The Great Wall was a big, dumb action movie. I went into the theater with subpar expectations, and not surprisingly I came out mostly disappointed with what I saw.
The Great Wall stars Matt Damon as a character whose name I never learned, a European mercenary traveling to China in search of gunpowder. Upon arrival to China, Matt Damon learns that the Chinese are currently involved in a war against ancient CGI monsters called the Tao Tei. Matt Damon decides to help the Chinese fight these monsters after building a connection with the Commander of the Great Wall military, Lin (Jing Tian).
I hate to start by saying that the film put too much importance on our main character, but it most certainly did. The Chinese found it fascinating that Matt Damon killed one of the creatures single-handedly. Yet on many occasions random grunts in the Chinese military kill the creatures by themselves too. Not to mention that there are hundreds of thousands of these things. So, really, who cares about this guy? Well, not me.
One of the most glaring problems with The Great Wall was the stilted and lifeless acting. Even Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe, two phenomenal actors, couldn’t give convincing performances. It was so atrocious that Matt Damon’s accent kept periodically changing. At times you could almost see some good performances trying to get through, however ultimately the film failed to deliver us any memorable characters.
The most memorable parts of The Great Wall is definitely the Lord of the Rings style battle sequences atop the Wall. Unlike the Lord of the Rings, the CGI in this film was quite impressively bad. I could tell from the instant you see the Tao Tei (green monsters that want to destroy China) that the computer imagery is atrocious. It was so bad that I feel somewhat sympathetic for anyone involved in this project. Did they think it was okay? Did they think people would find it cool? It begs the question of how they spent one hundred and fifty million dollars on something I could make using free 3D animation software.
Most of the dialogue in the film is reduced to only two word responses. The audience is given very little time to get to know the characters, and the characters are given no time to interact and build chemistry. Instead of just watching the events unfold on-screen, we are told everything that happens scene for scene. The dialogue really makes the film feel mundane.
The costumes in the film look like a flamboyant interpretation of Game of Thrones attire. It was really hard to take anyone wearing those ridiculous costumes seriously. Which was about everyone. I’m not sure how historically accurate the costumes even were (my guess is they weren’t, at all), nonetheless they were very distracting and out of place. On the bright side, at least I now know where most of the budget went.
With nothing but boring, paper thin characters and large CGI battle scenes, The Great Wall will interest only a select few. If you do plan on seeing this over budgeted film, I would recommend going in with very low expectations. The only way I can see people truly enjoying The Great Wall is for some good old fashioned schlock entertainment, however even that is a long shot.
The Verdict: D+