“The Great Wall” might wind up being not so great for the box office.
The Matt Damon–led action flick about European mercenaries in China defending the Great Wall against ancient monsters is falling short of expectations, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The film, which is the biggest U.S.-China co-production ever, has grossed $36.5 million domestically and $266.2 million in foreign, as of press time. It is expected to reach $320 million globally, but may still come up $75 million short, sources tell THR. As Beijing’s Caixin reported in December, the film needs to rake in $434 million in the box office to break even, “based on the general rule in Chinese film circles that allots one-third of ticketing revenue to production companies.”
“This was the first movie of its type,” an unnamed executive connected with the Yimou Zhang-directed project, which had a $150 million production budget and a roughly $80 million global marketing budget, told THR. “You’re trying to appeal to everyone, and you’re not compelling enough to appeal to anyone. It feels like Esperanto.”
“The Great Wall” has just a 35 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And Damon’s casting as the white protagonist in a predominantly Chinese tale led to critical headlines before the film even hit the box office in February.
“Fresh Off The Boat” actress Constance Wu slammed the film for “perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world.” And Twitter took it to task with some snarky gratitude for all of Damon’s contributions to Asian culture. (Spoiler alert: there are none.) Even Jimmy Kimmel had something to say about it at the Oscars.
“He handed what turned out to be an Oscar-caliber role [in “Manchester By The Sea”] over to his friend [Casey Affleck] and made a Chinese ponytail movie instead,” Kimmel said. “And that movie, ‘The Great Wall,’ went on to lose $80 million dollars. Smooth move, dumbass.”
For his part, Damon denied any claims of whitewashing.
“That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously,” he told the Associated Press in December. He shifted blame to the era of clickbait and fake news. “It suddenly becomes a story because people click on it, versus the traditional ways that a story would get vetted before it would get to that point.”
This article has been updated to reflect more accurately the report from THR, and to include additional information from a December report about projected revenue.