Posted Feb 20 2017

The Great Wall - This Good Will Monster Hunting Movie Just About Rocks In Places

Dir: Zhang Yimou

Starring Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Tian Jing

So the great Hollywood-China blockbuster experiment is finally upon us. And how is it? Well, it’s big. And to be honest, it’s OK. Even has a few impressive moments.

We’re in the Middle Kingdom in the Middle Ages and Matt Damon is William, a mercenary with a rubbish wig and a very dubious accent (was that Irish we kept hearing at odd moments?) Along with his trusty bow and arrow, with which he can out-Robin Hood Robin Hood, he also carries with him a magnet – pay attention, this will become important later. On the run and in search of supposedly mythical gunpowder, William and his travelling companion Tovah (Pascal) stumble upon the Great Wall Of China. No really, they literally all but bump into it out of the blue. How could they have missed that? (Can see it from space and all that.)

Anyway, once inside/atop said wall, they realise it has been built for a very distinct purpose – to keep out the Tao Teis, lizard-like monsters who awake every sixty years by their millions and try to eat anything and everything going. They appear to be indestructible – at least until Mr Damon gets his magnet out! (We told you it would be important.)

Yimou’s cross-over East meets West actioner is certainly a gorgeous film to look at, impressive in its sense of scale, with a definite feel of the proverbial “cast of thousands” despite the heavy reliance on CGI. And his beasties are pretty effective as well. The film is daft as all pants however, which is not to say it doesn’t manage to entertain. The first attack on the wall is genuinely impressive, as is a follow up shrouded in early morning mist.

By the third act however, we off to China’s magical city, everyone’s gone for an adventure in ballooning and the hot air is filling up every frame as well as every balloon. Which is to say, The Great Wall is very silly, and at times gives the impression that unfortunately it doesn’t know it’s very silly.

It’s also very messy, with a script that clunks where it should zing. But it’s well paced for the most part, and Yimou certainly knows how to stage an action sequence. So not quite a failed experiment. But also not quite a roaring success.


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