12A – 103mins – 2017 – 3D
FIGHT OR FLIGHT?
Aside from the location (China), time period (medieval) and headline actor (Matt Damon) – all discernible from the poster – I went into this mega-budgeted adventure from House of the Flying Daggers director Zhang Yimou blind, unsure whether to expect a dour drama akin to The Last Samurai or an action-packed choreography-fest like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. What I categorically was not expecting was The Mummy Returns… again!
Searching 12th century China for a fabled black powder, Damon and Pedro Pascal’s Western mercenaries find themselves imprisoned by a secret battalion of the Imperial Army. This Nameless Order protect the titular fortification from an inhuman threat; hordes of ravenous beasties called Tao Tie who attack every 60 years to feed their telepathic Queen. Can the ignoble thieves learn to temper their selfish needs and think of the greater good, or will Willem xXx: The Next Level Dafoe’s fellow prisoner persuade them to loot the doomed Order and leave?
Adopting a grittier and more straight-faced gait than other olde worlde fantasy-adventure yarns such as Van Helsing, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter or last year’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Great Wall’s anachronistic supernatural elements did take me completely my surprise. However, Yimou’s grandiose visual flair is frequently epic and always commendably executed. It’s not hard to see how this is the most expensive Chinese production ever ($135million budget).
Bold, busy and colourful, the camera swoops gracefully around the kinetic action and destruction, bringing the large-scale battle sequences vividly to life. A scene in which Damon’s William Garin is hunted by the prowling, Resident Evil-style monsters through heavy swirling mist is both atmospheric and beautiful. Sure, The Great Wall is outrageous, inessential fluff, but it’s solidly made and effectively engaging fluff, at least for the hour and forty minutes it’s on screen.
CR@B’s Claw Score: