Indiana Jones meets Tomb Raider - in China

The tone can be uneven and the plot too busy, but Mojin - The Lost Legend delivers escapist fun as a fantasy adventure

Huang Bo (above) plays Wang Kaixuan, a renowned grave robber who must track down the Equinox Flower in Mojin – The Lost Legend. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

THE STORY: Hu Bayi (Chen Kun), Shirley Yang (Shu Qi) and Wang Kaixuan (Huang Bo) are a team of renowned grave robbers who have given up the trade. They are drawn into the fray once more when a cult-like group tasks them with tracking down the Equinox Flower, which is associated with the painful history of Ding Sitian (Angelababy) - a woman Hu and Wang had both fallen for in their youth. Based on Zhang Muye's 2006 novel Ghost Blows Out The Light.

As the China box office takes off, there is a hunger for local content in every genre.

Monster Hunt (2015), a fantasy adventure packed to the gills with all manner of computer-generated creatures, is the highest-grossing movie there.

Recently, Mojin - The Lost Legend raced off to a strong start, earning close to 600 million yuan (S$130 million) in its first three days. Think of it as Tomb Raider crossed with Indiana Jones, but with Chinese characteristics. So the key to unlocking the puzzles the intrepid trio encounter lies in the bagua, eight trigrams used in Taoist cosmology. And Equinox Flower (bi an hua, literally, flower on the other shore) is associated with death in Buddhism.



    125 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

In the movie, which links the world of the living with the world of the dead, the adventure mostly takes place underground. Director Wu Ershan (Painted Skin: The Resurrection, 2012) does a good job depicting an other-worldly landscape of dim rocky caverns, treacherous bridges, booby-trapped statues and subterranean rivers.

Grounding the fantasy is the bickering and banter that the couple Hu and Shirley engage in a la Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in the action-adventure romantic comedy Romancing The Stone (1984). The homage - or rip-off, depending on your point of view - works because the unshaven Chen possesses some roguish charm and Shu Qi proves that she can easily straddle pop entertainment with more highbrow fare such as Hou Hsiao-hsien's feted-at- Cannes The Assassin (2015).

The tone can be uneven at times and the plot gets a little too busy, but Mojin does deliver some escapist fun.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2016, with the headline Indiana Jones meets Tomb Raider - in China. Subscribe