THE GREAT WALL
THE GREAT WALL. Yimou Zhan, dir. Max Brooks, Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz, story. Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro, Tony Gilroy, script. Helen Jarvis, supervising art dir. John Myhre, production design. China/USA: Legendary East, Atlas Entertainment, China Film Group, et al. (prod.) / China Film Group (China dist.), Universal Pictures (USA theatrical), 2017.
Let's say 13th-centuryish in the Christian calendar, two western barbarians from darkest Europe make it to The Great Wall of an explicitly-identified legendary China in search of "black powder," in the sense of gunpowder, but still just "black powder since guns haven't yet been invented. In this legendary China, the Wall is especially necessary to keep out green-blooded mutant reptiles who, in cinematic terms, are close relatives of the Bugs in STARSHIP TROOPERS. IMDb classifies the film "Action, Adventure, Fantasy," to which one might add Romance/Epic of the (Chinese) Grand Opera family, but without the singing. Relevant here: from the point of view of the western Barbarians in the film, and the film's actual audience, the military installations on The Wall — and the hot air balloons launched from The Wall — are what might be called "SinoPunk"(cf. and contrast Ken Liu's "silkpunk"): visually-arresting extrapolations into science-fantasy of the great achievements of early Chinese technology. Also coming along in China is scientific experimental method. The two guys from Christendom clean up nicely, can act heroically, and offer a magnet for monster-quelling and the concept of the harpoon from Spanish whaling.
RDE, 19/II/17, 20/II17 (with thanks to Greg Conley)