Find Reviews


  • New Releases
  • Older Releases
  • Features

DVD & video

  • released
  • coming soon



kids reviews

  • 5 and under
  • 6 to 12
  • Teen

Search by title director or cast

Release year

The Great Wall


A Whale of a Tale

Genre: Action Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
for sequences of fantasy action violence
Studio: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 103 minutes
Our Rating:
Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Cast: Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Eddie Peng
Review by James Colt Harrison

The smashing IMAX 3D action adventure film The Great Wall is pure entertainment, fun and fantasy! We wonder how Matt Damon (as William Garin) ended up in Qingdao, China and on top of The Great Wall structure. He looks dashing in all his special costumes designed by Mayes C. Rubeo. Are they authentic for the times? It seems China and its couturiers knew something about color, fabrics, metals and élan when designing marvelously flattering outfits for its Army officers and female Generals. Their society was apparently way ahead of the “glass ceiling” effect for their women by having them take charge of massive hoards of men. Fantasy? Perhaps.


William arrives in China as a mercenary and part of an elite force looking for the famous “black powder” that explodes and wipes out dozens of soldiers. That, of course, was gun powder, credited to the Chinese for its invention. The Chinese Generals and one particular female Commander Lin Mae (Chinese star Tian Jing) don’t trust William and throw him and his sidekick Tovar (Latin star Pedro Pascal) into the slammer. William, an expert man with a bow and arrow, redeems himself by putting on a vaudeville demonstration of what he can magically do with his choice of weapon. The troops go wild and applaud him out of the jail. He’s now free to join them in defending the wall, but from what?


This is were the fun starts and the magnificent use of the 3D cameras by cinematographers Stuart Dryburgh and Xiaoding Zhao are catching all the action. Periodically, major beasts come alive after a 60-year hibernation. Boy, are they ugly and frightening with teeth as big as swords, and claws like razors. Naturally, they are hungry and want to eat everything in sight, including the town, the stone walls, and especially the tasty soldiers.

Apparently with no expense spared and a budget of $150,000,000, the CGI effects used are spectacular and everything seems totally real and frightening to boot. The Chinese invented some clever ways to defeat the marauding monsters. Flaming balls of oil are catapulted into the creatures, slashing scissor-like swords emerge from the walls and slice the monsters in half, and flaming arrows tipped with explosives blow them to smithereens. Ha! I thought that took care of the monsters!

William joins the fray and becomes a hero to the Chinese forces. He and Lin Mae get a little sweet on each other – as much as they can mingle their two opposing cultures. It’s a chaste romance that may prove difficult to consummate. They settle for each other looking beautiful and handsome and ready to have their hormones explode, as there isn’t much time for smooching when they are battling monsters.

Mae, Damon

The film is beautifully photographed, and the production design by John Myhre is stunning because of the color sense used for pastels and the presence of bright accent colors used for contrast.

It’s a whale of a tale and apparently based on some ancient Chinese fantasy. There’s quite a bit of humor in the dialogue and some good repartee between William and his traveling companion Tovar. The action is tremendously exciting and should be fun for the entire family.

Photo Credits: Jasin Boland / Universal Studios

Recommended Audience:
Families and active boys who like action.