The Great Wall
review by Bobby Blakey
When the first trailer for The Great Wall debuted people instantly went in to the complaining mode of an American in an Asian production calling it White Washing. If those that claimed that had paid attention they would have easily seen that visionary director Yimou Zhang was in the director’s chair and along with Damon the film featured a great supporting cast including Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Tian Jing, Eddie Peng, Hanyu Zhang, Kenny Lin and the always amazing Andy Lau who is easily China’s biggest star. Could this film offer up something worth fighting for or will it be an attack on the wall not worth defending?
The Great Wall follows a mercenary warrior who is imprisoned within the Great Wall and discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of the world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts besiege the massive structure his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront the unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force. While Damon may be getting top billing he is far from the only star of this film. This is a full on American-Chinese co-production with the Chinese side of filmmaking front and center. This is a stunningly beautiful film that is filled with vibrant colors and mesmerizing visuals that makes the entire experience worth it for that alone. Director Zhang has become known for these kinds of looks in his film and this one is no exception. The Power Ranger like colors that separate each of the pieces of the army serve a purpose and are explained making the idea behind it all the cooler as you see them in action and there is a lot of it.
This film wastes no time at getting the action into play and while there are only two to three sequences each of them are massive in scale and play up long enough that you kind of need the break in between. The story itself works and for those that may still be harping on the American inclusion of the Great Wall it has nothing to do with the history of the wall itself, but a legend to the creatures that it was built to keep out. This is a complete fantasy tale that is filled with full on monster assaults and warriors squaring off in epic battles. Outside of the visuals this film is at its best when the battles are happening thanks to some creative tactics designed to take the creatures on. With ach assault they execute a different type of defense with each being cooler than the next and reminding you that this is a full epic fantasy battle. The creature designs are kind of cool, but sadly the CGI doesn’t always work and stands out as being just that.
Outside of the CGI missteps where this film really struggles is with Damon himself. He is fine in the role, but he has an accent that comes and goes making it hard to fully buy into his character. Maybe it is because we don’t see him in these fantasy style roles often, but for me he just seemed a bit out of place. Thankfully he can carry the action great and in the end still manages to work for what it is. A lot of the film was clearly shot for 3D so not seeing it in 3D it does showcase that in a bad way. In the end, this is a mindless popcorn flick perfectly wrapped in a beautiful Asian epic war film and nothing more. If you try to read into it any more you will be highly disappointed.
In addition to the film this release includes numerous bonus features including deleted and extended scenes as well as featurettes that take you behind the making of this epic battle. Join the fight and grab your copy of The Great Wall available now on 4K Ultra, Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Home Entertainment.