The Great Wall, C-
Rated PG-13, 104 minutes
No, the new film "The Great Wall" is not a documentary about Donald Trump's immigration plan. Much like that plan, this mediocre new action thriller starring Matt Damon is a fantasy and in some respects, a disaster. In spite of some nice visual touches from acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Zimou ("Hero"), it's hampered by sluggish, dumb storytelling and overuse of CGI.
During the time of the Song Dynasty in China, European mercenaries William Garin (Damon) and Pero Tovar ("Narcos'" Pedro Pascal) searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China with General Shao (Zhang Hanyu), Commander Lin (Jing Tian) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau) against a horde of monstrous green creatures called the Taoties.
Directed by Zimou with a script that is credited to Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy, with story help from Max Brooks ("World War Z"), Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the latter two responsible for another, better Asian-themed film, the Tom Cruise drama "The Last Samurai," "The Great Wall" is a mindless, fantasy that isn't helped by all the great writers on board or the star power of a miscast Damon, who seems a little disinterested here. Some of its racist overtones - that of the white savior coming in to save the day - doesn't really help its cause, either.
Despite its many flaws, "The Great Wall" is helped by some nice visual touches from Zimou, who keeps the pricey film (budgeted at $135 million) and the first mainstream Hollywood film to be shot entirely in China, peppered with a few entertaining moments. Among them: different colored suits for the soldiers (unexplained) and the nasty green, lizard-like Taotie creatures, who become watered down with the excessive use of CGI, particularly in its rushed, ridiculous finale with a gazillion of them running amok.
The ultra silly story is the real problem with "The Great Wall" and it has lots of issues, including some useless characters (Willem Dafoe is around, for some reason), some comedic moments that aren't funny and some others that are unintentionally funny, or just laughably bad, mainly when Damon's arrows hit the monsters at precisely the right moment, or when the monsters are somehow able to communicate with each other through wave signals on their head, a vague idea that seems made up in post-production.
Speaking of which, the forgettable, pointless "The Great Wall" seems to have gone south in post-production with some terrible editing, ruining a great premise, taking down a noted director and star with it. Even with some already decent box-office receipts overseas, where it's been playing since mid-December, it may have trouble recouping its expensive price tag. Not worth your time or money.