Developed on an enormous scale with a budget of $150m, The Great Wall tells the tale of China's epic creation set amid a fictional monster narrative. Their domestic box office in Asia has already managed to take $211.2m in ticket sales. Strong, and this is before the film makes a United States release on February 17th. So expect a favorable domestic response as well? Not exactly, as the critics reception has been skeptical to say the least.
With Matt Damon in the lead role, the 44-year old dismissed claims of whitewashing that was even supported by the film scribes. Arguing that Damon's character William Garin is regularly humbled by Chinese culture and the discipline they instill with their military. Supported by Willem Dafoe and Pedro Pascal of Game of Thrones fame, the feature promises a lot. Unfortunately it delivers too many cliches to be considered a classic.
One Dimensional Characters We've Seen Before
Maggie Lee of Variety believes that the premise passes off the idea of originality. But if you examine the history of Asian cinema, it is far from so.
"Though the film plays with the idea that China’s Great Wall may have been erected to keep out invaders more intimidating than mere mortals, the idea isn’t necessarily original, having already inspired the 2009 Japanese manga Attack on Titan," she remarks.
"That wouldn’t be such a problem if Zhang (Yimou director) or his scribes had devoted even a smidgen of time to giving the respective commanders identities or backstories. Instead, though they are played by recognized actors (Eddie Peng, Kenny Lin Gengxin) with proven ability and charisma, these characters are just glorified cameos, stomping around in heavy armor looking angry or worried or both."
Still A Spectacle On The Big Screen
Helen Roxburgh from The Guardian gave the title a lukewarm 3/5 stars. All while arguing that there are worse ways to spend 104 minutes of your time.
"While the plot is straightforward and twists largely non-existent, The Great Wall succeeds as a no-nonsense visual extravaganza with plenty of adventure, and has been generally well-received by domestic audiences," she explained. "Whether it has done enough to differentiate itself and achieve mainstream international success remains to be seen."
Fred Hawson of ABS-CBN News was far more critical. Giving the movie a mere 3/10 rating to lambast the screenplay's lazy narrative.
"(The) positives do not make up for some lousy history details (like about Chinese learning about magnets from Westerners) or that maddeningly simplistic solution to their major problem (really now -- kill one, kill all?)," wrote an animated Hawson. "The big anxiety about the White Savior plot line was NOT unfounded. I am just thankful to be spared a full romantic subplot between William and Commander Lin. The hint was bad enough."
So, ummm, not good.