dvd / blu-ray Review

The Great Wall (DVD) : Review


European mercenaries, William (Matt Damon – Interstellar, Elysium) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), searching for black powder become embroiled in the defense of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures, the Tao Tei.

As they two are pulled between taking the black powder to help their fellow countrymen, or showing honour and helping those who defend The Great Wall, the viewer is treated to a cinematic thrill ride, and an action packed movie.

Subsequent viewings, while the few plot reveals may be known, will certainly uncover many new details missed on an initial viewing, amidst the fog of war, and many detailed set pieces.

Rewatch value on this film is high, and to do it justice, one should try watch on a large screen, allowing one to capture the grand scale of the stories location.

Read the full SAMDB review of The Great Wall.


Overall, the audio and video of the main feature are of a decent quality, with the main feature being an enjoyable film.

The navigation on the disc is appalling, and requires far too much guesswork, not to mention the menu timeouts, leading to launching of menus or the main feature without action from the viewer.

The Great Wall is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.


Video on the main feature is encoded at a decent average bitrate. There are no visible artefacts on screen, nor any visible colour bleed. colours where appropriate are vibrant, with detail maintained in darker scenes.

Viewers with the necessary hardware or software could scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

The menus on the disc are another story, with horrible compression artefacts visible, especially on larger screens. Although these do not interfere with the main feature, and would allow more room on the disc in order to use less compression for the film.


Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, with clear dialogue via the centre speaker. The weight of the soundtrack is carried via the front channels, with the surrounds put to good use expanding the many action scenes, and serving to further draw the viewer into the on-screen action.


Navigation on the main menu comprises of a bunch of symbols, so as with several other discs from distributor Next, learn their meanings, otherwise some guesswork or hit & miss is involved when simply trying to navigate the disc or play the main feature.

The triangle icon allows one to play the main feature.

The icon looking like a book, access the chapter selection sub-menu.

The asterisk icon, very unintuitive, takes one to the sub-menus for bonus features. These features are listed with text links, so these have some logic and sense to them.

The speaker icon leads to a sub-menu for audio language selection.

Lastly, the page looking icon, with lines, leads to a sub-menu used to select desired subtitles.

The menu system on the disc is highly compressed, and therefore look horrendous on larger screens. These are static backgrounds, with accompanying music.

When in a sub-menu, these do time out within a very short space of time, taking one back to the main menu, which in turn, also times out, and launches the main feature. While this would likely help those who are lost due to the terrible navigation system, and need for guesswork, this is likely to prove very annoying to the majority of viewers. This is a trait, it seems, of discs created by Next Entertainment. Let’s hope they change this soon.

Bonus Features

There are trailers for The Mummy, and The Fate of the Furious (Fast & Furious 8). These autoplay at the beginning of the disc. They can be fast forward, or skipped individually, but can not be accessed again via the disc menus.

Deleted and extended scenes: A selection of nine scenes that were either removed or shortened in the final edit of the main feature. These can be accessed from a playlist that will play them all in order, or selected individually from the sub-menus.

The deleted and extended scenes provide some additional footage to view. In some cases, more than others, it is fair to guess why a particular scene was was left out, or changed. These would interest the average viewer, and be of interest to anyone in the filmmaking world.

Matt Damon in China: A short clip with some behind the scenes footage, focussing on Matt Damon, and the location and people The Great Wall was shot with. There is not much information passed on in this featurette, but we get to see Damon doing a few rehearsals.

Working with director Zhang Yimou: Some comments by cast and crew on director Zhang Yimou, with lots of praise for his work. This short clip again doesn’t impart too much information, but provides is a small insight into the man, and some behind the scenes footage.

The Great Wall visual effects: Another short featurette, this time focussing on the digital effects using in the film, of which there are a great many, some more noticeable than others.

This video clip does impart more information than the previous, explaining how the digital crowds for soldiers and creatures were created, resulting in the visual spectacular, that is the film.

Man vs. Monster: Navigation here takes the viewer to a sub-menu, where there are three featurettes about the work that went into creating the battles in the film, namely The First Battle, The Second Battle, and The Third Battle. There is also a playlist to have these all play in order.

With behind the scenes footage, and input from cast and crew, there is a fair amount of information passed on that would interest viewers and filmmakers alike, showing the mastery of acting, stunts and effects that went into creating some spectacular shots in each battle.

Weapons of war: A closer look at the weapons used on The Wall, and by the army. From huge crossbows, to massive blades, and the trebuchets. These not only look menacing in the film, but had a lot of hard work practically and digitally, behind them to create what looks like a force to be reckoned with.

Another clip that would be of interesting to average viewers and filmmakers alike.

Designing a spectacular world: A featurette on the production design, how it was researched, and how it brings the set to life, creating the detailed world we see on-screen.

By Andrew Germishuys

Founder of SAMDB, Andrew has worked full time in the film industry since the early 2000's. He has trained as an actor, completing his LAMDA Gold Medal, and attending many courses in Cape Town acting studios, with masterclasses with some of the international industries top directors, producers and filmmakers.

Working as an actor and armourer in the film and television industry have given Andrew a great balance of skills across the board when it comes to the entertainment industry.

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