It was a packed house on Saturday afternoon at The Theater at Madison Square Garden for New York Comic-Con, for Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ The Great Wall panel and Q&A. From the director of some of the most beautiful kung fu epics eves, Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers/Hero), comes the largest production in the history of China, which makes sense since it’s called, The Great Wall. The film is a historical fantasy based on Chinese folklore about the monsters the Great Wall of China was built to keep out and the army dedicated to killing them. It features an all-star international cast including Oscar winner Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), Jing Tian, Wang Junkai, Willem Dafoe, and Andy Lau.
Director Zhang Yimou, and cast members Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, and Junkai Wang were on hand for the NYCC panel, moderated by Dave Karger.
The panel started with Damon, who received a huge ovation and was serenaded by the crowd for his 46th birthday. He admitted that he had never done a film of this scope and that that was what intrigued him to take the part. That, and he is a total fanboy for Zhang Yimou, who he later called the “Spielberg of China.” Pedro Pascal may actually be a bigger fanboy than Damon as he related stories of visiting small arthouse cinemas in Orange County by himself to see Yimou’s films. Jing Tian was very excited to be here and relished playing a badass female amongst the men. One thing she loved was the equality shown to both male and female leaders. We then met young Wang Junkai, who received a massive ovation from a large section of female Chinese fans. He is apparently a musician/pop star in China. In The Great Wall, he portrays the Emperor who must act strong despite his inner fear.
And finally the famed director Zhang Yimou graced the stage. No director has ever used colors better than Yimou, whose films are so beautiful you sometimes forget how violent they are. The color schemes are back as each section of the army is in a different color, the most spectacular are the all-blue all-female Crane Core who beat loud drums and then make awesome leaps from the Wall. If you’ve never seen any of his films, you may remember Yimou’s work from the Beijing Olympic ceremonies. Damon said that no one understands spectacle better than Zhang Yimou.
The production for The Great Wall was as epic as the actual Wall itself. It took three-plus years to finish, with over 100 translators working on the completely international set. Since the Chinese government prohibited shooting on the real Great Wall, the production built three separate walls. The only character everyone said they got to interact with was the monster. The subject of walls begat a Donald Trump joke and Damon read a birthday message from his father: “My gift to you is that in one month we don’t have to deal with Donald Trump anymore.”
Damon and Pascal could not stop gushing and waxing poetic over the director they long admired and everyone seemed to be excited for the movie to come out. It is an epic of the grandest scale.
The panel ended with a new extended trailer for the film, which looks simply stunning. Imagine Zhang Yimou’s Hero only mixed with Attack on Titan. The film debuts in theaters February 17, 2016.
Keep it here at Geeks Of Doom all weekend for our on-site coverage of NYCC 2016 and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
[Images by Danny Torkel for Geeks Of Doom.]