This is truly an epic film. The huge vistas of the Great Wall and lovely countryside around it are the best thing about this film. Seeing it in Imax it can be truly appreciated. The 3D effect works particularly well in the battle scenes – of which there are many – when objects fly towards the audience.
The story – rather tediously explored – centres on two European mercenaries, William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) who are searching for “black powder”, a commodity to make them wealthy. After killing a giant, lizard-like, slimy monster, William chops off its hand and the two take it with them. It is found with them when they are captured by the Chinese soldiers of the Nameless Order, which is commanded by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and his adviser Wang (Andy Lau). They occupy the Great Wall. The Nameless Order who have been expecting the alien monsters, known as Tao-Tie, who rise up every 60 years, are amazed to hear what William has done.
At first the two men are made prisoners but they later help the Nameless Order repel the millions of monsters. Commander Lin (Jing Tian) is impressed with William and allows him to fight alongside her when she is made the General. The two men also meet Sir Ballard, another European, and Tovar joins Ballard in an escape bid trying to take the black powder with them.
Matt Damon keeps his hair long and ties it back. He has an Irish accent that comes and goes but mostly sounds okay. His face is somewhat blank though and the actor is not helped by the pedestrian dialogue. The only woman in the cast, Jing Tian, looks physically fit and moves with grace and assurance. She is a strong character and is not a romantic foil for Damon – in fact there is no kiss! Poor Willem Dafoe looks rather strangulated and lost in China.
There are some amazing acrobatic feats and seemingly hundreds of extras including drum beaters and those handy with bows and arrows. The cinematography is the best feature of this film and if you want an epic set in China with lots of battle scenes, then this movie might well suit you.
Review by Carlie Newman