That is exactly what happened with his latest film, The Great Wall!
The film did horribly its opening weekend, only earning 25 millions dollars–its budget was 150 million dollars, however! YIKES!
To be fair a few other films had horrible debuts. Ice Cube’s Fist Fight only earned 14.6 million and a Cure For Wellness earned under 5 million. These numbers are odd considering this is a long weekend when you include President’s Day. Fifty Shades Darker is the exception (unsurprisingly) taking in 20.9 million in its third weekend!
The Great Wall may have been a better quality movie, but it was marred by controversy. As you may already know, the film was accused be whitewashed and labeled a stereotypical White Savior film. The film centers a European mercenary in the Song Dynasty. He finds the Great Wall of China and meets Chinese soldiers who fight against monsters.
White protagonist in Asian setting
Because some of the characters, including a main character played by Matt Damon, are white in a film set in medieval China, the film has been accused of whitewashing and using the white savior narrative. Ann Hornaday, chief film critic for the Washington Post, writes that “early concerns about Damon playing a ‘white savior’ in the film turn out to be unfounded: his character, a mercenary soldier, is heroic, but also clearly a foil for the superior principles and courage of his Chinese allies.”
Director Zhang Yimou said that Matt Damon was not playing a role that was intended for a Chinese actor, he further criticized detractors for not being “armed with the facts” and stated that:
In many ways ‘The Great Wall’ is the opposite of what is being suggested. For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tentpole scale for a world audience. I believe that is a trend that should be embraced by our industry.
Chinese critical response
The film’s largest investor, the Wanda Group (owner of Legendary Pictures) has good relationships with the Chinese government and the Communist Party of China. In December 2016, users of film review website Douban rated The Great Wall 5.4 out of 10, which is considered very low. On Maoyan, another movie review aggregator, the ‘professional score’ is only 4.9 out of 10. On December 28, the Communist Party’s official media outlet People’s Daily published an article on its website severely criticizing Douban and Maoyan for doing harm to the Chinese movie industry with their bad reviews. On the same day, Maoyan took down its ‘professional score’ for The Great Wall.
What are your thoughts on The Great Wall? For reasons listed above we did not support the film. It is no different than what happened with Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Gods of Egypt, both films featured white protagonists in historically Black and Arabian areas. Hollywood has got to learn about authenticity. We will not tolerate fake Presidents, let alone historically inaccurate and offensive films!
Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning