It’s hard not to wince when you see Matt Damon striding down the Great Wall of China. The attempts by American companies to break into China’s growing film market has been a mess so far, plagued by lawsuits, awkward plot detours to the country, and flat-out whitewashing.
So while it’s not surprising to see a white actor fighting monsters from the Great Wall, the image still makes people cringe. However, a look at this particular film’s production proves that it might be unfair to jump to negative conclusions.
The Great Wall is a long-gestating project that is, to date, the most expensive U.S.-China co-production ever. It’s tagged as the first attempt at a truly global blockbuster, with production and distribution companies behind it like Legendary East, Le Vision Pictures, and the China Film Group Corporation. These are companies that have long been pushing for this type of global entertainment market, and the film’s cultural mix is a reflection of this.
Yes, it’s sad that they went the safe route by having the test run led by a white guy, but the film’s helmed by Chinese director Yimou Zhang and features a plethora of Chinese stars, including a member of a popular boy band (and you thought Christopher Nolan was alone there).
There’s a clear effort to cash in on both American and Chinese celebrities, with an eye on this being bankable in the rest of the world, too. If this film is a success, expect more like it, only with the white guys taking a back seat.
The Great Wall is directed by Yimou Zhang and stars Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe, and Pedro Pascal. It will be released in the U.S. on February 17th, 2017 and in the U.K. on February 24th, 2017. It will be released in China on a currently unspecified date in December 2016. For international release dates, click here.
Do you think truly global blockbusters will become a reality? Let us know in the comments!
Does content like this matter to you?
Become a Member and support film journalism. Unlock access to all of Film Inquiry`s great articles. Join a community of like-minded readers who are passionate about cinema – get access to our private members Network, give back to independent filmmakers, and more.