Verdict: Very LOTR-like action, with scarier monsters.
The Great Wall of China was built many years ago. One of the greatest wonders of mankind, it took almost 2,000 years to complete the 6,000 kilometer-long wall. The wall was built for many reasons, the primary being to withstand the attack from northern tribes. There are many legends surrounding the Great Wall, and one of them was portrayed in Zhang Yimou’s latest movie. Do note that this is a legend, which means that the events in the movie are fictitious. Yet, the most bizarre stories make for the greatest watch, and that is exactly what we get in this film. Not the best action movie ever made, but The Great Wall is an interesting watch, set in a beautiful location.
The film mainly tells the story of two travelers William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) in the northern regions of China. A part of a mercenary group in search of black powder, William, Tovar and a few others are the only members of the gang left, after the others are killed by bandits. One night, they seek refuge in a cave, when they are attacked by an unknown creature. Due to darkness, the gang cannot see this creature. It kills most of the men before William manages to slash its hand off and throws the rest of its body over a cliff. Now all William is left with is his companion Tovar, and the mysterious hand he had slashed off. Once again on their way, the duo are captured by soldiers of a military sect called The Nameless Order. The order, consisting of a huge army, is based at the Great Wall, to protect the Empire. William and Tovar are suddenly dragged amidst a battle, where they find out that the monster they killed is not the only one of its kind.
While trailers usually tend to make movies look better than what they really are, that is not the case for The Great Wall. The action-packed trailer does not reveal much, and what is actually shown in the movie is largely unexpected. There’s plenty of action – the stunts remind you of the fantastic war scenes in Lord of the Rings – and the 3D effect adds to the thrilling experience. The scenes are shot brilliantly, the location adding to the beauty. The actors’ performances are of little importance in the action-heavy plot. While each of them performs their stunts expertly, the banter between Damon and Pascal’s characters adds a tone of dry humor to the narrative. They are the only two characters to share any kind of chemistry, even though it was Damon’s and Jing Tian’s characters who were supposed to have some sort of romantic tension. The other characters are of little or no significance or are not human at all.
While it’s nice to see Hollywood venture into an era and culture that is not present-day America, there are major flaws in the plot. The movie may be fictitious, but it is fairly outlandish to assume that the Westerners introduced China to a magnet. The magnetic compass was probably invented in China even before the Vikings started using it to invade Europe. The movie has a major ‘Male White Savior complex’, as Hollywood mostly tends to have. Matt Damon emerges as the hero of the Chinese Empire, when he saves them from the Taotie attack. Speaking of Taoties, it is unexplained why the same plot cannot have been done with a different tribe of humans, instead of the reptilian alien monsters. Probably the writers wanted an element of fantasy in the action-laden film, or just did not think that part through. Either way, the monsters serve their purpose – they are scary and make the human characters who defeat them seem larger than life. Overall, the movie may not be so great, but it definitely isn’t a waste of your time.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you enjoy cinema with crazy action and mind-blowing stunts, you should not miss this one. The Great Wall gives you some of the best battle sequences and the well-performed war strategies are worth a watch.