Director: Yimou Zhang.
When a director is complimented with the consideration of being a visionary, Yimou Zhang is normally the first person that springs to mind. A director who is renowned for his spectacular martial art epics where he floods the screen with dazzling, lavish colour, you could mistake some scenes for being a Dulux commercial, and I mean that with utmost respect.
For those of you not entirely familiar with Yimou Zhang, he is possibly best know for films, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower and the one Quentin Tarantino help distribute in the states gaining Zhang a much wider appreciation, Hero. He was the chief director for both opening and closing ceremonies at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has a habit of making the most expensive Chinese movies of all time, this one topping all previous records, held by himself.
But this time it's an interesting collaboration between western and eastern cinema with Damon taking the lead, and you only have to glance at the promotion posters to notice the western influence. There's no "A film by..." or what I would expect to see "from the director of House of Flying Daggers and Hero" like his previous films have. But no, they have done away with all that obviously appealing more to the western audience.
I think where it suffers in terms of story, is having an eastern story written by a bunch of westerners, Bourne writer Tony Gilroy, and Last Samurai/Blood Diamond director Edward Zwick to name a couple out of the few. Basically it's Cloverfield hitting china around what I can only imagine to be the 1100s which would also explains Damon's character, William being in the region. It's Bourne becomes Legolas fighting at Helm's Deep.
Now, we all know Damon can handle the graft with performing action, something I doubted very much before watching him with jaw-dropped in Bourne Identity. And he delivers here, but it's more name than anything else as any star could have played his role, and I actually think someone else could have done it better.
The rest of the casting is good, the bromance between William and Pascal's Tovar is entertaining and provides some comedy relief, again, evidence of the western influence, not being something that would be in a Zhang movie. Now majority for the casting is Asian, and rightly so in my opinion, with big names like Lau who incidentally played Damon's character from The Departed, in the original, Infernal Affairs. Tian Jing as Commander Lin is stunning, though all of them put together just spews a corny plot and is generally unintelligible with many parts purely for visual effects. Dafoe's part could have been scrubbed out entirely.
It lacks the elegance and gracefulness Zhang's movies are so well known for, wondering if Zhang has sold out to the Hollywood studios like many of his fellow eastern film makers had done in the recent past. The film doesn't reflect it being the most expensive Chinese film ever made and could that be a result of a large chunk of the budget going on Damon's paycheck? Because the CGI, whilst being imaginative, it leaves a lot to be desired, certainly not as good as expected coming from a film directed by Zhang who has previously proved he knowledge and craftsmanship as a director. None of which appears to be evident here.
It's unfortunately the worse Zhang film I have seen of his being nothing more than a glorified fantasy actioner with very little depth. Whilst it shows his trademark style of colour, it just doesn't have the same impact his previous films give. The production design is impressive, but didn't seem to fit the film for me with the soldiers wearing what I can only describe as Power Ranger outfits. Ramin Djawadi does a good attempt at composing an encompassing score, making good use of oriental vocals and drums but again, the western influence coming through and isn't Dun Tan or Shigeru Umebayashi, who have both worked with Zhang on his previous films.
It's a film that can't seem to decide what it wants to be, lacking the arts to be a film on martial arts epic Zhang is usually so good at doing. It's underwhelming and underdeveloped, actually forgetting about the Great Wall complete towards the end. It's this year Gods of Egypt.
Running Time: 7
The Cast: 7
Job Description: 6
The Extra Bonus Point: 0
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: I probably would.