With The Great Wall, a classic army vs. monsters tale, director Zhang Yimou has brought America the most expensive Chinese film ever created. The movie may be backed by a Hollywood studio and it may star no less an American icon than Matt Damon, and yet it proffers China as the source of military might and moral right. Hollywood and China’s commissars have always made for strange bedfellows, but have they finally figured out how to beget viable offspring? Will other major stars follow Damon’s example and act in films that promote Beijing’s message? Will American audiences watch them? Will Chinese? Can propaganda ever make for a real blockbuster? Or will the powers on both sides someday relent and let a director like Zhang make the kind of nuanced human dramas that made his name in the first place?
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