On Thursday, Entertainment Weekly released an exclusive first-look from an upcoming Legendary Pictures film, "The Great Wall." However, readers were quick to notice that, despite being about the Great Wall of China and being set in the 11th century, the movie stars a non-Chinese actor: Matt Damon.
The film is directed by "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" filmmaker Zhang Yimou, but social media debated whether this is enough — or if the film continues an ongoing trend of Hollywood whitewashing.
A common complaint about the movie involves the "white savior" complex: a trope in which a white protagonist saves people of color. "The Last Samurai" is a film that has been accused of perpetuating this narrative, and some have drawn parallels between that film and "The Great Wall."
A writer of "The Great Wall," Carlo Bernard, also wrote for "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time." The film met similar backlash when it was revealed that Jake Gyllenhaal would star in the film. However, just as with the casting for "Prince of Persia," some have cited Damon's casting as an economic rationale from a production studio. Some have said that the casting of both American and Chinese actors is simply strengthening the bond between Eastern and Western audiences. Legendary Pictures, the studio behind the movie, was acquired by the Chinese firm Wanda Group in January. The film also stars Chinese actors, including Andy Lau, Jing Tian, and Lu Han.
Chinese audiences on the Chinese social media Weibo have been relatively positive about Matt Damon's role in the film, with some saying that the "influence of Matt Damon" could help a China-heavy film succeed, according to the BBC. However, some are still unhappy with the fact that the movie won't help with Asian-American and Pacific Islander representation in Hollywood, nor is it a movie that fully incorporates a Chinese point of view.
"The Great Wall" is scheduled to be released on Feb. 17, 2017, in the United States. In China, the film is expected to be released sometime in December 2016.