The Great Wall is a 2016 epic historical fiction action-adventure monster film directed by Zhang Yimou and written by Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. The film stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. The film is based on one of the legends about what it is that the empire was trying to keep out and in this case it’s these monstrous creatures who maybe alien in origin. Called the Taoties, these monsters originate from a green meteor that crash-landed onto Gouwu Mountain two thousand years from the time set in the movie. The Chinese believe the Taotie were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and the people. They attack northern China once every sixty years, an invasion for which the Order has been training for their entire lives.
A mercenary group originally consisting of twenty men searching for black powder is attacked by bandits and only two, William and Tovar, survive. While seeking refuge in a cave they are attacked by a monster and William cuts off it’s hand with his sword and it goes away. The next day they stumble upon the Great Wall are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). Initially ordered to be killed the two are spared because they fought and killed a Taotie, one of the monsters that plague northern China every 60 years. William & Tovar joins the battle when the monsters attack and their skills arn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin. Losses are sustained on both sides before the Queen recalls her drones. Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), an European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder. Like them, Ballard was also taken prisoner and now has been serving as an English and Latin teacher. The three foreign mercenaries discuss plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied by battle.
At night two taoties climb the wall and trick the soldiers killing a few including the Shao who then passes on the general’s mantel and leaving Lin to take the command. They also discover that a magnet stuns the monsters into sleeping and they capture one and put their theory to the test. The Taotie is taken to the capital by the envoy. A short while later, a hole is discovered in the base of the Great Wall, which the Taotie Queen has used to lead her hordes to the capital. While Lin investigates, Tovar and Ballard try to escape and knock William unconscious for resisting. William is then arrested by the Chinese soldiers, and despite being saved by a statement from Peng Yong, William eventually locked up in the Wall. Some distance away, Ballard betrays and abandons Tovar, but is himself captured by the Khitans, who inadvertently destroy themselves and Ballard after igniting the powder. Tovar reclaims the horses but is recaptured by the Deer Troop. Lin uses the hot air baloons to get to Bianliang, the capital, Lin passes word to set William free, with Wang telling him to tell the outside world about the danger about to come, but William decides to stay and boards the last balloon.
They reach the capital to see swarms of the monsters destroying property and attacking people. They landed safely into the Emperor’s palace, where Wang proposes an idea to kill the Queen by tying explosives to the captured Taotie from earlier and giving the Taotie meat to be delivered to the Queen. While transporting, a horde of Taotie breach the sewers. Peng Yong sacrifices himself to save the others. With the Taotie released, Lin, William and Wang climb a tower to shoot a black powder rocket to detonate the explosives. Wang is killed while moving to the upper floors. Two of William’s arrows are deflected by the Taoties, but Lin’s spear breach through the defenses after William throws the magnet into the horde before the spear hits a nearby Taotie within the defenses. The queen is destroyed, and the rest of the horde is frozen solid, killing them. With the horde destroyed, William is given an offer, during which he forgoes the powder and instead frees Tovar, much to Tovar’s annoyance. The two, guided by a cavalry, begin their journey back to Europe as Lin, now the General, watch over them from the wall.
Great film to watch in 3D at the theatres. It was awesome to watch. Is the story original? No. Is it very entertaining? I’d say for the most part it was that. Because some of the characters, including a main character played by Matt Damon, are white in a movie set in medieval China, the film has been accused of whitewashing and using the white savior narrative. There are some cliches and non of the actors are taxed in their acting skills. I still enjoyed the film. As a movie going experience I’d give it a…..7.5 outta 10!