1700 years to build. 5500 miles long. What were they trying to keep out?
With a greedy eye on each other’s markets, China and Hollywood join forces for epic fantasy adventure The Great Wall, but the end result isn’t quite the blockbuster success either party would wish.
Flying the flag for the West, Matt Damon plays an Irish-ish mercenary, William Garin, whose quest for gunpowder in ancient China lands him in the midst of a titanic scrap with ravening giant monsters. It turns out that these prehistoric-looking beasts, known as Taoties, rise up every 60 years and that China’s Great Wall has been built to keep them back.
Zhang Yimou – director of the Beijing Olympics opening and closing ceremonies and maker of those dazzling martial arts epics Hero and The House of Flying Daggers – gives the action plenty of vim, with the Wall garrison’s colour-coded troops providing some aesthetically pleasing spectacle in the midst of combat.
The blue-clad all-female Crane Troop, led by Jing Tian’s lithe commander Lin Mae, are particularly impressive as they launch themselves bungee-style off the top of the Wall to do battle with the beasts below. Of course, Damon’s heroic foreigner shows his mettle and ingenuity, too, before the story is through.
It’s the screenplay that shows the strain, as the writers struggle to keep William in the thick of things and to explain why some of the Chinese characters should speak English. (It’s down to Willem Dafoe’s fellow European, a captive there for 25 years.) That said, the dialogue is pretty clunky, although William’s mercenary companion Tovar (Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal) does get the odd pawkily amusing line: ‘Think they’ll hang us now?’ he asks William. ‘I could do with the rest.’
The film is best enjoyed, however, for its B-movie-esque creature-feature thrills, even if it did cost $150million.
Certificate 12. Runtime 103 mins. Director Zhang Yimou
The Great Wall available on Blu-ray, DVD & on Demand from 12 June.