Well if nothing else the ambivalently awaited fantasy film, The Great Wall, has achieved one amazing feat – it’s released a trailer that’s probably the first to run longer than Cloud Atlas‘ 5 minute, 42 second trailer back in 2012.
With an overall length of 8 minutes and 58 seconds, and assuming that it’s a two-hour film, they just put out about 14% of the film. It has a distinct feel as a desperation play for attention since thus far the majority of focus around the film has been on the casting of Matt Damon (helped by none other than Willem Dafoe) as the Savior of Imperial China (and the world). While strictly speaking it’s not whitewashing of any pre-existing character, it’s still tossing in a random white guy out of basic studio cowardice (Universal Pictures likely had no faith that they could make a film about China that anyone would want to see, so they dropped in Damon as a name draw). Someone should really remind them that The Last Emperor actually did just fine with all Chinese leads.
It tells the story of an ancient Chinese folk tale from the Song Dynasty surrounding the building of the Great Wall: that of the hordes of monsters which attacked the wall every 60 years and the armies that held them back. Damon is a European mercenary trying to steal the still fledgling gunpowder technology, only to discover he has become caught up in a war to save the world.
Yes, the trailer has some cool scenes, and takes time to introduce a number of the main characters in individual segments. It feels like it could be a fun ride, and could be a major blockbuster in China, but whether it resonates with US audiences remains to be seen.
One has to wonder if they’ll mention why the monsters don’t just head West rather than East and overrun all the less defended regions on the continents in that direction rather than continually running headlong into the wall. And you know Game of Thrones fans as going to start reciting the Knight’s Watch oath while watching this one.
The film was directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers), and it’s his first English-language production. In addition to Damon and Dafoe, The Great Wall also stars Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Tian Jing, Eddie Peng, Numan Acar, Han Lu, Kenny Lin, and Zhang Hanyu.