The Great Wall China, USA 2016 – 103min.
The Great Wall
What happened to Zhang Yimou? Where is the essence of the film, where is the story that this great project inspired? For over 90 minutes, the theater resonates with a series of action sequences, which, while nice to look at, is not enough to keep the viewer in suspense. Not even Matt Damon’s presence helps, since he fails to stand out in this Sino-American production.
During a fantastical version of the Middle Ages, two soldiers go to the Middle Kingdom in search of black powder, but get sidetracked by the immense army of the Nameless Order, which protects the empire from mythical beasts called Taotie, which have been threatening the population for 2000 years to keep the greed of the emperors in check. This can be seen as criticism of capitalism, which would be quite ironic given the production costs for the movie came to more than $150 million.
But there’s no use looking for deep meaning in this story, which is merely a reasonably staged adventure reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy – but at least that franchise included real characters. Instead, the audience follows Matt Damon and his new friends as they endlessly attempt to avoid becoming monster food. Those concerned about the whitewashing of Chinese history need not worry: in the end, as the Taotie dash themselves against the Great Wall, the Europeans are no stranger than the monsters themselves.