The Great Wall is a new Hollywood epic directed by Zhang Yimou and fronted by Matt Damon. Damon plays William, an 11th-century mercenary searching for a legendary ‘black powder’ that is rumoured to be immeasurably powerful. Joining him on this search is fellow mercenary Toval (played by Pedro Pascal).
The film wastes no time in introducing the audience to its otherworldly monsters – while discussing the powder at the onset of the film, William and Toval are attacked by one of these mysterious beings. William slaughters the beast and they continue their journey, quickly stumbling upon (surprise surprise) The Great Wall of China.
The action really kicks off here. William and Toval, although initially both taken prisoner by those guarding the wall (the ‘Nameless Order’), prove themselves as worthy soldiers when the Wall is attacked – the monsters, known as the Taotie, are waging war on the Nameless Order.
Initially it’s a little difficult to understand why the Wall is being attacked by what look like giant lizards, and the explanation, when it arrives, seems a little hasty – a quick montage describing the meteor that delivered the Taotie to Earth, and the fact that these creatures attack the Wall every 60 years. The film sees the Nameless Order battle against the Taotie in the hopes that the monsters won’t infiltrate the wall, wreak their havoc on the rest of China and ultimately the world at large.
While the plot delivers more than its share of action, it is largely predictable and void of any great twists. However, there are a few strengths of this film. The fascinatingly choreographed battle scenes highlight the skill of the largely Chinese cast, and Yimou’s skilful use of both intense close-ups and sweeping scenic shots allow the viewer to fully appreciate not only the heightened drama but the beautiful landscape of the Chinese city Qingdao, where the film was shot.
The costumes are also a visual spectacle, with no detail being spared – the armour of the warriors is intricately layered and emblazoned with symbols. The vivid use of colour is a sharp contrast against the grey Wall, and artfully combines traditional elements with an interestingly futuristic look.
The thread of the narrative is, overall, very easy to follow, and the film successfully combines elements of fantasy, mythology, action and adventure. If epic battles against unearthly monsters sounds like your kind of thing, make sure you catch The Great Wall, in cinemas now.
All images via The Great Wall's IMDB page.