Reviews: the old fashioned monster movie returns with The Great Wall

Published On February 16, 2017 | By Garth Cremona | Film TV & Theatre, Reviews

The Great Wall,
Directed by Yimou Zhang,
Starring Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Hanyu Zhang

Matt Damon stars as a European merchant working his way through China to find the much sought after Black Powder. When he kills some strange beast on the wrong side of The Great Wall he is then led to the wall itself. There he joins with the Chinese Military in fighting off the hoard of monsters that want to break through the wonder wall and destroy everything in their path. His superior archery skills are put to good use. Meanwhile his fellow traveller and a mysterious man who has been kept at the wall for twenty five years are planning to make off with the magical black powder that is stored at the wall.

When the first trailer for The Great Wall showed up, I along with many more I can name, did that thing with our heads that dogs do when they are trying to understand what we are seeing. Matt Damon, the famous American Actor, just appearing on The Great Wall in China, in what feels like some time during or just after The Renaissance. What is going on? Did he get tricked into this?

Well for the most part the film is good. There are a lot of moments that should have been expanded or explained more, but over all I sat there content, tucking into a bag of candy and supping on my Pepsi Max. Damon manages to tame the accent so that you can’t quite figure out where he is from, and then there is an explanation about how he worked his way across Europe fighting different wars, which could be true. We all believed in Christopher Lambert when he played Connor in Highlander. I see this in the same vein of Highlander. In fact if you took 47 Ronin, Starship Troopers, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and threw them into some form of media sack, shook it about, and then took a lucky dip, then you’d probably get The Great Wall.

The creature design is good, simplistic maybe, but it works. The design of the weapons and defences of The Great Wall are really interesting and imaginative. The biggest problem I had here was that they forgot to bring the funny. The funny can make a terrible movie into a cult classic. There are many chances that Damon and Company have to bring some light relief into this Monster Movie. I think it should be a law at this point. There could have been also a little more character development; not of Damon, you get his character straight away, but those around him are sometimes painfully paper thin. His best friend and fellow traveller Tovar, played by Pedro Pascal, could have had more screen time or more put into his character, their relationship could have been a little more slapstick.

The Great Wall is probably going to get slammed by a lot of critics and some audience members will come out and think that they were conned. But this is a classic case of the old Monster Movies that I watched during the 80s. The Monsters Movies that were made during the 50s and the 60s for a cheap amount of money but had a lot of fun attached to it. The action scenes of the Monsters battling The Wall and the imaginative way in which the defences are presented, along with the design of the armour too, lifted this up from the ordinary into an enjoyable time in the darkness watching what the big screen was meant for, pure escapism.

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About The Author

Garth Cremona

Garth Cremona is an Irish writer, as well as reviewer of films, comics and books

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