These days when you hear talk of a “great wall” you typically think of a certain tangerine-tinged tyrant and his unfulfillable campaign promise; but, like Donald J. Trump, the new film, The Great Wall, is also pretty stupid while still managing to be outrageously entertaining. It’s an odd world we live in folks.
In this ancient Chinese, alt-history, fake news flick, the Great Wall of China was built to keep out the taoties, which are monstrous, gargoyle-like, flesh-eating demons out of Chinese mythology.
Every sixty years these buggers appear and attempt to breach the barrier and destroy the world. But, thankfully, a military faction with the not-so-original moniker of “The Nameless Order” stands watch on the wall, ready to drive the creatures back once they appear.
This time, though, the Nameless ones are helped out by a couple of white European mercenaries, Garin (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), who, through a series of misadventures, find themselves teamed up with the Chinese heroes.
Monster battling chaos ensues as the Nameless Order’s special units of acrobats and archers (and, yes, drummers) go all medieval Cirque du Soleil on the taoties. The action is intercut, of course, with some mild romantic interludes between Garin and the sexy anime character come to life, Commander Lin (Tian Jing).
Actor Willem Dafoe, as a poorly developed character called Ballard, is also hanging around the wall, and for some reason the Nameless Order hasn’t disposed of him. It’s truly a mystery as to why he is even in this movie as his sub-plot about helping the other Caucasians locate gunpowder does nothing to advance the already weak story.
Even though the premise stems from the mind of World War Z’s Max Brooks (as well as Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz), The Great Wall is a rather dumb story, made even dumber by its whitewashing attempts – that have more to do with international box office receipts than good storytelling.
That said, this was still a fun film to watch, with hugely ambitious visuals and battle sequences. The costumes are amazing, as is much of the cinematography; and even though many of the stunts make no sense, they are very cool to see.
The Great Wall is directed by Yimou Zhang of House of Flying Daggers fame (2004), and with a smart writer it could have made some timely and symbolic political statements. There was a ton of potential for the story to match the film’s grandiose visual aspects – which would have made for an incredible film.
As is, this wall is just simple, mindless fun and ultimately disappointing – and the moviegoers are going to pay for it. Grade: 5/10
Photos © 2016 Universal Pictures