“There was a lot of controversy surrounding this movie, to the point where I almost skipped it. The crux of the problem was why does a movie about the Great Wall of China star Matt Damon? Shouldn’t it star an Asian actor? The filmmakers gave sort of mumbling responses, and no one was really too satisfied with their answers. As someone who does try to be sensitive to such things, it wasn’t enough to make me not wanna see the movie. However, the main reason I did still wanna see it was Damon, which plays right into the argument of why that type of white washing is so prevalent. Therefore on principle, unless I had strong convincing otherwise, I was gonna sit this one out.
Then I had some strong convincing. I stumbled on an article by an Asian American critic who saw the film and put the controversy into context. Basically what it comes down to is that for this particular story, the characters were meant to be of European decent, and they weren’t cast as savior figures. Yes, Damon is crucial to the mission’s success, but not in a way that elevates his status above the Asian men and women he fights with. Essentially, the article likened it to how Mad Max: Fury Road was a truly feminist movie in the way that Max assisted Furiosa. She couldn’t have succeeded without him, but he didn’t come in and over power the situation.
The other thing that convinced me was understanding the reason why they purposely chose to make this film about Asian culture that starred a big name Hollywood actor. This was meant to be the first (of hopefully many) collaborations between the two countries and film industries. Instead of just making our films in our respective countries and then sharing them abroad, why not try working together on something that hopefully both sides can enjoy. That is absolutely something I could get behind, even if the buzz was that it wasn’t as great of a film as it could have been.
I ended up really enjoying it. I’m typically not into those big battle action type of movies, and I expected to be really bored. Somehow, I wasn’t. I loved the unique fighting style the (wo)men at the wall had. How they wore beautiful bright colors to indicate their specializations. How skillfully they wielded their weapons. The amazing visual of the crane squadron swooping down to attack. I felt it was stunning and expertly crafted.
The story was fine, and Damon carried it well even if he couldn’t sustain the accent (what was that supposta be anyways?). Willem DaFoe was underused and we could have had more of Pedro Pascal. But for a first stab at this type of cross cultural film, I think it was a solid effort. I really do hope this sort of thing becomes, well, a thing. I’d love to see what sort of collaborations our nations (and others) could come up with.
The Great Wall – \m/ \m/ \m/”