In the time of the Song dynasty during the reign of the Renzong Emperor (i.e. AD 1010–63), a few miles north of the Great Wall, a mercenary group originally consisting of twenty men searching for black powder are pursued by Khitan bandits, who have already killed some of the men. Upon escaping they seek refuge in a cave but are then attacked by an unknown monster, leaving only William and Tovar alive, with the former having slashed off the monster’s hand. The two decide to bring the arm with them. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao and Strategist Wang.
The Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty as a special division of the Imperial Army conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of alien monsters (the Taotie 饕餮) who rise every 60 years. The commanding officers are shocked upon seeing the monster’s severed hand, as the Order believed the invasion was still weeks away. Suddenly, a wave of monsters attack the Great Wall, and the battalions are mobilized. The Nameless Order is divided into five special units: the melee-specialist Bear Troop, the acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the siege engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the horse-mounted Deer Troop. Losses are sustained on both sides before the monsters’ queen recalls her drones. During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Peng Yong, an unskilled soldier from the Bear Troop and William, in turn, saves him from the attacking monsters. William and Tovar’s battle skills earn the respect of General Shao and Commander Lin, leader of the Crane Troop. Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard, a European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder. Like them, Ballard was also taken prisoner and now has been serving as an English and Latin teacher. The three foreign mercenaries discuss plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied by battle. Later, Strategist Wang meets William and explains the situation: The monsters that William fought were Taoties (in the film collectively called the Tao Tei), which are monsters originating from a green meteor that crash-landed onto Gouwu Mountain two thousand years ago. The Chinese believe the Taotie were sent from the gods to punish the Emperor for abusing his authority over the Middle Kingdom and the people. They attack northern China once every sixty years, an invasion for which the Order has been training for their entire lives.
IMDB Rate: 6.2
Director: Yimou Zhang
Writer: Carlo Bernard, Doug Miro