The Great Wall Screen 59 of 8 reviews

The Great Wall

2016

The Great Wall Poster
  • As pure spectacle, it's absolutely dazzling. It may be a studio release, but the constant sense of invention, the go-for-broke intricacy of its battle scenes, feels very much of a piece with Chinese action fantasy flicks... That said, the script itself is mostly corn, and broadly predictable. The Taotie... have plenty of clear weaknesses that, early on, get painfully telegraphed, so that we spend much of the movie waiting for everyone to devise a plan that already seems patently obvious to us.

  • Despite this weird tension between Hollywood self-congratulation and PRC propaganda, in mood the film is most reminiscent of the bygone Hollywood swashbuckler, more The Flame and the Arrow than the self-consciously phony Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The action sequences are creative and competent, as is the CGI, though it doesn’t hold a candle in wit or audacity to Tsui Hark and Stephen Chow’s Demons Strike Back.

  • if The Great Wall is too spotty to really satisfy as the old-fashioned medieval adventure it sometimes aspires to be, it is consistently engaging as an almost abstract exercise in visual sumptuousness... There is no logical reason for the film to climax in a tower of stained glass that paints Lin Mae and William in psychedelic Suspiria lighting, but boy does it look gorgeous in 3-D.

  • Sympathetic to the goofy-fun crowd and the noisy-drivel crowd, as I had both reactions at various points. Noise dominates early on, as Zhang struggles to replicate what Peter Jackson did with Helm's Deep; Hollywood's current notion of spectacle doesn't mesh well with this director's strengths, and the initial siege setpiece looks dispiritingly generic... The tense quietude of attempting to pinpoint "screaming arrows" in the fog, however, is right up Zhang's alley.

  • Sight & Sound: Tony Rayns
    March 03, 2017 | April 2017 Issue (p. 82)

    The only things missing are anything that make us care about the characters, and any spark of invention that might impress anyone other than an undemanding 12-year-old.

  • The film’s extensive battle sequences are a showcase for director Zhang Yimou’s genius at marshalling an army of extras in beautifully coordinated movement... Zhang, though, is often hindered by the conventions of large-scale blockbuster filmmaking. The screenplay—by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, and Tony Gilroy—is feebly plotted, with stakes that are never properly established and set in a vaguely sketched world that Zhang makes little attempt to sharpen or define.

  • Snarling digital monsters, a glowering Matt Damon and battalions of unfaltering Chinese warriors mix it up in “The Great Wall,” a painless, overstuffed spectacle that works overtime as a testament to China’s might... The whole thing plays out as if it had been thought up by someone who, while watching “Game of Thrones” and smoking a bowl, started riffing on walls, China and production money.

  • Commanding China’s most expensive production, with probably the biggest input from Hollywood talent ever, blockbuster Chinese director Zhang Yimou capably gives period fantasy-action “The Great Wall” the look and feel of a Hollywood blockbuster, but his signature visual dazzle, his gift for depicting delicate relationships and throbbing passions are trampled by dead-serious epic aspirations.

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