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The Great Wall of China is iconic and considered to be one of the greatest man-made wonders of the world. It has a rich history of protecting the borders of the nation for a multitude of years. The stories that centre on this marvel of human ingenuity go from the compelling to legendary. Acclaimed Chinese director Yimou Zhang (Hero) utilises this fabled landmark as the setting for his mythological account of an unknown, but the alternative purpose for this bricked fortress.
The legend has its origins that began 2000 years prior to the events of The Great Wall, when a green meteor crash-landed in a local mountain range and released the Taoties. These monstrous creatures have a ravenous appetite for human flesh, but a pattern of behaviour that allows the Chinese the time to build the wall that protects the interior of their nation. In the preparations for the ensuing battle, two mercenary soldiers from Europe show up at the wall after defeating one of the Taoties. William Garin (Matt Damon) and Perl Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are attempting to find the magical black powder for the purpose of weaponry, but find themselves in the centre of a war between monster and man. They quickly move from the prisoners of the Chinese to become the catalyst for potential victory against the beastly horde. They partner with their captors and must work to find the potential weaknesses of the constantly evolving demonic aliens.
‘Being honest with you, it’s not the ‘great’ wall of China. It’s an all right wall. It’s the ‘All Right Wall of China.’ – Comedian Karl Pilkington
Pilkington was merely providing a cheeky comment on his experience of visiting the actual Great Wall, but his statement does manage to encapsulate the reaction to this film, too. Director Zhang has built a career of visual masterpieces and this is the strength of his latest production. The financial outlay on CGI and cinematography are evident, but the production team must have forgotten to hire a scriptwriter to complement this visual smorgasbord. This is one of those viewing experiences that benefit from 3D technology. The use of this advanced technology and the camera work attempt to cover the lack of any reputable dialogue.
Watching actors of Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe’s calibre delivering such a poorly written script could have been comical if it was not so painful to watch. Damon, an Academy Award-winning scriptwriter, seems to have a knowing grin on his lips during the film at the poorly scribed words that he must utter. Hopefully, he is enjoying a significant paycheck to explain this unexplained career choice.
There is something to celebrate with the inclusion of some of China and Hong Kong’s biggest film stars, as many are being introduced to western audiences for the first time. Jing Tian, Andy Lau and Hanyu Zhang provide the intensity needed for the warriors of The Nameless Order. These revered actors performances are strengthened by beautiful uniforms and fascinating battle choreography provided by Zhang’s direction. Proving that the value of this film could only be found in the cinematography and effects, but not in the storyline. This was accentuated by the ridiculous colour coding of the warriors and female soldiers being utilised as yo-yo weapons in battle. Regardless of the Mandarin or English scripting, the overall concept was so poorly thought out that it left all logic at the cinema door.
Understandably, it sits in the realm of fantasy and should be allowed some level of disbelief, but this adventure went from fanciful to complete delusion. For all of the money thrown into this production, The Great Wall fails to reach the heights of great cinema.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. – Acts 4:12
We all want a saviour at different times in our lives. Regardless of your religious affiliation, during times of great struggle there is a need for outside help. This is an underlying theme of The Great Wall. Even with all of the best preparations of the nation and the magnificent fortress that was built, there was a need for help from others. At the heart of the human condition, the saviour figure plays a role in the smallest to the greatest needs of our lives. During tough times, where do you turn for help?
Other portions of the Bible to consider in this search for a Saviour:
Luke 1:47, 1 John 4:14, 2 Peter 3:9