William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are mercenary warriors searching for gunpowder. Chased by hill tribesmen they seek refuge at The Great Wall where they discover a vast army fighting off monsters. Will they stay and fight or escape with the weapon they seek?
Clearly, we all know what they will do, but it is a shame that the resulting film is quite so mediocre.
Director Zhang Yimou is known for spectacle, he directed Hero, House of Flying Daggers and more recently the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. This flair for spectacle is most obviously present in the army atop the wall which is the most enjoyable and spectacular aspect of the film. All the different units are colour coded, wearing beautifully detailed armour and flowing capes. The battle tactics are unique and interesting, there is lots of wall rappelling and even some bungee jumping. Other than this, however, everything else is rather rote.
The monsters themselves feel unoriginal and their hive mind behaviour done before. The supposed tension of whether William will stay and fight or not is non-existent and Matt Damon’s Irish (I think) accent jarring. Of course, characters will learn to trust each other and work together, which seems apt for the largest Chinese-Hollywood co-produced film ever.