Following up the stellar “Mojin: The Lost Legend,” explorer Hu Bayi and the Mojin six are brought back into a brand new action-packed adventure based on the bestselling novel series. Packed with new stars in the cast and bringing Fei Xing into the director’s chair, the film is released on Digital, DVD and Blu-Ray combo-pack on July 9th by WellGo USA.
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Hearing of the mythical Ghost Eye curse, explorer Hu Bayi (Cai Heng, from “Shaolin”) and his Mojin team, Professor Sun (Cheng Taishen, from “Legend of the Demon Cat”) Shirley Yang (Gu Xuan, from “My Beautiful Kingdom”), Fatty, (Yu Heng, from “When a Snail Falls in Love”) Gold Tooth (Ma Yuke, from “The Boundary”) and Linglong (Chen Yusi from “Our Shining Days”) are told that the only possible cure for the condition rests in a mythical valley. As they set off to find the pieces required to end it, they find themselves in a mystical valley surrounded by various monsters and other threats that impede their progress and forces the team to work together in an effort to continue on their journey. After finally uncovering the truth about what they’re sent to collect, they find the greatest danger lies ahead and must persist through to fulfill their quest.
For the most part, “The Worm Valley’ emerges as a fine sequel. The film gets a lot to like here from providing strong reasoning to get the team together on their mission. Fei Xing and Gu Hadran’s script gives a need to find the mystical objects required to put an end to the devastating curse befalling them in a very logical manner. With the opening providing both the reasoning for the curse through the princess’ cruelty and power as well as the necessary ingredients for the trip in the orb and crest in her possession that powered the curse, we immediately get an idea of the adventure before them. That setup then allows the film to spend more time on the investigation process to find out where they need to go rather than spending half the movie decoding the ancient riddle, which is a far more enjoyable process.
This trip requires an inordinate amount of confrontations with fantastic creatures. From a river filled with man-eating fish voraciously trying to leap out of the water to bite them and getting split up in the process, to each group battling it out with a massive lizard in a forest, the action scenes are incredibly fun here. Never developing into outright horror but still quite thrilling, the lengthy encounters allow for plenty of close-calls and ingenious methods of escaping the multitude of creatures thrown at them, all done by VFX artists Sunjing Jung and Park Hwqn. The adventure tone established is carried over to the general setup of these encounters, where the team encounters the giant scorpions or a massive snake guarding the sacred village that becomes a massive battle throughout the ruins of the area. All told, these here provide the film with a lot to like.
There are still some problems with “The Worm Valley.” The movie manages to get sidetracked in the latter half with a surprisingly offbeat touch to the story by completely dropping the adventure aspect to get into an oddly existential series of discussions about their mortality and the ethical qualms of continuing on their journey. This conversation feels incredibly out of place, by tackling a far more serious and grounded topic than what should appear in an action-packed fantasy epic. As well, this ends up stopping the film cold to dwell on this conversation for several minutes as they give impassioned speeches about the futility of carrying on. Then the actions in the big battle end up contradicting that anyway by wiping it aside to just deal with the same format they’ve been doing anyway. It’s an odd inclusion, which along with the CGI-heavy action scenes that are forced into the film because of the circumstances of the scenes, are all that really hold this one down.
Though it comes with a few minor issues that do bring it down a tad, overall ‘The Worm Valley’ has enough gripping monster action and a mainly fun feel to have a lot to like. Give it a shot if you’re into these kinds of fantasy driven action/adventure films or enjoyed the original, while those put off by the few flaws here should heed caution.