The Great Wall is the latest in a long line of cinema that is essentially made by an action/stunt coordinator, a VFX team and a director with a great sense of spectacle. It is unashamedly a big popcorn movie and so as a viewer you should manage your expectations when you go to the theatre.
The movie has no storyline and doesn’t spend more than a few seconds explaining major plot points. This is perhaps one of the reasons there is zero suspense in the film. While it is able to create visually stunning scenes, it is a shame that the story isn’t paced better. But then that would require a proper script.
However, just to give you a brief overview, the film is about how mythical (alien?) monsters attack China every 60 years. A section of the Chinese army known as the Nameless Order (which has great costumes and interesting divisions but then we can’t spend to much time away from action sequences so we don’t delve into too many details) based along the Great Wall, fights these beasts. Matt Damon and Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal are mercenaries who end up fighting alongside the Nameless Order against the beasts.
In contradiction to the ‘white saviour’ theme, the film actually portrays Damon and Pascal in a less flattering manner than the Chinese characters. In fact it is the refreshing Jing Tian in a largely male cast who comes across as the protagonist. Also, many of the film’s critical revelations are by Strategist Wang (Andy Lau).
This big budget US-China collaboration has director Zhang Yimou at the helm. He along with Production designer/ Art director John Myhre (Memoirs of a Geisha, Chicago) creates an amazing visual narrative – hundreds of lanterns flying into the sky, female acrobatic warriors jumping off the great wall, there are numerous scenes like this where the movie creates a sense of awe.
I personally enjoy this genre of movies so I was happy to spend an afternoon watching this however I would strongly recommend it only for those who love a CGI extravaganza with minimal story.
In conclusion may I ask one question, why is there only one piece of magnet in all of China? If there was one more, Strategist Wang would still be alive.