The Great Wall | reviews, news & interviews
The Great Wall
The Great Wall
Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou buddy up in wooden Sino-Hollywood 3D CGI assault on the senses
The Great Wall is David Icke’s worst nightmare. David Icke (if you weren’t there in the 1980s) was a BBC snooker presenter. After ingesting a brain-rotting anti-elixir, he transmogrified into a doolally conspiracy theorist in a turquoise shell suit. He had a showpiece theory about lizards. Lizards – “tall, blood-drinking, shape-shifting reptilian humanoids,” he specified – were hiding in underground bases and were “a force behind a worldwide conspiracy against humanity”. There are half a dozen scriptwriters credited on The Great Wall. Icke isn’t one of them but Universal Pictures should expect a lawsuit.
The above Wiki entry is basically the plot of an all-clanking schlockbuster that unites the might of Hollywood and China. The only thing preventing a teeming slithering screenful of marauding CGI dragons from taking over the whole of Song-dynasty China is the eponymous wall. Atop it stands Matt Damon as a hard-bitten Irish fortune-hunting arrowsmith who has been taken captive by a crack defensive army known as the Nameless Order.
The lizard army are called Tao Tie here and are the stuff of legend inscribed on scrolls. They pay a courtesy visit once every 60 years but each time they come they are a little bit more tactically astute. They even know how to tunnel. They prove potent opponents to the Nameless Order’s army of bungee-jumping spear women, crack archers and fireball catapults. They are repelled, but only temporarily. Their ultimate goal is to take the throbbing metropolis where the Emperor’s court resides in splendour.
There is vanishingly little downtime between the relentless spectacle of human v reptile setpieces, and in them the script topples off a cliff. Damon trades lame bantz with a grouchy Hispanic sidekick (Pedro Pascal) and lukewarm love chat with babelicious generalissima Lin Mae (Jin Tian), who is more proficient at swordplay than wordplay. Loitering in the wings is Willem Defoe trousering a fat fee as a plot mule.
The Great Wall is a slam dunk for anyone with a strong tolerance for Sino-pageantry that director Zhang Yimou does in his sleep: flying lanterns, thundering drums, military columns clopping up and down the wall. There is a mild fetishistic pleasure to be extracted from all the blingy military tech. I confess I did duck out of the way as a flying 3D axe or two headed one’s way. But mostly the 3D has the peculiar impact of making China’s deserts and mountains look like a flat computer-generated lithograph. The Great Wall is no more demoralising than the tsunami of infantile Marvel movies, but like that fabled Chinese meal it shrinks rapidly in the memory. A very stupid American could see it as a validation of President Trump's southern border policy.
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