The Great Wall: The Art of the Film
Bricking it This guide to the recent Matt Damon non-blockbuster lacks both art and insight, despite the fantasy setting of the film
We check out a glossy guide to the recent fantasy film set on the Great Wall of China.
The Great Wall is an historical action fantasy film starring Matt Damon about a horde of monsters attacking the Great Wall of China. It garnered mixed reviews and did disappointing business at the box office.
But there’s one thing everyone’s agreed on: it looks amazing. So we were looking forward to checking out this coffee table tome that purports to focus on the art behind it. Yet just like the film itself, this book is full of promise but fails to deliver.
What you expect from an ‘art of the film’ book, especially one costing £30, is a detailed insight into how the visuals were created. You want to see how the production designs were built up, from original thumbnail sketches through concept art and storyboards, to VFX
The book’s strongest section is the 44 pages that are devoted to the Tao Tei
breakdowns. But while there is some of that, there’s far too little. Instead, the bulk of the images are film stills, and much of the text is more broadly focused on the making of the film, rather than its art and design.
That’s a shame, because in terms of sheer production quality, this is one of the most nicest looking books we’ve seen in a long while. Each of the images is beautifully reproduced across the 210 large-format, glossy pages. And where concept artwork is included, it’s stunning stuff. But there’s simply not enough of this, and worse still, the artists behind it aren’t even credited, which indicates where this book’s priorities lie.
The strongest section is the 44 pages devoted to the Tao Tei. We get to see how these monsters from Chinese legends were created for the film, from start to finish, including research material, a range of early and developed concept art, through to maquettes and 3D sculpts, along with artists’ insights about the thinking behind each design.
If the rest of the book had been like this, we’d have been happy bunnies. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Granted, it’s well researched, and includes interviews with the director and producer, a range of character studies, and a ton of detail about how the film was made. And physically, it’s a beautifully produced book with some exquisite finishes, most notably the ancient scroll-style binding. Bottom line, though: it just isn’t an ‘art of’ book – it should have just been called a ‘making of’.
A Tao Tei Drone attacks: one of the few instances where storyboards are reproduced in the book.
Concept art featuring an early design for a Tao Tei Queen. Annoyingly, the artist is uncredited.