The directorial work of House of Flying Daggers' Yimou Zhang, The Great Wall is a visually spectacular and thrilling action movie experience - which doesn't save it from often being incredibly silly and hokey, as well. Damon plays William and Pedro Pascal plays Tovar, a pair of mercenaries who stumble into the Wall while chasing stories of a legendary explosive "black powder" they hope to get rich off of back in Europe.
"The Great Wall is in the lyrics of our National Anthem, so it symbolizes the same thing in the heart of all Chinese, which is our people, our country and our history", says Yimou.
In the end, The Great Wall is good matinee-style viewing for the action/martial arts movie crowd.
Well, I've seen The Great Wall and I can tell you what it's about.
Soon after, they are taken prisoner by a vast army called the Nameless Order, stationed at the Great Wall of China and preparing for the invasion of an old foe. The only spectacle more worrying than the endless streams of color-coded soldiers manning the Great Wall - rendered as a pleasingly literal war machine here, complete with huge scissors - is the plague of "Taotie" who pop up every 60 years or so to feed their queen human flesh.
William Garin (Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones) are the last survivors of a band of European mercenaries travelling east for months in a quest for a rumoured weapon and are nearly killed by an unknown beast.
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The movie has attracted considerable criticism for centering the story on a European, in this case one played by a major Hollywood star that's obviously here to make sure the US audiences pay attention.
A lavish production with epic cinematography and impressively detailed sets, The Great Wall is a fantastic feast for the eyes, and takes a lot of visual cues from Zhang's prior, celebrated films. Released two months ago to mediocre returns in China, The Great Wall is a money-driven compromise that seems created to please no one.
While William and Tovar are in the mountains, they are attacked. But the greatest impression is made by those toothy, frightening monsters who can climb walls, jump long distances, and make terrifying noises while they're gobbling up humans.
On the plus side, it's kind of fun in a goofy way, and - unlike some recent blockbusters that skew dark, violent and intense - it's a genuinely all-ages romp. Though even greater in scope than those previous triumphs, "The Great Wall" possesses little of those films' dizzying splendor, and every frame seems smudged with popcorn butter. Those two scurry off to initiate a subplot while arrows fly, spears puncture, and red and green blood gushes. I think diversity does reflect the world we live in and should be as accessible to us in terms of what we have in entertainment.
Beauty is hard work - just ask Matt Damon. The film starts off a bit slow, but once the monsters show up it is strong from then on down to the finale. After slaying the beast, William and Tovar are brought to The Nameless Order, a highly-trained military force of the Song Dynasty, which stands atop The Great Wall, guarding the realm from the Taoties, a swarm of monstrous hive-minded beasts, all led by a highly intelligent queen.