Fri, Dec 25, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Movie review: Mojin — the Lost Legend

Chinese director Wuershan’s new adventure-thriller is action-packed and appeals to a global audience

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Mojin — the Lost Legend is an action-packed flick with stunning CGI effects and lots of zombies.

Photo courtesy of Vievision Pictures

It makes no sense to expect Mojin — the Lost Legend (尋龍訣) to make sense. The latest production by Chinese director Wuershan (烏爾善) is an adventure-fantasy movie designed to thrill and entertain, depicting a bunch of action heroes braving zombie armies in search for a stone with magic power. Based on Chinese writer Zhang Muye‘s (張牧野) immensely popular adventure series, Ghost Blows Out the Light (鬼吹燈), this is a precisely-crafted work of entertainment featuring a star-studded cast and stunning CGI effects, showing that China is catching up with Hollywood in manufacturing blockbuster entertainment.

The film opens with three adventurers entering a subterranean mausoleum. Through off-screen narration by Wang (Huang Bo, 黃渤), we learn that they are Mojin Xiaowei (摸金校尉), an ancient school of tomb raiders once commanded by Chinese emperors.

The story cuts to New York City in the late 1980s, where Wang and his two partners, Hu (Chen Kun, 陳坤) and Shirley (Shu Qi, 舒淇), now live, having retired from tomb raiding. Tired of hawking “Chinese treasures” in the city’s backstreet, Wang returns to his old trade by taking on a mission for a mysterious, wealthy businesswoman (Liu Xiaoqing, 劉曉慶), who wants an ancient meteorite called the Equinox Flower, which has the power to resurrect the dead and is believed to be buried in an ancient tomb of a Khitan princess in Inner Mongolia.

The mission brings Wang’s mind back to 20 years ago, when he and Hu joined a communist youth group traveling through the vast steppes of Inner Mongolia, where Wuershan grew up, at the height of the Cultural Revolution. Here, the country’s communist past serves as a source of ridicule and laughs, humorously rendered in a sequence in which the communist youths, determined to rid the masses of superstition and old customs, go on trashing whatever is deemed traditional and end up being slaughtered by an army of dead Japanese soldiers-turned-zombies in a crypt.

Film Notes

Mojin — the Lost Legend


Directed by: Wuershan (烏爾善)

Starring: Chen Kun (陳坤) as Hu, Shu Qi (舒淇) as Shirley, Huang Bo (黃渤) as Wang, Angelababy (楊穎) as Ding

Language: Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles

Running time: 127 minutes

Taiwan release: In theaters

The expedition leads the heroes back to the exact site where the bloodshed took place two decades ago, where they will find out what awaits them in the crypt.

Knowledge of the Cultural Revolution is not required to enjoy Mojin, as the movie is made to engage a global audience. Cultural particulars are turned into plot gimmicks as Chinese emperors’ mausoleums become the playground for the modern action heroes, who use Bagua (八卦), or the eight trigrams, to solve mysteries and hunt treasures.

The movie is lavish, packed with eye-dazzling action and fantastic plots, making it feel right at home among the Lara Croft: Tomb Raider films. Wuershan’s visual panache renders the whole film a pure spectacle, especially with the underground mausoleum, where the bulk of the story takes place.

There are doses of gore and thrill thrown in, as the zombies look vivid and fearsome but quickly crumble when being hit as if they had stepped out of The Mummy series.

Shu makes a gorgeous action heroine. She is athletic, agile and plays it cool most of the time. But her love-hate pas de deux with Chen’s character is stiff and tiresome. The occasional outburst of whining and pouting makes her not quite up there with Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft.

Chen is cut out for a dashing action hero, albeit a rather indistinct one. Huang ends up stealing much of the attention with his strong presence, offering hyperactive comic relief along with his sidekick, played by Xia Yu (夏雨). The latter, however, carries a zaniness so overbearing that one wishes a zombie could knock him out and keep him unconscious till the end credits roll.

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