“Mojin: The Lost Legend” began its theatrical run in Houston exclusively at the AMC Studio 30 theater yesterday.
Over 1000 years ago, the emperor of China invented the Mojin Xiaowei (grave robbers) to steal gold from the dead for the living. Food supplies were at an all time low and China had divided itself into three kingdoms who were constantly at war with one another. The emperor relied on the Mojin Xiaowei to assist in such trying times.
“Mojin: The Lost Legend” follows three Mojin; Hu Bayi (Chen Kun), Wang Kaixuan (Huang Bo), and Shirley Yang (Shu Qi). In 1988, the trio retires and relocates to New York where they struggle financially. Hu and Shirley have become romantically involved while Wang feels like the great Mojin deserve more than the financial despair they’ve faced in the States. Wang and Hu are pulled back into the grave-robbing game once the Equinox Flower is introduced. Wang swore to retrieve the Equinox Flower for Ding Sitian (Angelababy); Wang and Hu’s first love who supposedly died back in 1969.
There are rules the Mojin have to follow that are potentially intriguing. The most important one being that candles must be lit in each corner before opening a coffin and if the candle goes out then the treasure is returned and the Mojin leave empty handed. However this concept doesn’t seem to be fully explored. The flame flickers from time to time and turns green on occasion, but there feels like more could have been done with tampering with the tombs of the dead and the deceased forces that lie on another plane.
This fantasy adventure film has some exceptional set designs. Everything from the statues they encounter to the boards of the creaky bridge they walk on are intricately detailed and covered with what seems like years of dust and dirt to give the film an adventurous and ancient kind of atmosphere. The zombie soldier sequence is perhaps the film’s shining achievement as it drips with human blood, features limp carcasses being thrown from one side of the screen to the other, and is filled with entertaining undead mayhem.
Everything in the background may have an exquisite appearance, but what takes place in the foreground is lacking, under par, and even unbearable at times. Wang is overwhelmingly annoying the entire film with his inhuman ability to be so reckless and his overflowing amount of arrogance barrels through every scene he’s a part of like an out of control locomotive. His unrealistic mullet only adds to the character’s unfunny absurdity. Shirley Yang is one of the most wishy-washy and insufferable female film characters ever. She spends the entire film playing like she’s nonchalant whenever Hu walks out of the room, but then turns around less then ten seconds later only to put on her pouty face and stomp around like a fussy toddler who didn’t get her way.
The special effects get carried away in the sense that a mediocre budget attempts to tackle too much and is relied on too often to tell the story. Computer generation literally bogs down each and every scene that is obviously filmed in front of a green screen. The sequence involving the massive swarm of life sucking mosquitos is a blobby mess with a laughable outcome. The outrageous wuxia/wire work utilized in the film allows characters to spin around in mid-air and kick zombies, flip upwards to defy gravity, and fly around like Peter Pan.
“Mojin: The Lost Legend” is this promising yet unfulfilling fusion of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Operation Condor,” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The Wuershan directed adventure may have been somewhat entertaining if it wasn’t for its sporadic use of preposterous humor, heavy use of poor special effects, and its bountiful supply of stale and unsatisfying performances.