Review: “The Great Wall”

In the overabundance of “white washing” complaints littering Hollywood these days one film has been at the center of it all for some time, “The Great Wall”. The Matt Damon-driven monster film is far from the worst attempt at an action epic you will probably see this year or anytime in the future. A little bland, but fun to watch, “The Great Wall” is a decent attempt at a popcorn action flick despite the controversies surrounding its casting, even if it does fall short of any real expectation set for it.

As stated above, “The Great Wall” is heavily driven by the star power of Matt Damon, who portrays a William, a European warrior-for-hire that becomes involved in a conflict between Chinese soldiers on The Great Wall and a horde of dangerous monsters. Flanked by his partner Tovar, played by Pedro Pascal (“Game of Thrones”), the pair’s search for black powder leads them to be captured by the Chinese warriors at which point they learn of the forces battle tactics in their fight against an alien race called the Tao Tai, which rises every sixty years more evolved and strategically sound than they were before. In their attempt to procure black powder from the Chinese army and escape their captivity the two warriors join in the fight against the Tao Tai as the aliens draw closer to a new level of strength never seen before.

In almost every measurable way “The Great Wall” is actually highly unoriginal, but that doesn’t make it a bad film. On the surface it comes off as nothing more than a generic alien action film, but it’s actually quite fun. The film bucks its biggest “on the surface” flaw with a strong cast of powerful Asian characters and a powerful female Asian lead in Jing Tian’s Commander Lin Mae who actually tends to overshadow Damon’s character and even the films other white lead, William Dafoe’s out of place villain Sir Ballard. It’s very obvious Damon’s star power was the driving force for advertising the movie which doesn’t really do it justice from a diversity perspective. My take, if you are avoiding seeing this movie because of the “whitewashing” issue, give it a shot. You might be surprised.

Along with a surprisingly diverse cast “The Great Wall” also sports some awesome, albeit ridiculous and convoluted, battle strategies on display that add to the action. However, probably the biggest issue I had with “The Great Wall” is its lack of originality. Deep down the film is still nothing more than a generic alien movie with forgettable creatures and an unneeded secondary human villain that follows a few too many all-to-familiar tropes of science fiction.

For all its great action and fun, “The Great Wall” is nothing special. We’ve seen this before and while we have not seen it in this setting we’ve seen it done much better. While it impressively bucks the controversy around its lead casting with a powerful and diverse cast of characters, there’s not too much that helps “The Great Wall” stand out. If you’re looking for a bit of cheap fun at the theater, “The Great Wall” will give you enough to enjoy a few hours of nonstop action fun. Otherwise, you probably won’t hurt too much from passing this one by.


GRADE: 2-stars

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