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The Great Wall (2016)
1700 years to build. 5500 miles long. What were they trying to keep out?
Director: Zhang Yimou

European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

The Great Wall (2016)


I am an admirer of this filmmaker, and he does better when he gets closer to a single soul or small collection of them. But for large projects he seems to be able to understand how to group extras and their CG equivalent for visual music.

But here it seems that he got into a situation where he had no control over the script and its ham-handed dialog. Matt Damon has stated he saw the vision of the thing slipping away while being made. Also, the backers clearly ran out of CG funding in the second half.

Let’s set aside anything to do with the monsters. That clearly was handled by a team not related to Yimou Zhang. And forget about the dialog and focus on the wall itself and the colour coded troops. I believe that this part, this vision is Zhang’s. And it is marvellous.

At the end is a sequence where our two heroes are inside a tower intending to deal the final blow to the queen. I think I have seen several tower scenes in Chinese movies (Detective Dee?) that are a mix of this scene — vast tower with coloured windows — and the earlier machinery of the wall. If this had not been stunted in production, it could have been one of the master scenes in all filmdom, such is the promise of this film-maker (even without Chris Doyle) and this notion.

So, come for the motion of humans and machines, colour and space, vertical flows and painted vistas. Ignore all else.

Posted in 2022

Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.


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