Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe 2015 Review: The film based off of the Chinese novels
Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe is actually the first film in the “Tomb Raider” like film series based off of the Chinese novels. I reviewed Mojin: The Lost Legend a few months back and it’s sitting there in our reviewed list if you want to go back and see how the sequel fares after watching the original entry into the franchise. It’s usually strange to review and watch the sequel before the first movie in the franchise is released. But the two movies are really only held together by tender threads.
The names and personas of the characters are all the same. But actors and plots are different. With each film almost living in their own universe. With some of the plot points and relationships transferring to the other. But many times the having very little to do with each other. It’s almost as if the powers that be didn’t like how Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe (Ma Thoi Den: Chin Tang Thap Quy) turned out and decided to kind of semi reboot the series with the sequels. We see some familiar names and places, but histories and relationships are tweaked a good bit to the point where you don’t have to really acknowledge the other to enjoy whichever one you’re watching at the moment.
Hu Bayi (Mark Chao or Trieu Huu Dinh) is living right in the middle of the cultural revolution of China. Cranking out the man hours he’s subjected to the over the top nationalism of the Chairman Mao and directly afterward era of Communism, and he’s slaving away at a dig sight in the mountains. There’s he’s under the command of Professor Yang (Wang Qingxiang) and his lovely daughter, Ping (Yao Chen).
While there the crew find an ancient passage that leads them directly to a hidden fortress in the mountains. It seems that Professor Yang new about its existence. And reveals that it is a place known as the “Demon Pagoda”. And that Hu Bayi and Ping are the only two people that can open the gate. Stopped by a lone soldier, the trio of adventurers are set upon by demonic bats that destroy everything in their way as well as unleash a monster that takes ping from her father and Hu Bayi.
Years later Hu Bayi is living in the pain and misery of his loss in the mountains. But this pain and misery is about to come to fruition. A group of men who work for a shadow organization, called the 749. Approach Hu Bayi and inform him that Professor Yang was found miles from the mountain years ago and that Ping had been found as well. Although Ping is exhibiting supernatural signs and powers, being code named “Shirley”. Professor Yang has wandered off and the 749 want Hu Bayi to go along with Shirley and find him. Hu Bayi refuses until he is clued into the secret behind the demon pagoda.
It seems that thousands and thousands of years ago an alien race came down to earth and almost enslaved the entire planet. After Prince Yi of the humans defeated the race. The last of them were scattered across the earth and interbred with humans. The Demon pagoda was the last remnant of this “ghostly tribe” and if ever opened would allow a portal to be created that would bring the rest of the race across the rift to be enslave the humans once more, and with Shirley exhibiting powers from this lost race. Something MUST be done to protect the human race.
Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe is really NOT a prequel to The Lost Legend. As much as they are similar. In fact they are almost competing films. What happened was that two directors (Lu Chuan and Wuershan) were given the rights to make adaptations of Tianxia Bachang’s novels and the two directors each took a different book. Lu Chuan was just lucky enough to have his film released a year before The Lost Legend and be thought of as the “prequel”. Thus each can be seen with their entirety without needing to see the other.
“The Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe” is not nearly as obtuse as The Lost Legend is early on. Instead we get a nice buildup and backstory to rely on rather than stumble around in the dark with characters that already seem to have a history like we did in the sequel. We see Ping (Shirley) and Hu Bayi’s relationship unfold. And even the introduction of Wang Kaixun (Li Feng this go around). However it does suffer some similar traits. There are way too many loose plotlines that just seem to fade off into the sunset.
We understand that Hu Bayi is the descendant of Prince Yi. But his connection with the Ghostly Tribe (who seem to never be seen except for Shirley) and Mr. Wang’s powers and guidance seem to fall by the wayside once the expedition to go find Professor Yang is underway. In the same vein you can tell that the film REALLY wants to set itself up as a continuing franchise. As very little is resolved by the end of the fantasy film (phim than thoai). And we even have the main characters setup to complete another quest with the last few lines of dialog. That’s a little frustrating and manages to temper the fun that the first few acts had.