"The Great Wall" was met with plenty of criticism before it was even released. People were most critical about how a movie featuring the Great Wall of China gave the starring role of the film to a white American actor in Matt Damon. People excused the filmmakers of 'whitewashing.' Those fears were dismissed upon viewing, but other criticisms were harder to dismiss.

About the movie

"The Great Wall" is a historical fantasy movie, co-produced by groups in both the United States and China. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the film was released in China in 2016 before getting a February 17, 2017 release date in America.

After slaying an unknown monster in the desert, a mercenary from Europe and his partner are captured by a mysterious order at the Great Wall of China. Through the Nameless Order, they learn of a horde of monsters who attack the kingdom every 60 years to avenge prior greed. The mercenaries must decide whether they will be greedy themsleves in their search for black powder or help the Nameless Order fight off these dangerous monsters.

Valid and invalid criticisms

With Matt Damon serving as the star of the movie, many people considered boycotting the film for failing to cast a more demographically appropriate character in the lead role. The issue is explained away well, though, as he simply plays a mercenary in search of a treasure, logical rationale for the time period.

It may speak to a concern about Asian leads in Hollywood, but "The Great Wall" shouldn't be in that discussion as much as "Ghost in the Shell" should be.

What is valid, however, is a failure by Damon to put on a consistent accent. The movie tries to explain this away in a scene where he claims to fight for no country, just for his own survival.

The scene feels unnecessary and contrived, as to Damon's character at times.

The whole side plot of the film was actually quite interesting. The moral was painted on the wall itself - greed is bad, as are weapons connected to greed. The strongest example of that occurs when one of the few white characters tries to abandon the Chinese with the loot in hand.

Yet the black powder also benefits the soldiers in their battles against the monsters, muddying up the moral of the story.

Speaking of the monsters, the biggest missed opportunity came in the battle scenes. The very first one along the Great Wall is extremely stunning. The colors of the soldiers' uniforms pop and their movements are followed by glistening cinematography. The rest of the battle scenes, however, put the focus of the camera on the monsters, which simply are not visually arrested in the same way.

Meeting expectations

If you watch the trailer beforehand, you know exactly what "The Great Wall" is going to be - a movie with some beautiful action scenes and not very much else.

The plot could have been more refined.

The action could have been more human-focused. The nuances could have been more fleshed out. But "The Great Wall" is a fun and relatively short action-packed movie that'll get the powder flowing.

Rating: B-