What it's about:
European mercenaries, (Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal) searching for black powder, become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.
What we thought:
I must say after my recent trips to the cinemas I wasn’t expecting much from The Great Wall, especially with the standard of Hollywood blockbusters these days, but was quite surprised by the film and you might be as well. It is not a masterpiece, but the film and special effects were done well with a good balance between action scenes and an actual narrative (something quite rare in these type of action blockbusters nowadays). Unfortunately the dialogue and plot are not very strong and dragging behind again. Some of the scenes between the battles do become a bit awkward and are packed full of clichés.
Even though there are a lot of blood and action in the film, it tends not to become too serious and is full of fun and comical moments as well. This however is not Matt Damon’s best performance, especially after we’ve seen him in The Martian. His co-star is not doing much better when it comes to the acting either. The English accents coming from some of the characters can become a bit cringe worthy as well. The plot is very straightforward and linear, and focuses on one important event. There are some signs of character development, but nothing unexpected or memorable. Even though there were signs of a love sub-plot developing, director Yimou Zhang chose not to go into it too much, which was a relieve and saved the film from what could have been another predictable cliché.
Watching the film in 3D at the Imax was indeed very impressive and credit must be given to the 3D effects. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of 3D films, this was one where the 3D complimented the film and was done right. It is also important to keep in mind that this is a film about fighting monsters and not a fact based historical epic, so don’t expect The Gladiator.
The film does however start of with a few facts regarding The Great Wall, where the majority of the film takes place, which was quite interesting. The film is an easy target for criticism on being another western movie with a white hero in an eastern story, but in the end they are all fighting monsters together and no battle between tribes or nations. On top of this, the Chinese are portrayed in a very honourable and respectable way, showcasing their sheer talent, intelligence and engineering skills. It was also refreshing to see actress Tian Jing as a very feisty female commander, providing enough equality in this film.
The film is a good balance between Eastern and Western cinema and one thing to be thankful for is the fact that it is not another Jackie Chan type of movie. No slow motion deaths and explosions that normally take over these kind of Chinese movies. If fighting dinosaur-like monsters is not your cup of tea, rather give this film a skip, but if you are into adventure epics, The Great Wall might just surprise you.