THE GREAT WALL
Release Date: February 17, 2017
Starring: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem
Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau,
Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Lu
Han, Lin Gengxin, Junkai Wang,
Zheng Kai, Cheney Chen
Genre: Science Fiction/Action
Audience: Teenagers and adults
Runtime: 103 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures/Comcast
Director: Zhang Yimou
Executive Producer: Alex Gartner, La Peikang,
Jillian Share, E. Bennett
Walsh, Zhao Zhang
Producer: Jon Jashni, Peter Loehr,
Charles Roven, Thomas Tull
Writer: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony
Address Comments To:Brian L. Roberts, Chairman/CEO/President, Comcast Corp.
Stephen Burke, CEO, NBC Universal (a subsidiary of Comcast)
Jeff Shell, Chairman, and Ron Meyer, President/COO, Universal Studios
Diana Langley, Chairman, Universal Pictures
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608-1085
Phone: (818) 777-1000; Web Page: www.universalstudios.com
The movie starts by showing a small band of rugged, heavily bearded medieval mercenaries led by William (Matt Damon), The mercenaries are in China trying to steal and smuggle out the recent invention of gunpowder. They are hiding in a cave from Chinese forces seeking to punish them when they are attacked suddenly by a shadowy alien creature, and William saves them all by cutting the creature’s arm off, sending it hurtling off a cliff.
The next day, William and one other mercenary ride away to further evade their pursuers, only to run into the Great Wall of China. They find themselves stopped by a hailstorm of arrows shot from the top of the wall by an army of archers. Captured, they are in danger of being put to death by female Commander Lin (Tian Jing), when suddenly thousands of rampaging alien monsters attack. The Chinese soldiers fight off the alien invaders with flaming cannonballs, arrows, swords, spears, and acrobatic diving female soldiers in an impressive battle sequence.
William is cut loose of his prisoner bindings by another Westerner named Ballard (Willem Dafoe), who’s been living at the Wall as a prisoner for 25 years for trying to smuggle gunpowder too. William springs into action, saving numerous soldiers from attack. He shows them how to defeat the beasts: by spearing or shooting arrows into their mouths and thus striking their hearts.
William and his partner are suddenly heroes. The rest of the movie consists of impressive battle sequences and fun banter as the two Westerners and Ballard learn to adapt to the Chinese culture of team thinking and away from their selfish natures in order to survive and win the battle.
THE GREAT WALL is ridiculous fun, mixing medieval battle movies, Chinese culture and science fiction together into a non-stop action-packed romp. It’s nice to see Damon take such a major step in a fun direction, away from his usually serious-minded movies. Also, the culture clash friendship that forms between William and Commander Lin teeters on the edge of romance without ever crossing from friendship.
It’s refreshing to see a woman given full respect in a movie, and not treated as a mere love interest or sex object. This also reflects Chinese culture’s hesitance to show kissing or any romantic or sexual content.
The dialogue is wooden and direct at first, with an overt expository quality that makes the movie seem like it’s going to be worthy of mockery before the first big battle. From there, however, the script loosens up a lot, with frequent funny asides and banter, and a self-aware sense of humor about how ludicrous the situations in the story all are.
While the monsters are vicious, the writers and director have managed to keep everything pitched at a level that older children and teenagers can easily enjoy without being traumatized. Basically, THE GREAT WALL is more like an Indiana Jones movie than anything else.
The movie shows the value of turning away from selfishness and of the admirable quality of sacrificing oneself to save others. There is a positive Christian, moral reference to prayer, combined with some symbolic anti-capitalist moments calling out greed and extolling the collective. There’s also lots of action violence and brief foul language. Overall, however, THE GREAT WALL is an entertaining time at the movies for teenagers and adults, with some caution required.
THE GREAT WALL is ridiculous fun, mixing medieval battle movies, Chinese culture and science fiction together into a non-stop action-packed romp. The dialogue is wooden and direct at first, but the movie picks up during and after the first big battle scene. The movie promotes sacrifice and even prayer, but it’s mixed with some anti-capitalist moments rebuking greed by extolling serving the common good and helping the collective. There’s also lots of action violence and brief foul language. Overall, however, THE GREAT WALL is an entertaining time at the movies for teenagers and adults.