The Great Wall: Review


Boy, do I feel bad for Matt Damon. Originally lined up for the leading role in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea, a role which eventually went to Casey Affleck and which has garnered him multiple awards, Damon had to settle for a producer credit on the film due to his busy schedule. Part of that schedule was The Great Wall, an action-fantasy that could just end up being one of the worst films of the year and certainly one of the worst films the actor has ever been involved in. And when you consider the fact that Affleck will more than likely be taking home an Oscar for his performance in a couple of weeks time, whilst this will be virtually forgotten by that point, there’s no denying that Damon has made a terrible mistake.

In all fairness, it’s easy to see why the actor would be attracted to this picture. Foremost, it’s directed by one of the best directors of Asian cinema, Yimou Zhang, who has been responsible for such visually striking works as House of Flying Daggers and Hero. This too is a visually beautiful piece of work, equally as colourful as the filmmaker’s previous efforts, but that can only takes The Great Wall so far. 

Even the concept is fantastic, imagining that one of the world’s biggest landmarks was built to protect China from an army of monsters. It’s the type of high-concept idea that would have worked well had the material been handled better with a stronger screenplay. However, the script from Tony Gilroy, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard lacks any sense of focus to the point where the only three-dimensional aspect of the film is the format you’ll watch it in.

There are elements which are fun, but The Great Wall never manages to do anything exciting or new enough to help it really take off. Even Matt Damon, an actor who I admire greatly, fails to add any kind of charm to proceedings with a indistinguishable accent and his most wooden performance to date. All the elements are there, that’s for sure, but they fail to fit together as they should. It’s an awkward and frankly boring excuse of a film that is as far from great as you can get. Avoid it. 

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