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The Great Wall

Matt Damon stars in a scene from the movie "The Great Wall." The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Universal)

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NEW YORK (CNS) -- Those seeking nothing more from a movie than sheer spectacle may be satisfied with director Zhang Yimou's visually interesting but thoroughly implausible action adventure "The Great Wall" (Universal).

Epic in scale, the film is shallow in emotion and characterization. On the upside though, its central romance is completely chaste and its dialogue mostly free of cursing.

To appreciate those assets, however, viewers will first have to swallow a whopper of a premise. Drawn by the wealth they could gain by introducing gunpowder into the West, two medieval European mercenaries, William Garin (Matt Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal), arrive in China after an arduous journey during which they were harried, as the opening scenes show, by unidentified adversaries.

But an unpleasant surprise awaits the visitors. As they soon discover, their unwilling hosts are preoccupied with battling vicious alien monsters called the Tao Tei. It was to defend against these marauding creatures, whose idea of eating Chinese has nothing to do with General Tso's chicken, that the famous structure of the title was built.

Or so, at least, the script -- written by Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro and Tony Gilroy -- attempts to inform us with a straight face.

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