I agree that the trailers alone were enough for anyone to avoid this movie. Watching the trailer just made me wonder what could have possibly drawn a top actor to it.
I agree that the trailers alone were enough for anyone to avoid this movie. Watching the trailer just made me wonder what could have possibly drawn a top actor to it.
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+0
2:38PM on 02/16/2017
I want to know who this looked good to? The trailers were very mediocre, though it does seem to conform to the kinds of big, FX-laden tentpole films that China likes to produce (see the recently released Journey to the West sequel). But compared to what gets produced in Hollywood, the film's just come off as poorly written and produced. If China really wants an audience in the U.S. of comparable size to Hollywood blockbusters, they should focus on the kinds of films that were popular years
I want to know who this looked good to? The trailers were very mediocre, though it does seem to conform to the kinds of big, FX-laden tentpole films that China likes to produce (see the recently released Journey to the West sequel). But compared to what gets produced in Hollywood, the film's just come off as poorly written and produced. If China really wants an audience in the U.S. of comparable size to Hollywood blockbusters, they should focus on the kinds of films that were popular years before, like Hero, or even police action procedurals starring Donnie Yen.
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1:36PM on 02/16/2017

it was pretty good IMHO

7/10 in my books
Released January 11th in France and saw it in IMAX 3D and I had a great time ! Some very good action sequences, colorful, very spectacular and the IMAX 3D was pretty impressive ! A very good adventure flick !
7/10 in my books
Released January 11th in France and saw it in IMAX 3D and I had a great time ! Some very good action sequences, colorful, very spectacular and the IMAX 3D was pretty impressive ! A very good adventure flick !
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2:14PM on 02/17/2017
Totally agreeing with you there !
Totally agreeing with you there !
1:27PM on 02/16/2017
I could honestly care less about this movie. From the first trailer it looked like a knock-off of the Night's Watch in Game of Thrones (but set in China).

But noting the major Asian/Chinese stars that are in the movie, it wouldn't surprise me at all if there are two cuts of this movie. One with the Asian/Chinese actors at the forefront and Matt Damon playing a supporting role that would play heavily in the Pacific countries. And this movie being a recut of the movie to appease American
I could honestly care less about this movie. From the first trailer it looked like a knock-off of the Night's Watch in Game of Thrones (but set in China).

But noting the major Asian/Chinese stars that are in the movie, it wouldn't surprise me at all if there are two cuts of this movie. One with the Asian/Chinese actors at the forefront and Matt Damon playing a supporting role that would play heavily in the Pacific countries. And this movie being a recut of the movie to appease American audiences.
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6:10PM on 02/16/2017
* couldn't
* couldn't
1:25PM on 02/16/2017
add me to the "had no interest to see it" group. Looks pretty, but nothing about it attracts me.
add me to the "had no interest to see it" group. Looks pretty, but nothing about it attracts me.
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12:40PM on 02/16/2017
I had no interest in seeing this film and this review did not change that. Matt is definitely miscast in this, you could even tell from the trailer.
I had no interest in seeing this film and this review did not change that. Matt is definitely miscast in this, you could even tell from the trailer.
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12:29PM on 02/16/2017
I'm really surprised that Damon signed up for this in the first place.
I'm really surprised that Damon signed up for this in the first place.
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12:37PM on 02/16/2017
With China bankrolling it, he probably made more money doing this than he did on the last Bourne.
With China bankrolling it, he probably made more money doing this than he did on the last Bourne.
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