The Great Wall of China was more than just a fortification to keep out desert raiders, it was also built to protect the world from something worse…
That’s according to this hugely entertaining big budget fantasy adventure, in which Western mercenaries William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones) side with Commander Lin (Jing Tian) and her army to prevent an invasion by a horde of legendary beasts known as Taotie, which appear every 60 years to feed and resemble the dogs from Ghostbusters, only with more teeth.
Having witnessed the ferocity of the creatures first hand during an initial attack, Tovar (understandably) wants to get the hell out of there but William has finally found a cause worth fighting for, and his archery skills (that make Katniss Everdeen look like a novice) plus a magnetic rock in his possession could tip the balance of this war.
Essentially a castle under siege scenario (in this case a Wall), The Great Wall could easily be written off as just another generic CGI-stuffed Hollywood blockbuster full of recycled battle scenes from The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. But this Chinese-US co-production has got a lot more going for it, not least its Eastern flavour.
Damon (who’s a little wooden here) might be the headlining star but this is a Zhang Yimou film, and if you’ve ever seen Hero and/or House of Flying Daggers you’ll know you’re in for an exciting ride executed with artistic flair, extravagant production design and costumes, panoramic widescreen shots, colourful pageantry, and plenty of slow motion arrows.
The battle scenes are grand and frequent, the pacing is brisk, the monsters are cool, and Willem Dafoe pops up as an added bonus. And if you see this in an IMAX theatre you’ll be ducking for cover from some terrific 3D sequences.
The Great Wall is the movie that Warcraft should have been (but don’t let that put you off) and delivers nothing more or less than its simple pitch: Matt Damon fighting monsters on the Great Wall of China. What’s not to like?
In cinemas: February 16, 2017
Starring: Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Jing Tian
Directed by: Zhang Yimou