In a collaboration between Hollywood and the Chinese film industry, The Great Wall is a test to see if a film can be a hit in both their respective giant markets.

Matt Damon stars in this fantasy epic, playing a cowboy like character in an alternate history where the great wall of China has been built to keep out invaders from another world. A mercenary and great warrior, Damon’s character must prove himself to the Chinese army he’s stumbled across, otherwise face death for learning their dark secrets.

You can see the board meeting, ‘a Game of Thrones epic set in China’, give the project to a famous Chinese director, cast an American and a Chinese lead who are famous in their home countries, and the world would love it. Even going as far as to cast a Game of Thrones cast member, Pedro Pascal in a main role, the film is a marketing manager’s dream.

But, the collaboration hasn’t worked. The film felt clumsy, trying to appease two very different audiences, rather than standing on its own. The result is cheesy dialogue, very anime caricature Chinese characters and a story that sweeps over details so quickly that you never get a chance to feel any emotion for any of the characters. With emphasis placed more on eastern tropes such as loyalty, honesty and wisdom, rather than character development, the characters lack any depth. The worst insult is being told that you’re ‘afraid’ of something, resulting in Damon’s character motivation is just to prove he isn’t scared.

There are some fantastic images, costume design, and battle sequences, but after you see one of those at the start of the film the rest all feel the same. The enemy never feels terrifying enough, and for a fantasy where the invaders could have been anything, giant lizards don’t feel fresh. The editing is also rushed and it seems that this was a 3 hour film they’ve chopped to pieces to fit a 2 hour time frame. Scenes feel cut off and the film’s resolution doesn’t get time to breathe.

With it’s $150 million USD budget, the film could have been fantastic, but it seems a classic example of a film that’s budget is so big that it’s needed to appease too many people, resulting in a blandness that’s felt throughout the film. The landscape surrounding the Wall looked pretty cool though?

– Ben Chesters