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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem inspired by our choice of tarot cards, whether the image on it or the symbolism behind it. I went with the Moon, which has some personification and mentions imagination, light, and the unknown.)

 

Where we’ve wandered, none can trace,
For none now live who knew this place.
The darkness creeps from stone to stone
And makes us feel we’re not alone.
Then, from above, the moon appears,
Perhaps to soothe our growing fears.

She peers below through open cave
At we who thought ourselves so brave
And lends us light to glance about
In search of some departure route.
Yet what she shows us haunts our dreams,
And only she can hear our screams.
____________________

MPAA rating: Not Rated (PG-13 content, though the profanity in the subtitles can get strong)

At least one good thing came out of my watching the utter waste of time that was The Assassin: I saw a trailer for Mojin: The Lost Legend and was intrigued enough to seek out this rather fun Chinese adventure movie. Apparently based on a Chinese book series, this tale of three grave robbers may have its weaknesses, but it’s also evidence of the blockbuster action and visual merit that Chinese cinema has to offer.

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Hu Bayi (Chen Kun), his temperamental girlfriend Shirley (Shu Qi), and his reckless longtime friend Wang (Huang Bo) were all once Mojin, official treasure seekers and tomb raiders (Lara wasn’t available), but have since fallen into disgrace. Fed up with their washed-up lives in America, Wang is approached by a wealthy patron to locate an ancient Mongolian tomb. Compelled by a personal connection from his past, Wang accepts, dragging Hu Bayi and Shirley back into the dangerous business of booby traps, double-crossing villains, and supernatural(?) threats.

While the acting is all serviceable and sometimes quite good (the heroes are better than the villains), Mojin: The Lost Legend is most interesting as an example of how the Chinese do an Indiana Jones-style adventure. It takes a little while to get into tomb-raiding mode, but once it does, the pace stays brisk, and the set designs are impressive and elaborate, like the Moria of the Orient mixed with the Temple of Doom.  Anyone who enjoyed The Mummy or National Treasure should also find much to enjoy, from the playful banter to the horror elements of a particularly thrilling flashback to the way Chinese history and myth are used as clues and solutions along the way, not that I understood all of it.

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While it does mix a lot of aspects of adventure films I love, it is hard not to view those ingredients as copied or borrowed, even if there’s originality in how they are combined. Likewise, the special effects are one of the film’s strengths, yet there are moments that overuse slow motion and CGI to the point of being overblown and almost laughable, especially during the climax. Plus, the whole thing is a little too long for its own good. Yet it’s still a highly visual treasure hunt that even manages to work in some deeper emotions and themes of letting go of past tragedy. Flawed but fun, Mojin: The Lost Legend is an entertaining ride for those curious to see China’s take on their own National Treasure.

 

Rank: Honorable Mention

 

© 2018 S.G. Liput
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