Great Wall: What You Need to Know about Yimou’s Epic Adventure Starring Matt Damon

The Great Wall is reportedly the most expensive (over $150 million) epic adventure to be shot in China.

Directed by the visual stylist, Zhang Yimou, the action-fantasy marks his first English-language production and the largest film ever shot entirely in China.

To create The Great Wall, Yimou has assembled a cast and filmmaking team that represents the East and West, aiming for global production that deliver spectacle on grand scale.

The adventure comes from an original screenplay by the writing duo CARLO BERNARD & DOUG MIRO (Prince of Persia, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and TONY GILROY (Michael Clayton, The Bourne Legacy).

It is based on a story by MAX BROOKS (World War Z) and EDWARD ZWICK & MARSHALL HERSKOVITZ (The Last Samurai, Love & Other Drugs).

In The Great Wall, Matt Damon stars as William Garin, a battle-scarred mercenary and master archer taken captive by a secret army of elite warriors known as The Nameless Order.  In a vast military outpost called the Fortress City, they fight to protect humanity from supernatural forces upon one of the greatest defensive structures ever built: The Great Wall.

On his journey, Garin is joined by PEDRO PASCAL (Netflix’s Narcos, HBO’s Game of Thrones) as his sword-wielding sidekick Pero Tovar, a tough, wise-cracking Spaniard who has become a brother-in-arms to William

WILLEM DAFOE plays Ballard, a shadowy prisoner inside the fortress who plans his escape from his longtime captors while hoping to pilfer their greatest weapon during his getaway.

The renowned Hong Kong actor ANDY LAU (House of Flying Daggers, Running Out of Time) reunites with director Zhang as Strategist Wang, the sage alchemist inside the fortress…whose clever inventions help its inhabitants keep the monstrous forces at bay.

He is joined by breakout actress JING TIAN as Lin Mae, the fearless fighter and leader of the fortress’ balletic, gravity-defying aerial warriors, the all-female Crane Corps.  In turn, she ultimately rises to command the outpost’s entire military faction, The Nameless Order, against the creature attacks.

The film’s supporting cast includes veteran actor HANYU ZHANG (Assembly, The Taking of Tiger Mountain) as General Shao, the patriarch who passes his command of the fortress’ troops to Lin Mae; LIN GENGXIN (Bubu jingxin, The Taking of Tiger Mountain) as Commander Chen, the leader of the Eagle Corps, the crossbow marksmen who skillfully brandish the weapon with deadly accuracy; EDDIE PENG YU-YEN (Jump Ashin!, Rise of the Legend) as Commander Wu, who leads the Tiger Corps, the fortress’ engineering and artillery forces, against the supernatural enemy; XUAN HUANG (Breaking the Waves, The Golden Era) as Commander Deng, leader of the fortress’ cavalry, the Deer Corps; ZHENG KAI (China’s TV hit Running Man) as Shen, Strategist Wang’s imperial liaison whose political agenda conflicts with The Nameless Order’s mission; and CHEN XUEDONG (the Tiny Times 1.0 trilogy) as one of the fortress’ Imperial Guards who will readily sacrifice himself to save the empire’s royalty.

The cast of The Great Wall also includes China’s pop-music sensations—LU HAN (the band EXO) as Peng Yong, a soldier struggling under the command of the Bear Corps’ Gen. Shao who must overcome his fear and prove himself heroic during the creature onslaught; and JUNKAI WANG (frontman for China’s TFBOYS), who makes his professional acting debut as The Emperor, the 17-year-old royal ruler tested before his time.

The Great Wall filmed entirely on location in China, the largest Hollywood co-production ever mounted in the world’s fourth-largest country.  With the exception of China, Universal Pictures will distribute the film globally.  China Film Co., Ltd, along with Le Vision Pictures, Legendary East and Wuzhou Distribution will oversee the Chinese release.

The Great Wall is set in ancient Northern China, as mercenary William Garin leads a quintet of battle-scarred warriors—on the run from warring desert factions—who hunger for wealth, power and glory.  One of the group, a Frenchman named Bouchard, possesses knowledge of a new weapon, an explosive powder that could bring them all the riches they seek.  This gunpowder is a fabled explosive so rare and valuable at the time that it became the ‘holy grail’ of war, a deadly treasure some would die trying to pursue.

After surviving a scrape with a desert tribe, the group is attacked one night at a remote canyon campsite by an unseen enemy.  Before losing their companions in the attack, Garin and Tovar recover a strange, magnetic stone along with another trophy—a severed claw from whatever ferociously attacked the bunch.  Something he’s never seen before.

Severely outnumbered, the two survivors reach The Great Wall and surrender to an unknown army of warriors called The Nameless Order, who reside inside a protected environment called the Fortress City—a bustling military outpost with incredible technologies that help protect its residents from something evil outside The Wall.

Once imprisoned, they are shackled and interrogated at a tribunal led by a trio of leaders inside the barricade.  They include General Shao, revered commander of The Nameless Order (a vast army of soldiers, numbering over 100,000, divided into five regiments defined by their colorful uniforms, animal mascots and individual disciplines); Strategist Wang, the fortress’ resident scientist and historian; and female warrior Lin Mae, who commands one of the five battalions—the all-female Crane Corps of fearless aerialists.

They question the pair not only about the creature’s limb, but something else Garin recovered before slaying the monster.  Something that intrigues the fortress’ wise man and scientist, Wang—the mysterious lodestone, a magnet, that could prove beneficial in their ongoing fight against their malevolent enemy outside The Wall.

Shao, however, is fascinated by the severed claw, which belongs to a savage species called the Tao Tei, a breed of ancient, mythical beasts living deep within the Jade Mountain that rises every 60 years for eight days to feed upon humanity and punish mankind’s greed.

The Tao Tei is an evolving race with a three-tiered attack force and telepathic mentality whose existence has been kept secret from the general population for centuries—merely legends and rumors to those who have never seen them or battled them face-to-face.  Thus, the intrigue and wonder over Garin’s battle prize, the first time these Chinese warriors have ever held the inhuman creature’s claw in their own hands.  Any man who could slay a Tao Tei in close quarters combat must be a great warrior indeed.

Garin and Tovar realize they may never make it out of the walled city alive.  While imprisoned in the fortress’ barracks, they befriend a shadowy inhabitant named Ballard, a longtime captive inside The Wall, who may be their only chance for survival and freedom.  Ballard shares his plan of escape from the fortress with the pair of mercenaries while also revealing a powerful new weapon developed by his captors, something the pair had traveled the world trying to find—gunpowder.  Ballard’s plan?  Steal the Order’s “Black Powder” weapon and escape the fort, sacrificing honor for wealth.

As Ballard recruits Tovar and his plan takes shape, Garin begins questioning his own allegiances when he witnesses the sacrifice, unity and honor among the fortress’ warriors after helping the Order defend its ranks from the Tao Tei during a brutal battle, proving himself a heroic fighter.  As an explosive final skirmish with the creatures looms, Garin must decide: surrender to his mercenary ways and flee with Ballard and Tovar, or rise to greatness and join The Nameless Order in their ongoing onslaughts on The Great Wall, knowing his choice could mean the difference between life and death.

For the fantasy-adventure, Zhang has assembled an impressive technical team. This includes two-time Oscar Award-winning production designer JOHN MYHRE (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha); costume designer MAYES C. RUBEO (Warcraft, Avatar); editors MARY JO MARKEY (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek) and CRAIG D. WOOD (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Rango); and cinematographers STUART DRYBURGH (The Piano, Once Were Warriors, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) and ZHAO XIAODING (his 10th collaboration with ZHANG YIMOU, one that began with House of Flying Daggers), who utilized for the first time the Aeroflex Alexa 65 camera, capturing the fantasy in grand 6K resolution while bringing a new level of visual fidelity to the big screen.

Joining this team are five-time Oscar winner RICHARD TAYLOR (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), whose WETA Workshop designed the ast arsenal of weaponry; and visual effects supervisor PHIL BRENNAN (Snow White and the Huntsmen, The Wolverine), who teams up with ILM Far East VFX supervisor SAMIR HOON (Star Trek Into Darkness) to create the story’s predatory Tao Tei creatures.

Collectively, the film’s cast and technical crew claim 25 Oscar Awards and 43 Oscar nominations.

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