“The Great Wall” Movie Review – A Chinese Legend About Fighting Aliens

The Great Wall Poster Matt Damon

The Great Wall has its faults but if one can look past them and appreciate the movie on a surface level it is a very enjoyable film.

This post contains spoilers for The Great Wall. Proceed with caution!

The Great Wall entered my radar when accusations of whitewashing surfaced online. Even the trailer made the movie come across as a story that had Matt Damon helping the Chinese army survive a monster attack. He does help a lot but the actual movie makes more sense than what the trailer might imply, especially about the film being white-male-centric.

Other than Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, and Pedro Pascal, the entire film has actors of Chinese heritage in important military positions.

I get that Matt Damon was cast to appeal to a broader audience (sigh!) but I don’t think it was a case of extreme whitewashing, especially not on the level of Gods of Egypt and Exodus: Gods and Kings. William (Matt Damon) and Pero (Pedro Pascal) are shown as outsiders who come to China for black powder. It is through them the audience gets to know about the Taotie species attacking the Great Wall of China once every sixty years.

The Chinese army is shown to be well-disciplined (and extremely color coordinated). What I couldn’t understand was why the blue-themed Crane Group was exclusive to just women. Can’t men be graceful enough to do superhuman acrobatic moves using elastic cords? Regardless, the choreography of the action sequences is very impressive.

Also, I was surprised to see The Great Wall not focusing too much on William’s romantic pairing with General Lin Mae (Jing Tian). There was definitely a spark between the two but it was refreshing to see the writers taking General Lin’s role seriously as the protector of China rather than making her pursue her romantic feelings without making sense. There wasn’t even a hug between the two.

That is why I liked how the writers handled Lin’s character. We saw her rise in rank throughout the film, helping William land the last hit against the alien queen, and ultimately being promoted to regional marshal. Developing a romance between her and William during an alien-invasion would’ve taken a lot of away from Lin being her own character.

As far as the plot is concerned, it isn’t too complex. Humanity’s greed led to a meteor hitting Earth, and every sixty years the aliens attack the Great Wall of China, multiplying in numbers each time. The queen needs to be defeated to end the attacks and that’s what William helps the Chinese army accomplish.

Before I end my review, I would like to talk about Matt Damon’s hair. I don’t know if it was his real hair or a wig but the fact that his hairline looked inconsistent throughout the film distracted me a lot. Sometimes his hairline would recede while in other scenes it would be covering most of his forehead. The hair styling department needs to get its act together!

All in all, The Great War is an enjoyable big-screen film with impressive CGI and fight sequences. There isn’t much to bite into with regards to plot and character development but I guess that wasn’t what this film was made for in the first place. It is a popcorn movie that provides you around an hour and a half of fun content.

The Great Wall will be released on 17th February 2017 in the U.S. It stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, and Andy Lau.

Have you watched The Great Wall? What did you think? Let us know.

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Masters in Psychology and is the author of numerous books including Arousing the Legacy, Missing in Somerville, The Game Master of Somerville, and The Escaped Murderer of Somerville. He gives us insight on comics, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies. He reviews shows such as Gotham and Teen Wolf.