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Walls have their uses . . . and abuses. Composer Phil Spector built a wall of sound. Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall reminds us of ancient spirituality. Rockers Pink Floyd pivoted their music around a symbolic wall. Robert Frost’s walls made good neighbors.

 

Walls have their uses . . . and abuses. Composer Phil Spector built a wall of sound. Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall reminds us of ancient spirituality. Rockers Pink Floyd pivoted their music around a symbolic wall. Robert Frost’s walls made good neighbors.

Most recently, Right Wing American politicians have promised a benighted electorate a massive restrictive wall across their country’s southern border to protect the U.S. from immigrants, terrorists, job stealers, criminals, the culturally different and any changes that the future might bring. We are told that our new President will make Mexico pay for this wondrous wall.

Similarly, Director Zhang Yimou’s “The Great Wall” promises many things and has an expensive price tag attached to it – over $135 million dollars. Although it may not be as costly as the breath-taking 2008 Olympic ceremonies which Zhang directed, it is the best wall that computer graphics can buy and may very well be the most expensive Chinese movie ever made.

Zhang’s wall looks both higher and wider than the actual wall, as well as more resplendent. Though the real Great Wall (Changcheng) was the largest, longest building project in history, it’s construction was uneven, stretching over twenty centuries, over five thousand miles and actually incorporating countless bodies of the over two million workers who died in construction.

As this medieval epic begins, many more soldiers prepare to die fighting. The wall is all that stands between ancient China and hordes of teeming, toothy taotie - Ridley Scott reject monsters, mythological demons endowed with supernatural powers and unhealthy appetites.

The Chinese legions stationed on the wall are led by Strategist Wang (Andy Lau – Hero, House of Ten Thousand Daggers) and extremely attractive Commander Lin Mae (Jing Tian – Police Story).

Clearly mercenary Matt Damon was enlisted to help the international box office, as well as fight monsters and fall in love with Commander Lin. In a more subdued Bourne mode, Damon wanders on to the set as a down on his luck trader seeking the riches that access to gunpowder can confer. Damon and his partner in piracy Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones, Narcos) encounter the taotie and through their magnetism subdue them.

Pascal and Damon are pressed into service helping the Chinese fight the monsters. But while Damon is smitten with Lin, Pascal remains true to his profiteer roots. Damon must choose between love and lucre, murdering monsters or making money.

Will the Chinese extravagant costumes, complex labor intensive gimmicks, traps and Rube Goldberg mechanisms including spectacular balletic bungee jumping spear stabbing women warriors prevail? Will the mercenaries Damon and Pascal reconcile? Will Damon ever smile? And will the film recoup enough international box office to avoid a massive write down on this project?

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Previously published February 18, 2017 on The Huffington Post.

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