Cinema Review – The Great Wall

The Great Wall

There is a lot of fighting in this – in fact, that is about all there is to it. The action sequences are connected by a narrative thread, I’m sure, but I nodded off frequently and every time I woke up dribbling there was total mayhem happening on the screen. And how on earth Matt Damon turned up in medieval China is a mystery – is he short of a quid all of a sudden, or was he lured by Yimou Zhang’s status as a cult director? He plays William, a roguish trader and archer extraordinaire who has come to the Middle Kingdom with his wisecracking Sancho Panza sidekick, Tovar (Pedro Pascal), seeking gunpowder to take back to Europe. They happen to arrive, however, at a time when a horde of hideous giant green geckos with T-Rex heads and even more terrifying teeth are laying siege to the Great Wall. Among the army officers resisting the reptilian invader is Commander Lin (Tian Jing), who is an absolute doll in body-hugging, cobalt blue, sex-kitten armour. She and William hit it off in a sweet East-meets-West romance that is designed to avert an R rating – there are big bucks invested here and MA is always a safer return for investors. So William and Lin make eyes at each other, but the green monsters won’t go away, launching wave after wave of attacks that are only repelled thanks to William’s remarkable resourcefulness and superhuman courage. I’m not entirely sure what Willem Dafoe is doing lurking ghostily around the corridors (he reminded me of the late John Hurt in Midnight Express), but he always does a great skinny weirdo, so it was fun to see him there. The idea that the monsters are susceptible to the power of William’s magnet is a nice touch – they cower and cringe from it, in much the same way Superman was affected by kryptonite – and the film is flash in the extreme, with terrific CGI and gorgeous design. A soupçon of deadpan, Butch and Sundance humour is a welcome relief, but otherwise it is just one long noisy rumble.

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