The Great Wall Review

The Great Wall
  • Directing8
  • Writing7
  • Acting7.5
Overall7.5

Yimou Zhang's The Great Wall is a solid slice of mindless action spectacle, shot for 3D presentation in a way that's both colorful and exciting. Matt Damon's lead performance is far from his best, but serviceable enough to get this film in front of a wide audience.

Yimou Zhang‘s The Great Wall is a surprisingly decent action film. The 3D is gimmicky and engaging, while Matt Damon‘s performance is serviceable and not as distracting as one might think. Zhang’s direction is the highlight of the film, capturing the action with energy and color, despite the film’s light plot and questionable agenda.

China’s Great Wall is massive, stretching for miles long and built to keep out invaders. We’re not strictly talking about human invaders, but weird creatures as well. The Great Wall follows a legend that says every 60 years creatures from a nearby mountain attack, to remind the people the value of greed and how they should never let it take over completely.

It’s a funny message, especially given the nature of the film, which only stars Matt Damon because that will surely give it a more widespread appeal. Legendary director Yimou Zhang captures the sheer beauty of the film with a stylized and experimental eye, which includes lots of stunning action and colorful set pieces, yet the film’s negative criticism regarding its “white-washing” can’t be unseen.

The Great Wall is obviously a film that is targeted to make as much money in as many markets as possible, which is why Damon is focused on the posters and trailers, despite only being one part of a rather large puzzle of characters.

But Damon is Damon, which means you still get a good performance out of him, just not one as memorable as say The Martian.

His co-star, played with humor by the reliable and witty Pedro Pascal is also somewhat of a high mark for the film. Their back-and-forth banter gives the film its comedy and light-hearted nature, as well as the general craziness of the beasts.

That’s one thing I think Zhang’s direction and his general team helped to make The Great Wall so much better than a majority of the monster flicks shot in America, by American directors.

The way the monsters are designed, presented and discussed is just enough to give you a backstory, but still leave you with a little mystery. The design is also unique and colorful, yet still vicious and frightening.

I remember Super 8 having one of the worst monster designs ever, while Cloverfield being one of the last great original monsters. Same can be said for 10 Cloverfield Lane having an atrocious creature design, which is odd since these are all Bad Robot properties, anyways — the point I’m trying to make is that most recent American monster movies lack a creative design.

Sometimes, it works to go completely in the other direction when designing a creature and to give the viewers enough backstory to understand them, but not ruin them completely.

The Great Wall is mostly an action film, with little worry on its plot, yet it still pays enough service to its characters. Willem Dafoe‘s inclusion is rather pointless, but the rest of the cast is given their due. Tian Jing sticks out as the film’s resident bad ass, which is something to say when you’re competing for the spotlight against Matt Damon.

The film’s use of 3D is great. The opening credits twist and turn through shattered brick, while flaming arrows and spears are sent across the screen in glorious slow-mo, which looks completely awesome in 3D.

I rarely suggest splurging for the upgrade these days, but The Great Wall is totally worth the added dimension.

The Great Wall is a surprisingly good time at the cinemas, promising monster mayhem and enough 3D action to keep all eyes glued to the screen. It has a little fat on its bones, but not enough to get a yawn out of its audience members, which is high praise for a February release.

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