If there is one thing we like at Barking Mad About Films, it’s a creature feature so despite a bashing from the critics, we booked tickets to see The Great Wall.
Set in China, the film tells how The Great Wall was actually built to protect China from creatures known as the Tao Tei. The film was hit by a backlash before the film was even released over whitewashing claims, due to Matt Damon being cast as the hero who saves the day!
The film follows a group of mercenaries on the search for Black Powder, at the beginning of the film they are attacked by a creature, which leaves only 2 alive, William (Matt Damon) & Tovar (Pedro Pascal)
During this battle, William manages to cut off one of the arms of the creature, which they take as evidence of the attack. Upon their travels, they stumble upon the Great Wall where they are captured by The Nameless Order led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Wang (Andy Lau)
However, upon seeing the creatures arm, the order are shocked, as is the arm of a Tao Tei and their intelligence had believed their arrival was expected to be weeks away.
Before we know it the creatures are attacking the Great Wall and many casualties of the creatures and defenders of the wall are taken on both sides.
The nameless order are helped though thanks to the release of William and Tovar who show themselves to be capable fighters, William even forms a close friendship with Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing)
As William learns more of the order, his quest for Black Powder for wealth is overtaken by his desire to stay and help battle the Tao Tei!
Pascal, however, teams up with another captured prisoner in search of black powder, Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) to escape.
As these 2 plan their escape, the Tao Tei attack once again, with many casualties to the order including Shao. During this period, an ancient scroll that has been discovered gives us some back story of the Tao Tei and suggests the monsters can be pacified with magnets.
One of these magnets is believed to be a stone that William carries with him, and the Order believe that this is why he was able to slay that original creature. They put this theory to the test and indeed the rock does enable them to capture and pacify one of the Tao Tei.
With this information, new in command, Lin Mae sets up an army of hot air balloons to find the Tao Tei and using the rock, kill the queen that will break communication with the rest of the creatures, killing them.
For a film with 6 writers credited (3 on the story and 3 on the screenplay), it does have a fairly decent story, great CGI and special effects from Industrial Light and Magic and creatures designed by the WETA workshop mean the film does look good.
The film has some great action sequences and looks visually amazing as you would expect, with its director being Hero and House of the Flying Daggers director Yimou Zhang.
What makes the film suffer is the mismatch of Chinese and American languages used throughout the film in a bit to appeal to a wider audience. Most of the cast do well, Pedro especially gives the film a bit of humour as the fun sidekick, however for us the real issue was Matt Damon, an actor we do like, seemed incredibly miscast in this film.
He certainly can do the action hero role as the Jason Bourne franchise shows, but this creature feature needed someone who could add humour and he felt too serious for us. This may only be our opinion, but for all the controversy Damon got over the casting, we did feel it could have been done by someone better.
We saw this film in 2D but imagine it may be better in 3D as many scenes seemed to be made for this format with Tao Tei leaping out towards you on many occasions.
Overall this isn’t as bad as you may have been lead to believe, but you will have seen better!
You can watch the trailer at the film website here:
You can find the film at Amazon here:
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