Long-waited epic The Great Wall has finally hit screens in China. The action adventure was helmed by superstar Chinese director Zhang Yimou, backed by Chinese-owned Hollywood studio Legendary, with a cast featuring Chinese A-listers as well as Matt Damon, making it the most expensive film ever made in China.

It won’t be remembered as Zhang’s best film, but the director’s artistic touch is on display in his long panoramic sweeps and artful use of color. Simultaneously futuristic and historic, the visual spectacle carries the film, while Zhang manages to include plenty of promised “Chinese elements”.

By its end, The Great Wall leaves you with the feeling that it must be a metaphor – after all, the Taotie were, according to legend, brought down by their own greed – but hazy about what exactly the moral is. Is it a warning over rampant Chinese consumerism? A caution against marauding foreigners and invading foreign values? A reminder about the power of collectivism over individualism? Or is it really just a old romp between goodies and baddies?

While the plot is straightforward and twists largely non-existent, The Great Wall succeeds as a visual extravaganza with plenty of adventure, and has been generally well-received by domestic audiences. Whether it has done enough to differentiate itself and achieve mainstream international success remains to be seen.

The Great Wall is released on 16 December in China and 17 February in the US and UK.


The latest Zhang Yimou flick is definitely a 'leave your brains back at home' type of adventure. Rather than serving as a work of art, like Mr Zhang's other works, it's purpose is to bank as much as possible with it's predictable story-line and overstuffed cast of big names who aren't used to their full potential.

There are too many characters that aren't explored and are therefore pointless. The majority of the scenes are given to Damon and Jing Tian's clichéd 'will they, will they not-potential lovers' character arcs. In fact a good 25% of the film seems to focus on Jing Tian's face.

The dialogue seems to have been cut from a large block of cheese and didn't do the actors any favours. For instance, Jing Tian's English lines were facepalm worthy and I spent a good portion of the film having a giggle whenever she spoke. Her delivery made them even worse.

The foreign actors; Damon, Pascal, and Dafoe were doing what they could with the sub-par script and at times it felt awkward. Damon spends a lot of the film doing his Jason Bourne face and speaking silly dialogue. His talent is wasted here.

The visuals and battle scenes are the only reasons to see this film. Either go to the cinema and enjoy it for the visuals and effects or don't and do something more productive with your time. Could have been a lot better.