By Guuto Dolal
The Great Wall is a historical action film directed by Zhang Yimou and stars Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal and Jing Tian. The movie was hit with controversy early in production with some questionable casting choices that led to debates about diversity in the industry. Leaving that aside, the question becomes whether or not this is a good film, and unfortunately, it’s not.
The Great Wall has an abundance of flaws that hold it back at every stage. The biggest issue it struggles with is the lack of development for almost all the characters. The two protagonists, William (Matt Damon) and Pero (Pedro Pascal) are rushed into conflict and their entire motivation is explained in the first ninety seconds of the film. With no reason to care about these characters, they end up feeling forgettable and boring. It’s apparent that Yimou is trying to forge emotionally powerful scenes but that can’t be achieved when the characters involved had barely any dialogue prior. The ones that did have a lot to say didn’t add anything to this project. Matt Damon is a proven actor, but he’s difficult to watch, as his accent isn’t consistent as he slips back to his regular speaking voice numerous times. A lot of his lines feel forced or passionless like he didn’t even want to be in this film. Pedro Pascal is also the clichéd comic relief character whose every move is incredibly predictable. On top of that, he also feels unlikable and annoying when on screen. The only person to put on a performance that was not awful would be Jing Tian. Her character is somewhat interesting but she too felt wooden at times.
As each scene passes, The Great Wall becomes increasingly over the top. Ridiculous decisions and unbelievable luck fuel almost all the action set pieces. The battle sequences are filled to the brim with bad CGI and repulsive monsters that look like a mix of The Lizard from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) and a dog. The green screen is also obvious in many scenes and when you put that alongside the bad CGI, it resembles video game action from five years ago. Additionally, there are multiple moments and outcomes that break the audience’s immersion, causing the film to induce laughter when attempting to be serious. The few beautiful scenes Yimou had were filled with bright vivid colours but the beauty was quickly killed with the terrible special effects.
This is the type of movie that you eat popcorn and laugh at with your friends. If you approach it with that mentality, you might get some fun from it. Other than that, this is a disappointment that audiences should stay far away from. A handful of colourful scenes and a decent performance from Jing Tian redeems it slightly but The Great Wall is definitely not worth the price of admission.
(Featured Image: The Great Wall, Universal Pictures)