The Great Wall(Matt Damon, monsters, Great Wall of China)...WTF?

So Matt Damon is making some Chinese movie set 1000 years ago where he fights monsters attacking the Great Wall of China…no I’m serious. It’s supposed to be the most expensive Chinese movie ever made.

First Look at the Great Wall

There’s a trailer for it.

They say impressive, I say likely to be a terrible idea. This would almost certainly be better off being entirely Chinese, but then presumably it wouldn’t have got the same budget.

On the upside, Andy Lau is great.

I wonder how a European got on the wall 1000 years ago. That would predate Marco Polo.

So Chinese movies with a big Hollywood star in them. I guess this is going to be a thing going forward.

This has been a thing for a few years already.

You just don’t hear much about them because they typically don’t get a lot of western press and only come out in limited release over here.

It’s more an American film set in China, though I suppose Legendary is owned by a Chinese company these days.Gotta love the press release announcing the cast:

But don’t worry your little heads about who they are. It’s the Hollywood stars that matter.

The stars are the Americans, and the actors are Chinese. Got it.

Jonathan Kos-Read is the biggest western actor in China. (He’s called “Cao Cao” there.) he’s made a career out of playing the stock white guy in Chinese movies and TV. There’s a pretty interesting profile of him in NYT in which he talks about how he sort of fell into his gig and how the current swing to established Hollywood stars is encroaching on what used to be his guaranteed roles.

There were only a handful of foreign actors working in China at the time, and Kos-Read quickly realized he offered filmmakers there a rare combination of traits. He spoke good Mandarin, was a decent actor and had a look that many Chinese consider typically “American”: six feet tall, square jaw, blue eyes. He was able to make a living in the industry, but his early roles weren’t great. At that stage of his career, most filmmakers still had limited exposure to foreigners and foreign cultures, and his early parts tended to reflect Chinese stereotypes of Westerners. He rarely played bad guys, because there are very few American villains in Chinese movies (those roles tend to go to the woeful cohort of Japanese actors working in China). Instead, Kos-Read was often typecast as a “dumb guy,” he says. Most frequently, he was an arrogant foreign businessman who falls for a local beauty, only to be spurned as she inevitably makes the virtuous choice to stay with her Chinese suitor. Sometimes he played the foreign friend whose presence onscreen is intended to make the main character seem more worldly; Kos-Read dubbed another stock character “the fool,” an arrogant Westerner whose disdain for China is, by the end of the movie, transformed into admiration.[/quote]

This seems nonsensical.

“What were they trying to keep out?”

I’m pretty sure that we know the answer to this question. The mongols. This isn’t some great mystery.

Wrong! It’s monsters. Obviously.

I remember a fascinating interview with a guy who was one of the go-to westerners in the 90s. Desperately trying to remember what podcast it was on.

Edit: Now I remember. It wasn’t a podcast. It was Bey Logan’s commentary for Once Upon A Time In China, which he did with Mark King. They spend much of the commentary talking about the weird situation for western actors in Hong Kong.

Heh. Just watched Ip Man 3 last week, and obviously enough, this guy was in it.

Isn’t the same thing going on with traditional voice actors in animation? Stars are replacing the normal and I believe more talented voice actors in a wide range of media.

Oh, I forgot another good recent example of a Hollywood actor in Chinese cinema.

Yimou Zhang directed this one too!

Cao Cao as in the leader of Wei from Romance of the Three Kingdoms? That sounds awesome. :)

Oh I watched this. It is clearly a fantasy cash-in as far as the American studios are concerned, and it is not terrible, but not great either. Willem Defoe is there clearly to cash the cheque, but Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal are at least ok. The other Chinese characters are more stereotypical Chinese view of Chinese rather than stereotypical Westerner’s view of Chinese. There is this wise patriarch/general, a few young brash subordinates on his side, including a token woman, a Zhuge Liang type wise advisor, an incompetent and young emperor etc. etc.

The most laboured parts are the character rapport scenes between Damon’s character and the token woman, they are all terrible because there is hardly any reason to take those seriously. Hard hitting character drama this is not. Damon speaking with an modern American accent does not help either.

And just as with most of Zhang Yimou’s films, you get great visual design, if nothing else. Watch his Curse of the Golden Flower for a even more fantastically beautiful film (if you can tolerate the melodramatic plot). The CGI however is pretty crap, with the monsters being pretty wooden. The sum total of this is no better than your typical mid-budget young-adult fantasy movie.

The whitewashing criticism doesn’t wash because this is not some white hero showing up to save the day, it is more a collaborative effort between the Chinese and the American.

I think this is the wrong kind of movie for that.