The Great Wall (2016) – Review

A pair of European mercenaries suddenly find themselves imprisoned within The Great Wall of China, before encountering a secret army that defends and maintains the wall against a horde of horrific creatures, known only as the Tao Tei. William (Matt Damon), one of the mercenaries, must begin his journey toward heroism by joining the huge army of elite Chinese warriors, to confront and conquer, this seemingly unstoppable force. A surprisingly entertaining flick, despite a lot of undeserved backlash upon its original release in 2016.  

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Director: Yimou Zhang
Writers: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy,
Starring: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, William Dafoe, Tian Jing

At times, approaching a movie with zero expectations can be the best route to take and may deliver some surprises in the process. It’s fair to say that I applied this logic when sitting down to finally watch The Great Wall. Fantasy adventure films with incredibly large budgets, aren’t exactly my forte, nor are they my preference, but all in all, this seemed like a good escape from reality for the entire one-hundred and three-minute runtime it held.

Filled with action and some unique battle scenes throughout, it turned out to be more than watchable on the whole, but one thing that did strike me, was the fact that there didn’t seem to be much of a backstory or general substance behind the majority of the main characters. With that being said, it’s easy to understand that in films of this nature, the thoroughness of certain personalities often takes a backseat to the frequent combat sequences on display. The Great Wall contained ones that were explosive and over-the-top from the very first minute, all the way until the last, along with some really effective and easy on the eye CGI being used – especially when it came to the Tao Tei.

Matt Damon featured heavily as William, the mercenary warrior that became imprisoned within The Great Wall, while Pedro Pascal and William Dafoe starred as Tovar and Ballard, two other outsiders imprisoned also. As touched upon, all three of these characters could have contained more of a backstory, but sadly with such a short runtime, it seemed like this wasn’t the filmmaker’s goal.

With that being said, there was much criticism when it came to the casting upon the films original release, but it wasn’t something that struck me as particularly bad or disrespectful to the Chinese culture or people, especially with almost every other on-screen cast member being of Chinese descent – along with the director of the film, Zhang Yimou. One thing that did stand out, however, would have to be Matt Damon’s accent while portraying William – it seemed to be an almost awkward blend of Irish, American and at times Scottish twang, that was never really accurate or consistent at all.

All in all, this one may not be worthy of any awards, but the action sequences, stemming from the rather large budget, were more than enjoyable and did a really good job in keeping you engaged. If you’re hoping to sit back and get lost in a fantasy adventure film, then The Great Wall may be a solid pick.

“Look at this army… Have you ever seen anything like this?”

William – The Great Wall

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