William (Damon) and Tovar (Pascal) are nearing the end of a six month trek across the world in an attempt to find magical black powder to help protect their lands from invasion. Their posse has been decimated until only the two of them remain.
Exhausted, they are captured by the forces that protect China from invasion via the eponymous structure and soon witness an attack of huge proportions as monsters called the Tao Tei attack in droves, directed by their Queen. As events unfold, they help to defend the wall and win their captor’s trust and learn the history of the monsters that want to eat everything in their path.
Torn between his commitment to his task and the trust that has been bestowed upon him, William helps to fight against the increasingly clever Tao Tei attacks as they try to get through to the capital.
Tovar does not take kindly to William appearing to want to become the hero rather than finish their mission and turns on his friend and it’s left to William to prove to the Chinese that he did not plan for the apparent treason that Tovar has pinned on him and help them defeat the monsters once and for all.
The Great Wall is a prime example of why movie studios are happier to churn out the same old thing over and over again. It tries something new, in this case an epic Chinese set period monster flick, and we should applaud this endeavour. The problem is that it fails to grasp the true focus of the viewer.
Even in China, the film is considered to be a flop, even though - apart from three or four roles - the cast is made up entirely of Chinese actors and other talent.
The overuse of CGI – although we appreciate it would have been difficult to film this any other way – is clear and, on occasion, removes you from the narrative as the monster attacks occur.
The good news is that the rumoured whitewashing that tarred the film’s release is proven to be untrue as Damon plays a European, not a role meant for an Asian actor.
The bad news is that, although it the film has an interesting premise, its execution means that it doesn’t stick out enough for you to care, and that is its biggest failure.
It’s not bad, it’s just sadly forgettable.
THE GREAT WALL / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: YIMOU ZHANG / SCREENPLAY: CARLO BERNARD, DOUG MIRO, TONY GILROY / STARRING: MATT DAMON, PEDRO PASCAL, WILLEM DAFOE, TIAN JING / RELEASE DATE: 12TH JUNE