To be honest with you, I found it weird when I first saw the poster of 张艺谋 Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall. The story took place in Chinese history and from what I remember, there were neither Italian or any European in there. It is also quite obvious to me that either the makeup or the outfit of those two foreigners are not middle century European enough. On the other hand, the storyline is clear but it is also a bit shallow, especially to those who are familiar with the Han/Chinese culture.
The ancient creature 饕餮 Taotie was used as the enemy in the movie. However, the production team has a totally different way of interpreting it, which might disappoint some people who have their own imagination regarding the creature often based on the ancient Chinese literature or the video game from Taiwan.
There are two ancient Chinese pieces of literature that describe how Taotie looks like. Here’s the original text:
This book is an ancient collection of Chinese fairy tales regarding God. The content above is mainly describing the appearance of Taotie. It says that Taotie lives on a mountain with lots of jade and copper (both are important materials for the production of antiques, containers, or luxury accessories) and it has the goat’s body with a human face. Its eyes are right next to the armpits and it has teeth like a tiger. It has a human finger and its voice sounds like a new-born baby.
Another literature describes Taotie as follows:
This one mainly implies that the Taotie is brutal and greedy. Nowadays, people use the word ‘tao’ to metaphor the people who love delicious food, know how to enjoy it, and pursues all the high-quality food they can in their whole life. Anyway, a bit far from the topic. Based on these two literature works, people have the basic idea of what a Taotie looks like. From my imagination, I thought it would be much bigger like Godzilla, or more ‘Chinese style’ like this:
This one is designed for a famous Taiwanese video game called 軒轅劍 Xuan-Yuan Jian. The game used elements of Chinese mythology and historic figures and events. This video game is so popular it became part of the memory of either China or Taiwan’s youth. So yes, the first time I saw Taotie I was really disappointed and found it too Hollywood-ish. It looks like an American version of an alien, especially the concept of multiplication. It failed to pay attention to the audience who knows about Taotie or the Chinese literature.
Some critiques assumed that this movie implies how people are greedy, ignorant, and selfish and that most of them chase for the trend blindly. If this is the case, for me the movie didn’t transmit it well. I was more focused on the visual effects and the troops of Taotie!
The characters in this movie are not outstanding enough to impress me. All the actors and actresses are famous but it only focused on Matt Damon and 景甜 Jing Tian. Matt Damon may have his own charisma and played his role effectively but on the contrary, Jing Tian keeps showing her weakness in this role with her unnatural movements and emotions. 刘德华 Andy Lau’s appearance, the military adviser, was also disappointing. He has been an actor for many years but he only appeared a few times and *spoiler* died a horrific death. The rest of the actors have great works in their previous movies but their skills are not shown well in this movie.
The Great Wall has good visuals yet with an odd arrangement and design, like the playing of the drums with nunchakus or the killing of Taoties by jumping from the wall. Why were they doing a bunjy jump to kill a monster? Of course, they will be killed! The lead actors are all famous and experienced but again, their talent wasn’t showcased here. The Taotie is really disappointing and overall, it gave me a feeling that I just watched another Hollywood movie for entertainment.