I always had some problems with The Great Wall since its very first (and most popular) trailer. If you remember well, the trailers were showing China at war on a battlefield around the great wall. Than Matt Damon shows up with some voice over in American accent, and the paw of a monster does as well.
While that promotional clip communicated that the film was a fantasy, having someone like Damon showing up in China with an American accent it was felt by me and by many other friends (some of them Chinese) to be really far fetched, almost forced to have the movie appeal to western audience.
The Great Wall tells the story of European mercenary Matt Damon going to China to get black powder, but find itself in the middle of a conflict between Chinese and some monsters coming from a meteorite. Obviously he will help them out.
As you’ve seen, is the least inventive story someone could think about.
However, the movie is not as disastrous as you might think. While I consider having an European character with American accent an example of bad filmmaking, the movie showcase the good eye of director Zhang Yimou, as some sequences are visually appealing.
Those include the visual way the Chinese army is organized, the battle organization they have, and last but not the least the peculiar designs of the monsters, which are the most original thing in the movie.
The film is obviously both English and Chinese, hence the performance from Chinese actors are left untouched. The only actress that speaks both languages is Jing Tian (or Tian Jing, although if you google her that way the wikipedia page of Tianjing will come out), who we saw also in Kong: Skull Island – if you’re asking why, both movies are produced by Legendary, which is part of a Chinese conglomerate.
Anyways, the Western actor are decent. Matt Damon does a decent job despite being a European with American accent, and the Chilean Pedro Pascal does his part well enough.
The biggest disappointment comes from Willem Dafoe, not just because of his pretty basic performance, but also because the script relegates him into a really meaningless role.
And, again, the movie’s biggest issue is in fact the script. Basic, predictable, uninventive and lacking any emotional involvement for the characters.
Anyways, if you haven’t watched The Great Wall yet, if you like monsters you may find it apealing. Otherwise wait for Netflix.