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'The Great Wall' Review

'The Great Wall' US Theatrical Release Poster

'The Great Wall' US Theatrical Release Poster

Based on a Real Life Legend

The Great Wall is made by Legendary Entertainment and is distributed by Universal. The movie stars Matt Damon (Interstellar), Jing Tian (Kong: Skull Island) and Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones). The Great Wall is the first English-spoken movie directed by Zhang Yimou. The visuals are beautiful, as they should be with an estimated 150 million dollar budget. Unfortunately, the writing and the plot are too simplistic and predictable. The Great Wall of China is a historic structure, which is interesting as the movie gets its story from a legend based on real life.

Story and Character

The story picks up with European mercenary William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) in China searching for black powder. They have an interaction with a mysterious creature, later called the Tao Tei, and kill it. However, they reach the wall and are taken prisoner by The Nameless Order. From there the plot is simple. They help the Nameless Order defeat the Tao Tei. Of course, there is a love interest, just like every other movie.

William Garin is the generic hero character you will get in every movie that has lazy writing and can’t be bothered to write interesting characters. His story arc goes like this; he starts off being greedy and only does things for himself. He eventually becomes heroic and does what is right. The only real way he changes that I can tell from the movie is he falls in love with Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian). However, this storyline doesn’t even get explored that much.

Commander Lin Mae’s character has no real personality. That is all I can really say. She is given some nice battle scenes, but character-wise, she doesn’t get much development.

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Pedro Pascal’s character Pero Tovar is much like the others. I could predict everything he was going to do. Basically, he just wants to get the black powder and he will do anything for it. He even betrayed his friend, yet in the end, his friend saved him. That plotline was so stupid that I couldn't help but laugh. Perhaps they should take tips from George R.R. Martin’s advice on betrayal. The people that understand you will know what I am talking about.

Production Design

The one thing I can say that I liked about the movie are the choices made by the director and his production design team. The bright contrasting colours give life to the movie. The best use of colour during the movie is the colours of The Nameless Order’s army. The black colour are the foot soldiers. Red goes to the archers and blue goes to those that wield spears, who are mostly women. Purple goes to defence soldiers.

Visual Style

Zhang Yimou has a beautiful visual style in this movie. One of the best shots he does is when someone shoots an arrow. The camera follows the arrow as it is being shot. He uses this technique throughout the movie. Also, the wide shots during the movie are stunning. Especially of the mountains and The Great Wall of China.


There is one thing that we need to talk about. That is the fact that some people feel like the movie is being whitewashed. I don’t completely agree as the characters are not portraying Chinese people, so there is no problem. The problem I have with the movie is that I can see a version of this movie where Matt Damon isn’t in it. This is because I feel he isn’t needed for the story to be told. Another thing that is weird is why they only give certain Chinese characters the ability to speak English. This is obviously just so they can communicate with the main actor.

Won't Hurt, But You Can Live Without It

My conclusion is that you can watch the movie if you're bored, but you’re not missing much if you don’t watch it. Like most movies, there is not enough character development. Therefore, the viewers do not care for characters that are not interesting. Instead, Zhang Yimou has many other great films he has directed, such as Hero and House of Flying Daggers.


© 2019 Calvin Scanlan

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