Monday, December 21, 2015

Mojin - The Lost Legend

I'll bet I would have been able to see this earlier in the weekend if anything else was opening big, but Star Wars is a behemoth from which you take no showtimes. I wound up having to wait until Sunday afternoon, and then a couple more hours because I either misread the times or the online listings were off. I do find that the timing on this one is really weird, with 6pm and 9pm screenings nightly, nothing in the 7/8pm sweet spot that gives you time to get out of work and maybe have dinner before the film without waiting around.

Another thing that I found kind of odd was that, as mentioned in the review, the film takes great pains to mention that something rational is going on after every obvious supernatural occurrence except the zombies (that this is an incredibly fast-acting unknown disease is apparently just assumed), because apparently the supernatural is a no-no in China, although just a day and a half before I saw Surprise do all sorts of goofy magical stuff, and I wonder if that was okay because it was a comedy or because it was referencing mythology, or some combination of the two.

I will say that with as popular as the Marvel movies have become over there, I'll be very curious to see what they do with Doctor Strange - there's no way of avoiding magic for that, really, and I wonder if Marvel will recast it in a more scientific light ("what you call magic is actually dark-matter nanomachines that exist throughout the universe and function via a telepathic interface that only certain well-trained people - called the Master of the Mystic Arts by superstitious people - can access"), or whether it will be dubbed that way for China. I'll also be curious as to how well this did in China, as it's getting the big screens there and they won't be getting Star Wars for few weeks despite their neighbors getting it at the same time as the US. There have been some crazy Chinese opening weekends this year, and I'm curious how this one fits in.

At least it's a fun movie. Not necessarily a must-see, especially on a weekend where you've also got a new Star Wars movie, but a fair amount of fun if you like this sort of thing.

Xun Long Jue (Mojin - The Lost Legend)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 20 December 2015 in AMC Boston Common #1 (first-run, DCP)

There has been a lot of talk, both this weekend and leading up to it, about what a massive global juggernaut Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be at the box office and how it was sucking up all the Imax screens for a full month. That latter statement actually only applies to the Western world, though, as the giant screens in China are going to Mojin - The Lost Legend (formerly known as "The Ghouls"), and there's a good chance it will be the #2 movie worldwide when all is said and done, despite opening on just thirty screens in North America. If it's playing near you, it's a fun alternative if Star Wars is sold out or way to keep things going if you want more serial-style adventure, even if it's not quite up to the same standard.

The Mojin Xioawei, we are told, were a group of officially sanctioned tomb robbers founded a thousand years ago with the purpose of "borrowing" gold from buried monarchs to buy food for starving peasants. In 1988, the Mojin are Hu Bayi (Chen Kun), Wang Kaixuan (Huang Bo), and Shirley Yang (Shu Qi), but after a near-disaster they have come to New York, a decision that does not sit well with Wang. Even still, he wouldn't return to China without his friends, except that the people his smuggler friend "Grill" (Xia Yu) puts him in contact with have are seeking the "Equinox Flower", something they learned about in 1969, when Hu and Wang were young men in Inner Mongolia competing for the affections of Ding Sitian (Angelababy). Hu and Wang follow, as Hu feels guilty and the company funding this trip is apparently more a cult than a business, with President Ying Caihong (Liu Xiaoqing) certainly determined to find the Flower for reasons beyond profit and historical interest.

The advertising for Mojin describes it as being based upon the "#1 Treasure Hunting Novel in China", which is either a tremendously specific slice of the market or an indication of just how popular treasure-hunting is as a genre over there. I suspect that it might be the middle book of a series, as there seems to be an awful lot of screwing around in the script by Zhang Jia Lu, especially as relates to Shirley's background - I think she's supposed to be Chinese-American and a relatively recent addition to the team - that could really be scrapped or simplified to give the stuff that really works more room to breathe. There's also a bit of stumbling in trying to pretend that this story full of zombies, swarms of blood-draining midges, green fire, bottomless pits, etc., etc., contains nothing supernatural in order to please the Chinese censor board, but you can almost see the cast winking during those scenes.

Full review on EFC.

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