When it comes to blockbuster fare, Legendary has thus far made movies featuring gigantic monsters and/or scary creatures its bread and butter; having released such franchise-starters as Pacific Rim, the Godzilla film reboot, and Jurassic World (itself a partial reboot of the Jurassic Park series) over the past few years to big financial returns and, by and large, good word of mouth. Legendary is also bringing King Kong back to the big screen in 2017 with Kong: Skull Island, a reimagining of the Kong property that is designed to pave the way for an eventual showdown between the Eighth Wonder of the World and the King of Monsters in 2020, with Godzilla vs. Kong.
However, before moviegoers return to Skull Island, Legendary will be releasing a very different type of monster adventure altogether in theaters; namely, The Great Wall. The historical fantasy adventure has been in development for a number of years and was once slated to be directed by Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai), with Henry Cavill and Benjamin Walker headlining. However, the version of the project that actually wound up getting made was directed by renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero) and features a cast led by Matt Damon (The Martian), Pedro Pascal (Narcos), and Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers), among others.
The Great Wall is based on a story by World War Z author Max Brooks and follows two foreigners (Damon and Pascal) making their way through ancient China, where they discover the truth about why the country’s Great Wall was actually built; it was designed to keep out dangerous monsters from wreaking havoc on the people of China. For more on the film’s storyline (including, the reason why the highly-skilled soldiers who stand guard along the Wall agree to let these outsiders join their battle), you should check out the new trailer for the film, above.
Legendary’s teaser trailer for The Great Wall didn’t exactly get the film’s marketing campaign started on the right foot. The discussion surrounding the film has since largely focused on criticisms of the fact that a movie set in China, made by a Chinese director, and featuring Chinese actors in key supporting roles… features Matt Damon as its protagonist and seems to be yet another example of the “white savior” narrative. Damon, speaking about the film at its New York Comic-Con panel (where the trailer debuted), commented on the issue, saying:
“[Ultimately] where I came down to was if people see this movie and there is somehow whitewashing involved in a creature feature that we made up then I will listen to that with my whole heart. I will think about that and try to learn from that. I will be surprised if people see this movie and have that reaction. I will be genuinely shocked. It’s a perspective that as a progressive person I really do agree with and try to listen to and be sensitive to, but ultimately I think you are undermining your own credibility when you attack something without seeing [the film].”
With a production budget around $135-160 million and its casting choices prompting controversy, there is reason to question if The Great Wall will be another success for Legendary. Outside of the conversation surrounding Damon’s casting, the film’s marketing hasn’t gotten much attention; though of course, that may change with this more action-packed and visually-striking second trailer. The film’s February release date could be something of an obstacle too, especially since it means The Great Wall will have to face-off with hotly-anticipated Stephen King adaptation The Dark Tower during its U.S. opening weekend. Legendary doesn’t have a spotless record when it come to the quality of its big-budget projects either (see Seventh Son, for case in point), so it remains to be seen if The Great Wall will even be worth getting worked up about either way.
The Great Wall opens in U.S. theaters on February 17th, 2017.