Director Zhang Yimou and an all-star cast unveiled the terrific monster in his upcoming blockbuster "The Great Wall" in Beijing on Tuesday, proclaiming "it's our turn to save the world."
Matt Damon and Lu Han show their calligraphy of the Chinese characters for "Taotie" at the premiere of "The Great Wall" held in Beijing, Dec. 6, 2016. [Photo / China.org.cn]
The monster Taotie, sourced from China's ancient myth compilation "The Classic of Mountains and Seas," was a well kept secret in several previously released trailers. But the Tuesday premiere revealed a trailer showing what the monster really looks like.
Its image shocked attendees, including leading actors Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Willem Dafoe, Zhang Hanyu, Lu Han, Eddie Peng, Lin Gengxin, Zheng Kai, Chen Xuedong and Wang Junkai, who have not yet seen the final cut of the film.
Zhang said the monster was designed by Weta Workshop, the company behind award-winning "The Lord of the Rings." The Taotie moved in hordes every 60 years to eat humans, according to the director, and in one scene, there are more than 300,000 Taoties attacking. Another top-rated company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is responsible for the visual effects and creates the monster on the big screen according to Weta's design.
"But besides the horrifying monster, everything else in the film is very realistic," Zhang Hanyu, who plays commander-in-chief in the film, told China.org.cn.
The production crew of China's most expensive film, with a reported budget of US$150 million, was also monstrous. "The whole crew had more than 1,300 persons from 37 different countries," Zhang said, "it was like a small United Nations assembly."
"The Great Wall" not only has the greatest scale in Chinese history, but also has the biggest green screen complex setup. Besides that, Weta designed and produced more than 20,000 props and 5,000 weapons.
The film rewrites the history and function of the Great Wall, which was built on the borders of China to protect the Chinese empires against raids and invasions from various nomadic groups on the Eurasian Steppe. Zhang integrates Chinese cultural elements and mythology into China's most iconic landmark, hoping to make the film an entertainment vehicle that exports Chinese culture.
"The Great Wall" is co-produced by China Film Co. Ltd., LeVision Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures. It will land in Chinese theaters on Dec. 16, 2016 and be released in the United States on Feb. 17, 2017.