Normally a big budget fantasy actioner starring Oscar-winner Matt Damon, Game of Thrones breakout star Pedro Pascal, and directed by acclaimed director Yimou Zhang of Hero and House of Flying Daggers fame, would be making big headlines. And to be fair, The Great Wall is doing just that… but for the wrong reasons. Since the movie’s first teaser trailer originally dropped, it’s been mired in controversy surrounding the fact that this is a movie set in China about Chinese mythology, and yet it has a couple of very non-Asian guys headlining it as they save the poor locals again.
And at New York Comic Con this weekend past, Damon addressed these “white saviour” or “mighty whitey” accusations, saying that the initial reactions surprised him. The Jason Bourne actor pointed out that people should remember that what they saw was only a tiny portion of the movie, never mind that this was a pretty unrealistic fantasy movie to begin with (via ComingSoon):
“Yeah, it was a f*ckin’ bummer. I had a few reactions. I was surprised, I guess because it was based on a teaser, it wasn’t even a full trailer let alone a movie. To get those charges levied against you… What bummed me out is I read The Atlantic religiously and there was an article in The Atlantic. I was like, ‘Really, guys?’ To me whitewashing was when Chuck Connors played Geronimo. (laughs) There are far more nuanced versions of it and I do try to be sensitive to that, but Pedro Pascal called me and goes, ‘Yeah, we are guilty of whitewashing. We all know only the Chinese defended the wall against the monster attack.’”
Ha, Damon’s got jokes! Witty rebuttals aside though, the actor doesn’t take the accusations lightly.
“Look, it was nice to react a little sarcastically because we were wounded by it, [but] we do take that seriously.”
Damon also went on to explain that unfortunately the original teaser trailer was too short to give a full reflection of the movie, and thus may have given people a false sense of what the movie is really like.
“From a marketing perspective, what’s a worse wipeout for a marketing team than to have that happen as a backlash against a teaser you put out? They’re trying to establish a number of things within a minute. It’s a teaser, they’re trying to tease the monster. They’re saying it’s a visionary filmmaker that Middle America probably doesn’t know. It’s the Steven Spielberg of China, right? Don’t worry! They speak English in this movie. You hear my voice speaking English. Don’t worry! Matt’s in the movie, you’ve seen this guy before. They’re trying to establish all these things, and by the way, there are monsters. Then 30 seconds and you’re done.
There’s a lot of pipe they’re trying to lay in 30 seconds, and I watched that teaser a number of times to try to understand the criticism. 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 it. You have to educate yourself about what it is before making your attack or your argument and then it’s easier to listen to from my side.”
To be fair, Damon makes a good point. When it comes to diversity, Hollywood has lots of crimes that it needs to pay for, but we also can’t just make accusations without any evidence/experience either. So yes, we need to educate ourselves on this movie first… and I guess, that education starts now as a new full trailer has been released! Check it out below!
Damn. Did Matt Damon just do a Captain America impersonation? Yes. Yes he damn well did.
Now admittedly, this does look just a tad silly. But honestly, big ol’ fun monster brawl movies – which I have to point out is something I am a huge fan of – usually are a little over the top and cheesy. That’s what makes them so entertaining! Add to that the snippets we see here of Yimou Zhang’s signature flair for sumptuous poetic visuals, and I’m definitely on board for this one.
On top of that, I actually think that this trailer also does a much better job of showing that yes, there are a couple of foreigners headlining this movie, but they are almost the only non-Asian faces to be seen here. And it definitely looks like the Chinese cast have huge roles to play in the movie as well. Killing monsters is clearly an equal opportunity profession.
The Great Wall also stars Andy Lau, Jing Tian and Willem Dafoe. It is scheduled for release on February 17, 2017.
Last Updated: October 13, 2016