“The Great Wall” is a big movie. Everything about it screams huge as a 5,000-mile wall manned by a massive army fights unending hordes of marauding monsters. The civilized clash with the savage in a way that can only be described as Michael Bay-esque. From incredible computer-generated imagery to an explosive—quite literally—storyline, this film will likely leave viewers entertained…but nothing more.
The movie even sports a big American star, Matt Damon as William, with his bow and somehow endless supply of arrows. Damon takes on the role of a western mercenary who becomes tangled in an ancient, epic war between the Chinese and hordes of lizard-like invaders. Accompanied by Tovar (Pedro Pascal), plentiful shots of Damon charging into battle, muscles bulging and walking with his usual hunky swagger, make the experience that much more enjoyable.
Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) acts as a female lead who organizes military efforts on the wall. As a general, Jing presents an intense, serious presence in the film that she carries out well. Mae’s abilities as a warrior and leader are on clear display as she inspires the soldiers and acrobatically dives into the masses of enemies below the wall while held down simply by a rope.
As one of the first co-produced efforts blending Chinese cinematic sweep and Hollywood CGI-fueled star power, the film tells the colossal legend of the Great Wall as a barrier protecting the civilized world from savage destruction by distant barbarians. Chinese director Yimou Zhang ignites the scenery with gigantic, fiery cannonballs and Bay-esque explosions while Damon runs around skewering foes. The film takes on CGI to a whole new level, creating some truly incredible scenes.
One of the most prominent aspects of the film is the costuming, which comes out really well. The bold colors of the Chinese armor create a decorative view amid an otherwise ominous setting. Dramatic images of brightly colored warriors diving into hordes of sickly green enemies enhances the movie’s overall feel.
While the film does perform visually between incredible CGI and creative costuming, it can lack in other more storyline based aspects. Short abrupt conversations often leave audience members confused and lost as the dialogue can sometimes prove meaningless. It almost seems that the film tries to use powerful graphics to mask a questionable storyline and little character connection.
All in all, there’s nothing subtle or nuanced in “The Great Wall.” It’s a massive, popcorn-munching, monster-slashing actioner, similar to the “Transformers” or “2012.” It is a movie for those with tempered expectations simply looking to be entertained.
Like most massive action films, it might leave many audience members tracking loopholes and scratching their heads at questionable character decisions, but that’s not what the film was intended to do.
If you don’t want to go big and are looking for a riveting storyline with deep character development, then you might just want to go home, and spare your body the 103 minutes of mind-numbing mayhem that is “The Great Wall.”