Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating *
Cast: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Willem Defoe, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal, Hanyu Zhang, Lu Han, Kenny Lion, Eddie Peng, Xuan Huang, Ryan Zheng, Karry Wang, Cheney Chen, Numan Acar, Johnny Cicco, Vicky Yu, Bing Liu.
There are times when you do have to wonder what studio heads are up to when they allow certain ideas to get past the initial rejection stage of films not being worthy enough to go on the big screen.
There are turkeys, that is fair enough, there are the ones in which you might disagree with the knowledgeable and the forthright opinion, everybody has one after all and it is up to the individual to explore as much as they can in life; sometimes though the art of exploring is best served only as an afterthought, a slight diversion on the road to Damascus, an idea best talked over and then immediately frowned upon as being too pretentious or ludicrous to breathe. It is an accusation that arguably sits in the heart of The Great Wall.
If the film has any redeeming features, certainly in the areas of exploring a region of Chinese culture, albeit one that is truly distorted and used only for effect of the story, and the incredible way that the costumes for such a distant and shrouded past stand out as being vibrant and filled with a sense of glory; aside from that the film has very little to offer, the casting of Matt Damon, one arguably only thrown onto the screen, has more to do with Box office than the telling of a supposed myth, a fable only possible because of the secretive nature of the people for hundreds of years.
Whilst Pedro Pascal has more to offer in terms of natural affinity to the role and a certain hunger for the period, Matt Damon unfortunately looks far too entrenched in the Hollywood ideal to really portray the type of man that could possibly have found himself in China at that time; then again it is all supposed to be fantasy.
A fantasy it is but in scenes and cinematic battles reminiscent of being in The Lord of The Rings trilogy, the fantasy is somewhat short on the ground, in fact the fantasy the film is one that might have been better left residing in the best place for fantasy, the imagination.
A particularly un-enjoyable film, The Great Wall might have the odd moment of a smile forcing its way to the surface but it is also one that feels on the whole as so far-fetched that to call it fantasy is to do a huge and terrible disservice to the genre; opulent yes, perhaps novel and full of monsters and a hero to save the day but that is as close as it gets in The Great Wall.
Ian D. Hall