Movies · Reviews

[Movie Review] The Great Wall 长城 (2016)

Directed By: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, William Defoe

Release: December 15th, 2016 (China)

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Box Office Gross: 332 million


When a mercenary warrior (Matt Damon) is imprisoned within the Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of the world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront the unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force. (source: IMDb)

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers! Please do not proceed if you do not want to read spoilers. Reviews are written in the opinion of the author and do not reflect the opinions of other contributors of Two C-Ents. 

Panda’s Review:

Did you like Zhang Yimou’s directing style? What could he have done better?

I liked some parts of the movie but decidedly felt meh about most of it. The most effective directing was really in the first battle which was in approximately the first 20 minutes of movie. I really loved how each military unit was introduced, their functions and how they were color coordinated. LOL. The other battles couldn’t quite match up to the first. The directing fell flat in a lot  of the “big” scenes e.g The General’s death could and should have packed a much more powerful punch, also it got to a point that the battles with the Tao Tei lacked any impact.


What did you like about it? Did it touch you? What aspects could they have fleshed out more?

The plot was very pedestrian and run of the mill. I am not bashing it but there was really nothing surprising in the movie. It all felt like it had been done before but with just a different cast. I would say it’s an almost boring blockbuster. I wish they had spent lots more time developing Andy Lau’s character. His and the General were the most interesting characters but they fell flat because they hardly got any focus.

Performances and Character Discussion
How was the acting? Did the cast live up to expectations?
Were the characters developed well? Did you like them? Did you like their actions? Did you understand them?

Matt Damon as William

Matt Damon played William, a mercenary on the search for black powder with his buddy Tovar (Pablo Escobar). He  somehow has a weapon that protects against the Tao Tei and is also a masterful archer. His performance was average at best. I got no sense of any inner turmoil, I hardly even connected with him. I felt Pablo did a better job while not being the lead.

Andy Lau as Wang

He was one of my 2 best performances in the entire movie. He grounded the movie, and gave it depth it sorely lacked and desperately needed.  I wish he had been given more screentime because it would have really added to the story.

Jing Tian as Lin Mae

This was a flat performance by Jing Tian. I just never got the young, genius vibe I was apparently meant to get from her character. I know speaking in English could have hurt her ability to emote naturally/spontaneously but most of the time, she was so stiff I simply couldn’t empathize. There was also meant to be a hint of romance between her and William  but both couldn’t sell it.

There are a bunch of other actors here: Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Huang Xuan, Lin Genxin, Luhan, Cheney Chen… But to be honest they all basically were there for the scenery. The drama didn’t utilize any of them well. Most of their characters were vastly undeveloped. The most glaring example is Zhang Hanyu whom even in his limited screentime was better than the leads.


The cinematography was okay. The music was equally average.

Favorite Scenes

My most favorite scene was the first battle. When the different military units were introduced they looked very cool. Especially Lin Mae’s unit and their bungee jumping. Another scene I liked was when William demonstrated his archery prowess in the great hall. The ending scene in the rainbow building was also pretty nice.

Final Thoughts

The movie was okay. A little boring but okay. Nothing spectacular happens. Competent CGI, average acting. I liked seeing so many Chinese actors in a big production though, so yay for that.

Overall Rating: ✩✩✩ (3 stars)


Did you watch The Great Wall? Tell us what you thought of the movie in the comments!

  • JoyBells

    Yet another story of a white man’s burdern eh.

    With a movies named and set in “Great Wall of China” one would expect to see an asian if not a chinese lead at least. It deserves ever bit of the bad press and controversy. Not surprising it bombed.

  • NewKDramaAddict

    Definitely wasnt 13th Warrior good and the only real whitewashing was the poster. Though Matt was in a lot of scenes, I thought a lot of actors were featured just as much. And the whole white man to the rescue? Didn’t see that. I just hate holes in the story and I did get bored but I didn’t fall asleep