Set in China’s mythological past, The Great Wall promises to be like no monster flick you’ve ever seen before. Here are seven reasons why...
1. Because it’s Game Of Thrones meets Guardians of the Galaxy, with kung fu.
Plus plenty of other film genres besides. The film opens like a spaghetti western in the Gobi Desert, as European mercenaries Garin (Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal, who played Oberyn Martell on Game of Thrones) flee bandits, hide in a cave, and come across the giant claw of an unknown creature. They eventually reach the Great Wall and are captured by the Nameless Order, an elite army led by General Shao - who seems very interested in the monstrous claw...
2. Because Chinese action film plots are always that little bit weirder
Remember Hero, in which a million arrows were fired at a calligraphy school? Or House of Flying Daggers, in which the blind heroine had a sword fight while playing a room full of drums with her sleeves? Those were by Zhang Yimou, the 66 year-old director who Matt Damon has been wanting to work with for two decades. His highly individual, painterly take on action movies weaves together fast-paced action, beautiful cinematography and the weirder elements of Chinese mythology.
In The Great Wall the enemy are the Taotie, mythical beasts that rise locust-like from the Jade Mountain every 60 years to devour humans and everything else in their wake.
3. Because it’s the biggest-budget film Matt Damon has ever been in
Costing $150 million, The Great Wall is not only the biggest-budget film ever made in China but the biggest budget film Matt Damon has worked on: last year’s smash hit The Martian cost only $108 million, and that was set on another planet.
4. Because of the truly incredible visuals
Damon said that when he first went to meet Zhang Yimou, his storyboards looked like “The Great Wall as if designed by Leonardo DaVinci” – so he signed up immediately. Zhang is famous for his bold use of color and lustrous lighting: Hero in particular was painted in bold, screen-filling fields of primary colours. Here it’s slightly subtler, thanks to Memoirs of a Geisha production designer John Myhre’s carefully-chosen Chinese period details, but the director’s artistic touch is on display in his long panoramic sweeps.
5. Because the world’s best filmmakers used the world’s most up-to-date equipment
The directors of photography are Zhang regular Zhao Xiaoding and English-born Stuart Dryburgh, who shot 1993’s triple-Oscar winning The Piano and last year’s mind-bending Alice Through the Looking Glass. They used the new Arri Alexa 65 and other state-of-the-art cameras so that the leaping fighters, roaring rockets and ravening beasts move with pin-sharp clarity no matter how huge the screen is. Editing is by Mary Jo Markey (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Craig Wood (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), the best in the world at putting you right in the centre of a frenzied fight scene.