When The Great Wall was announced there was plenty of controversy around it because of the inclusion of Matt Damon. With the controversy surrounding his casting, it definitely dampened down the hype around the film. So, the question is, getting past the drama is the film actually any good?
Two European mercenaries William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) travel east on the hunt for black powder (gun powder). What they discover though is the Great Wall of China, and the monsters the wall is holding back.
It does seem a shame that the controversy marred the release of this film, especially as it is very much a Chinese film. Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, and Willem Dafoe who stars are Ballard do serve a purpose but also feel like they could have been completely left out of the film. It is understandable though these actors are brought in to get the film some more attention.
The real star of the film really is Tian Jing as Commander Lin Mae. It is her character who has a more interesting journey, even if Matt Damon has the typical “bad guy does the right thing” story. For most of the time you see him stood in the background doing a lot of pondering while the rest of the cast do the battling against the monsters. He does get his fight scenes of course to be the “hero” and they are fun.
What stands out more about The Great Wall is the great artistic styles on show, and the colourful designs of the armour the warriors wear. The taotie are also interesting creatures which feel similar in design to the bugs in Starship Troopers. It is less about having variety in the beasts, more about the feeling of the horde attacking, and the Queen having control of them. The way she builds a strategy for the battles is interesting, as well as her huge guards that protect her at all times. They never seem like just dumb creatures just throwing themselves against the wall. It does seem a little stupid that the whole taotie population are controlled by the one leader and cease to function if that one dies.
While the style of The Great Wall is gorgeous, it does tend to lack something when it comes to story. There is plenty of good intentions in some of the themes and side stories on show, but the Europeans and their meddling feels a little too weak. In the end though, if you want a big hit monster movie, complicated stories normally aren’t the focus.
Getting past all the controversy of The Great Wall and seeing it for the popcorn film that it is, it is a lot of fun, and has that oriental feel that shows the roots of where it is filmed. If you don’t think too much about the main story and monster origins and just go into watching it for the fun, then it does its job well. It just isn’t going to be one of those that really stands out in the horse of monster movies being released in the last few years.
The Great Wall is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.