Erected over the course of hundreds of years stretching all the way back to the third century B.C., the Great Wall of China is generally thought to have been raised in an effort to protect China from rival nations and nomadic invaders. Great Wall, a co-production between American and Chinese studios, aims to shed light on just how wrong that assumption is. Legendary Pictures has hired Zhang Yimou to direct the movie, which follows a group of British warriors from the 15th century who stumble upon portions of the partially completed Great Wall. As night falls, the warriors discover that the wall wasn’t built just to keep out foreign invaders, but also something dangerous and inhuman. There’s no word on what that threat may be, but the movie is based in part on an idea from World War Z writer Max Brooks, so hordes of Mongol zombies are not out of the question.
Zhang Yimou gained international attention with period dramas like Raise The Red Lantern before reinventing himself as a director of stylish martial arts epics like Hero and House Of Flying Daggers. In between, he was banned from filmmaking in China for a time, after his 1994 film To Live was deemed too critical of the Chinese government. Perhaps eager not to have anything like that happen again, Yimou talked up the Chinese cultural elements of Great Wall when addressing students at the Beijing Film Academy. “The Chinese elements are leading elements in the film,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve done this kind of co-production. It’s good for the promotion of Chinese culture. It has historical value for both parties.”
Yimou made those remarks alongside director Gareth Edwards, who was there promoting the Chinese release of Godzilla. Edwards hinted that, if successful in the region, a Godzilla sequel could be set in China—an eventuality that might just suggest the identity of that “inhuman threat” menacing the heroes of Great Wall.