The Great Wall (2016): how does a global cinema make audiences be disappointed?

Written by Kepei Zhou

The global reach of cinema is not a new goal. From the earliest moments of the primal settlement of a cinematic apparatus over a century ago, the role of film was set for exploitation in international commercial and cultural exchange (Acland, 2003).

Hollywood as the most advanced system in the film industry, also contributes to the development of the globalization from an early time. The most main reason is that Hollywood owns the absolutely dominant position in world markets. Additionally, today’s Hollywood studios are themselves transnational, with ownership structures and financial arrangements that stretch far beyond the borders of the United States (Behlil, 2016).

The storyline of The Great Wall is totally based on historical Chinese background, and it is the first English film by Yimou Zhang. The production companies contain China Film Group Corporation (China), Le Vision Pictures (China), Legendary Pictures (USA) and Universal Picture (USA). It has started to release from the end of 2016 in the global world market, however, it does not get a good grade from the audiences.


The first reason might be that the film does not reach the initial expectation of the audiences, especially for Yimou Zhang’s fans. Yimou Zhang is one of the most representative directors in China, and he is really good at revealing the traditional Chinese elements in his films, such as Hero (2002) and The flowers of war (2011).The Great wall as a blockbuster with Hollywood style is really difficult to reach the expectation of his fans.

Secondly, the Chinese and western culture and technology do not combine in an excellent way. According to Athique (2016), while there may be much to celebrate in the “cultural fusion”, it is necessary to account for the audience that arises for these films. They are clearly not intended solely for the gratification of a small, matched and similarly hybrid audience, since the returns are unlikely to be adequate. This leaves with a conceptual difficulty, since it is a well-established paradigm that film audiences are overwhelmingly directed towards the reassurances of their own national cinema, augmented only by their love of universal Hollywood films. Therefore, when foreign elements destroy the traditional features, the audiences will feel disappointed. The Great Wall is a good example, forming a team and fighting with the monster is a obvious blockbuster narrative, so audiences might think this narrative in a historical Chinese background is not very good. However, all of the writers are not from China, I think it is an interesting point to think about.



Acland, C. (2003). Global Audiences and the Current Cinema. Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes and Global Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 3-22.

Athique, A. (2016). Transnational Audiences: Media Reception on a Global Scale. Cabridge: Polity Press. P45-P56.

Behlil, M. (2016). Hollywood is everywhere: global directors in the blockbuster era. USA: University of Chicago Press.. P36-P39.

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