The Great Wall

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Great Wall Movie Poster Image
Action fantasy based on Chinese myths falls short.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 103 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Fighting for causes that you don't believe in -- and only for money -- can wear on your soul, while fighting with a purpose can be noble. (Still, it's all about fighting.) Characters work together to defeat the monsters.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Commander Lin (a strong female character) is courageous, principled, and also open to learning from the soldiers she commands. William is brave and tenacious, as well as very loyal. The white characters are portrayed as more barbaric, while the Chinese are presented as refined and honorable.

Violence

Tons of peril and battles involving sword fighting, knives, and arrows; in some cases arrows are shown piercing bodies. Both monster and human blood is spilled (particularly the former), but since many of the battles are against monsters, they have a cartoonish quality. A character holds a knife against another's neck. Entire groups are killed by big explosions. The monsters, which are sort of a dinosaur/alien hybrid, can be scary; they eat some people.

Sex

A little romantic tension between the male and female leads. Some male soldiers have uniforms that show their torso.

Language

Very infrequent, but includes "s--t," "hell," "bastard," and "bitch," as well as "my god" and "mother of god."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Reference to being drunk in the past.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Great Wall is a fantasy action film set in medieval China starring Matt Damon. Violence is the main issue here; there's tons of peril and many battles, including sword fights, arrows piercing bodies, explosions, and more. Plus, many of the fights involve scary monsters (which have green blood), which wreak havoc and sometimes eat people. There's also a very little bit of swearing ("hell," "bastard," "bitch") and a bit of romantic tension between main characters. Speaking of the main characters, one is a strong, brave, principled female leader. While the film sparked controversy for casting a white actor in a story about China, the good news is that, for the most part, the movie avoids stereotyping; if anything, the white characters are portrayed as barbaric, while the Chinese are depicted as refined and honorable.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 7, 10, and 12 year old Written byJason V. March 4, 2017

Trading Old Stereotypes for New - Is This an Improvement

The reviewer said: "While the film sparked controversy for casting a white actor in a story about China, the good news is that, for the most part, the movi... Continue reading
Uncle of a 13 year old Written byAidan L March 14, 2017

I guess Matt Damon had to scuff up his iMDB page a bit.

This is a dumb, cheesy, over the top action movie that is suitable for anyone above 10 years old, with no redeeming qualities other than some cool action scenes... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byStudio OBC YT February 27, 2017

I want to watch it

From what i hear it is not worth it!
Teen, 15 years old Written byIlovemovies123 March 1, 2017

Horrible movie the Great Wall sucked

I thought this movie was gonna be good I went to see it with my friend it was boring me and him both thought it was boring I hate Matt Damon's movies now b... Continue reading

What's the story?

William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are 15th-century mercenaries who find themselves stymied during their travels by a massive wall -- in fact, it's THE GREAT WALL. Chinese military leaders, especially gifted Commander Lin (Tian Jing), are suspicious of the pair's motives, but when they're all threatened by otherworldly creatures known as the tao tei, William joins in his captors' monumental battle against the monsters. Nothing less than the fate of the world is at stake. 

Is it any good?

A hybrid between a historical epic and an action fantasy, the film manages to be only a passable example of each genre, which makes it less memorable than it had the potential to be. Damon serves up a dignified performance, if you ignore his dubious accent (a mushed-up concoction meant to recall an Irishman by way of America, perhaps?). Whether his bromance with partner-in-crime Pascal needed to be in the mix is yet another iffy decision, confusing the genre dilemma even further.

That said, The Great Wall has its merits, starting with the cinematography. Setting aside the over-CGI-ed monsters, the titular wall is a sight to behold. A scene in which soldiers throw hundreds of lanterns aloft is simply breathtaking. And then there's the fearless female commander, Lin. She may not have much depth, character-wise, but seeing her take command -- and sharing the story's spotlight with William -- is a breath of fresh air.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Great Wall. Does the fact that much of it involves monsters/fantasy elements change its impact?

  • What character strengths do the people in the movie exhibit? Does that make them role models?

  • The movie drew some controversy for having a white American actor at the heart of a story steeped in Chinese history. Why would that be controversial?

  • Had you ever heard anything about this part of Chinese mythology and history before? How could you find out more if you wanted to?

Movie details

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