The Great Wall

The Great Wall Information

The Great Wall is a 2016 epic historical fiction action-adventure monster film directed by Zhang Yimou and written by Tony Gilroy, Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz. The film stars Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau.

Principal photography began on March 30, 2015, in Qingdao, China. The film was released in China on December 15, 2016, by Le Vision Pictures and China Film Group Corporation and is scheduled to be released in the United States on February 17, 2017, by Universal Pictures. It has grossed $219 million worldwide.


In the time of the Song dynasty during the reign of the Renzong Emperor, a few miles north of the Great Wall, a mercenary group originally consisting of twenty men searching for black powder are pursued by Khitan bandits, who have already killed some of the men. Upon escaping they seek refuge in a cave but are then attacked by an unknown monster, leaving only William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) alive, with the former having slashed off the monster's hand. The two decide to bring the arm with them. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau).

The Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty as a special division of the Imperial Army conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of alien monsters who rise every 60 years. The commanding officers are shocked upon seeing the monster's severed hand, as the Order believed the invasion was still weeks away. Suddenly, a wave of monsters attack the Great Wall, and the battalions are mobilized. The Nameless Order is divided into five special units: the melee-specialist Bear Troop, the acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the siege engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the horse-mounted Deer Troop. Losses are sustained on both sides before the Queen recalls her drones. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Peng Yong, an unskilled soldier from the Bear Troop and William, in turn, saves him from the attacking monsters. William and Tovar's battle skills earn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin (Jing Tian), leader of the Crane Troop. Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), a European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder. Like them, Ballard was also taken prisoner and now has been serving as an English and Latin teacher. The three foreign mercenaries discuss plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied by battle. Later, Strategist Wang meets William and explains the situation: The monsters that William fought were Taoties, which are monster originating from a green meteor that crash-landed onto Gouwu Mountain two thousand years ago. The Chinese believe the Taotie were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and the people. They attack northern China once every sixty years, an invasion for which the Order has been training for their entire lives.

During the night, two Taoties reach the top of the Wall and silently kill several watchmen. Shao and Lin lead the Deer soldiers to investigate, but are ambushed. The Taoties are slain but Shao is wounded beyond recovery and dies, leaving Lin to take the command. Around this time, an envoy from the capital, arrives with an ancient scroll, which suggests that the monsters are pacified by magnets. Wang believes that the stone William is carrying all this time enables him to slain the Taotie he fought before entering the Wall. To test the theory, William suggests that they should capture a Taotie alive and agrees to help. This results in his delaying his escape plans, which puts him at odds with Tovar who nevertheless delays his escape plan to assist William, much to Ballard's chagrin. During the next attack, the Taotie are numerous enough to cause Lin to resort to using black powder rockets, whose existence had been kept secret from the Westerners until now. They manage to capture a living Taotie and prove the theory. The Taotie is taken to the capital by the envoy. A short while later, a hole is discovered in the base of the Great Wall, which the Taotie Queen has used to lead her hordes to the capital. While Lin investigates, Tovar and Ballard try to escape and knock William unconscious for resisting. William is then arrested by the Chinese soldiers, and despite being saved by a statement from Peng Yong, William eventually locked up in the Wall. Some distance away, Ballard betrays and abandons Tovar, but is himself captured by the Khitans, who inadvertently destroy themselves and Ballard after igniting the powder. Tovar reclaims the horses but is recaptured by the Deer Troop.

Knowing that the horde is nearing the capital, Lin orders the use of unstable hot-air balloons, to follow the Taotie. Before setting out for Bianliang, the capital, Lin passes word to set William free, with Wang telling him to tell the outside world about the danger about to come, but William decides to stay and boards the last balloon with Peng and Wang. They arrive just in time to see Lin's balloon crash-landed in the now destroyed capital, and saves her from being devoured. They landed safely into the Emperor's palace, where Wang proposes an idea to kill the Queen by tying explosives to the captured Taotie from earlier and giving the Taotie meat to be delivered to the Queen. While transporting, a horde of Taotie breach the sewers. Peng Yong sacrifices himself to save the others.

With the Taotie released, Lin, William and Wang climb a tower to shoot a black powder rocket to detonate the explosives. Wang is killed while moving to the upper floors. Two of William's arrows are deflected by the Taoties, but Lin's spear breach through the defenses after William throws the magnet into the horde before the spear hits a nearby Taotie within the defenses. The queen is destroyed, and the rest of the horde is frozen solid, killing them. With the horde destroyed, William is given an offer, during which he forgoes the powder and instead frees Tovar, much to Tovar's annoyance. The two, guided by a cavalry, begin their journey back to Europe as Lin, now the General, watch over them from the wall.


  • Matt Damon as William Garin
  • Jing Tian as Commander Lin Mae of the Crane Troop
  • Pedro Pascal as Pero Tovar
  • Willem Dafoe as Sir Ballard
  • Andy Lau as Wang, Strategist and War Counselor for the Nameless Order
  • Zhang Hanyu as Shao, Commander of the Bear Troop and General of the Nameless Order
  • Eddie Peng as Commander Wu of the Tiger Troop
  • Lu Han as Peng Yong, a warrior in the Bear Troop
  • Lin Gengxin as Commander Chen of the Eagle Troop
  • Chen Xuedong as Commander of the Imperial Guard
  • Huang Xuan as Commander of the Deer Troop
  • Wang Junkai as The Emperor
  • Ryan Zheng
  • Zhu Zhu
  • Yu Xintian
  • Liu Qiong


On March 18, 2014, Chinese director Zhang Yimou was set to direct the epic film. On November 6, 2014, Legendary East's CEO, Peter Loehr, confirmed that the film would be made with a budget of $135 million, that it would be completely in English and it would be the first English-language film directed by Zhang. The film originally came from Legendary CEO Thomas Tull, who conceived the idea with World War Z writer Max Brooks. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) will be responsible for the visual effects and Weta Workshop will contribute practical effects (namely, weapons and props) to ensure a high quality film reminiscent of Hollywood productions.

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Principal photography of the film began on March 30, 2015, on location in Qingdao. It is the most expensive film ever shot entirely in China with a budget of $135 million.

Three walls were built during production as they could not shoot on the actual Great Wall. During the filmmaking, the director said the most impressive part for him was the presence of so many translators to handle communication as he assembled an international crew for the filming. More than 100 on-set translators worked with the various cast and crew members.


Main article: The Great Wall (soundtrack)
The film's score is composed by Ramin Djawadi. The first track called "Nameless Order" was released on December 14, 2016.


The Great Wall was released in China on December 15, 2016. It is scheduled to be released on February 17, 2017, in the United States by Universal Pictures.


The Great Wall released its first trailer in July 2016. The trailer shows views of the Great Wall in fog, thousands of soldiers on a battlefield ready for war and a mysterious monster, as well as the roster views of the cast including Matt Damon and Andy Lau.

A new song from Leehom Wang and Tan Weiwei was released on November 15, 2016, to promote The Great Wall. Bridge of Fate was composed by pop singer Wang with lyrics written by Vincent Fang, a long time collaborator of singer-songwriter Jay Chou. Female rocker Tan Weiwei joined Wang for a duet, but with two different vocal styles. Wang sang pop, while Tan performed a traditional Qinqiang - a folk Chinese opera style from Shaanxi Province.

Chinese pop diva Jane Zhang released another new English song Battle Field and its promotional music video for The Great Wall on November 22, 2016. The song was composed by King Logan and Maroon 5's keyboardist PJ Morton and written by Josiah "JoJo" Martin and Jane Zhang. It was produced by Timbaland.

Universal Pictures & Legendary Entertainment also debuted eight character posters of the film on November 17, 2016.


Box office

The Great Wall opened on December 16, 2016, in China and made $24.3 million on its first day and $67.4 million in its opening weekend. In the second weekend it grossed $26.1 million.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 54% based on 13 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. On Metacritic, the film has a score of 48 out of 100, based on 4 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".


Because some of the characters, including a main character played by Matt Damon, are white in a movie set in medieval China, the film has been accused of whitewashing and using the white savior narrative.

Director Zhang Yimou clarified that Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor, he further criticized detractors for not being "armed with the facts" and stated that:

The film's largest investor, the Wanda Group (owner of Legendary Pictures) has good relationships with the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China. In December 2016, users of film review website Douban rated The Great Wall 5.4 out of 10, which is considered very low. On Maoyan, another movie review aggregator, the 'professional score' is only 4.9 out of 10. On December 28, the Communist Party's official media outlet People's Daily published an article on its website severely criticizing Douban and Maoyan for doing harm to the Chinese movie industry with their bad reviews. On the same day, Maoyan took down its 'professional score' for The Great Wall.

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