More than 2,300 years old and running some 13,000 miles in length at its prime, The Great Wall of China was – as everyone knows – built to protect the country from invasions by nomadic tribes and bloodthirsty alien space lizards. Wait… What?
That's right, the latest film from acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (whose previous work includes the likes of Raise the Red Lantern, Hero and House of Flying Daggers) stars Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal as William and Tovar, a pair of European mercenaries, hunting for the legendary 'black powder', who stumble across the Great Wall just as a swarm of ferocious space beasties wake from their 60-year slumber and make their latest attack. Captured by The Nameless Order who protect the wall, William develops a conscience and decides to pitch in and help repel the invaders. Meanwhile, his disappointed chum Tovar cooks up a plan with fellow prisoner Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe) to take advantage of the distraction the assault offers so that they can steal the precious explosives from the Order.
As must surely be clear from the above, The Great Wall is as silly as they come. But silly doesn't equate to being bad, and there's a lot to enjoy about this big-budget bonanza.
Naturally, being a Zhang Yimou production, it looks sensational. Just seeing the filmmaker bring the same level of visual flair and spectacle to what is essentially a big dumb Hollywood-style blockbuster is a treat in and of itself. Sure, the CG may look pretty phony, but that only adds to the film's goofy monster-movie charm.
About two per cent accurate in a purely historical sense, this $150m B-movie is 100 per cent more entertaining than it sounds on paper – and you can guarantee that the world will never see its like ever again.
Picture: There are few movie-makers who use bold colours with as much confidence as Zhang Yimou, so it comes as no surprise that The Great Wall delivers plenty of Full HD eye candy. From the colour-coded armour of The Nameless Order's different units to the rainbow-hued interior of the pagoda during the final fight (Chapter 18), this 2.40:1 encode serves up some of the most vibrant imagery imaginable. Away from this, the picture exhibits strong contrast and textures.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: Arrows raining down from above as Matt Damon slides down a giant chain. Massive mechanical blades slicing horizontally across the soundstage. The rhythmic beating of giant drums. Yep, The Great Wall's expansive yet well-constructed Dolby Atmos mix is a cracker.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: More than a touch disappointing. The eight behind-the-scenes vignettes are pure EPK fodder and none of them last much longer than three minutes. Also included is a collection of eight deleted/extended scenes.
Extras rating: 1.5/5
We say: An enjoyably goofy monster mash with sensational HD picture and sound.
The Great Wall, Universal Pictures, All-region BD, £25
HCC VERDICT: 3/5
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