This scenario may make The Great Wall sound entertainingly demented, but as so-nuts-it's-good spectacle, the movie disappoints. From the director of "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Ring" comes an eerie thriller that features solid visuals, quality production design and decent acting, yet a lengthy running time and a farfetched supernatural narrative that will likely send some viewers running for the exits.
Considering its historical roots, it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction.
Like I said, The Great Wall isn't a good movie, but it was easy enough to get through. Some of that could be credited to the fact "William" is supposed to be a sort of fish out of water, but we've seen Damon make that believable in a lot of incredible performances. The score is stunning with songs and music that fit the era perfectly. The President has everyone in Hollywood nervous about what that might mean for the film business, which has received substantial investment from China over the last half decade and is negotiating this year to increase the number of films allowed into the country.
Now, I rehash all this in the hopes that it provides some context, and maybe even an explanation, for THE GREAT WALL. This isn't a mystical substance, but common gun powder. Then he goes and says things like, "They need us here". What project required Matt Damon to rock that man bun for years? It's fairly stupid, half-baked fantasy fodder, and it isn't a story about the building of one of China's greatest landmarks. However, their victory is short-lived when they're captured by the Nameless Order, a highly-trained garrison of Chinese soldiers who guard the Great Wall from invaders and vicious monsters known as Taotie.
After the first act, it's a bit downhill, focusing less on impressive army maneuvers and more on rote interpersonal motivations coupled with silly schemes involving magnets and hot air balloons. These were military sky lanterns, and were regarded as an important part of military strategy long before they were appropriated as a festival attraction. Through battle, they gain the confidence of Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian), who despite her reservations invites the pair to help defend the wall, teaching them lessons about trust and loyalty along the way. No matter what, The Great Wall will wind up being a time capsule, an example of early Chinese attempts to win over an American audience. At one point, they commanded an incredible one million soldiers against various threatening forces. Chopping off the beast's arm, the two escape arriving at the Great Wall of China. "If ever a film was made with more money than sense, this is it".
And yet, The Great Wall still manages to be an entertaining - if not very deep - adventure that delivers on its fantastic, monster-fighting premise. Depictions of the Taotie have been found on various relics and vessels, often shown as an animal-like face with bulging eyes.
There, they immediately find themselves in the midst of a battle against these unusual creatures, called Taotie, which are like giant, man-eating, hyper-intelligent iguanas that travel in enormous, well-organized packs.