Matt Damon is one of those actors where I basically watch every movie he is in automatically. In general his appearance makes a movie worth watching. When this movie was in the cinemas I decided not to see it as I didn’t find the poster very appealing. Once it was available on DVD I decided to check it out. The question is if a movie set in China in the year 1000, starring Matt Damon (amongst others), works?
William (Damon) has been looking for gun powder for months, together with a group of mercenaries. They have heard a lot of stories about this powder, but in the west no one has it. During their journey they are attacked by a mysterious monster. After a fierce fight William manages to defeat the beast and while many men didn’t survive, he continues the journey. They discover the Chinese Wall, where they are captured and interrogated by the Secret Order. When they tell them that they have killed a monster and show his claw as proof the Order wants to find out how he managed to defeat it. It turns out that they have been trying to defeat these monsters, the Tao Tei, who attack every six years in order to protect the Song dynasty.
Before watching this I had no idea what The Great Wall was about and I was expecting battles between two armies similar to movies like The Golden Flower or Hero. I wasn’t expecting this to partly be a monster movie. Even though the story is based on Chinese folklore this movie isn’t very deep and is mainly about action and huge fights. Those battles are quite fun to watch, as are the costumes which are very colorful and detailed. Still you can’t help but feel that Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe and Pedro Pascal are mainly in the movie to make sure western audiences would watch this film and to make Damon feel like the hero who is there as a saviour by giving them the solution to their issue. Without their characters the same story could have been told. Despite those nitpicks it is an ok action movie, which is a nice watch even though it might lack some depth.