Theme Depth: ★★★★1/2
Uniqueness of Plot: ★★★★★
Technical Elements: ★★★★★
Mystery & Suspense
War & Espionage
Action & Adventure
Drama / Angst
William Chan (Fo Ye – Zhang Qi Shan)
Zhang YiXing – LAY (Er Yue Huang)
Ying HaoMing (Ba Ye – Qi Tiezui) ~ LOVE HIM SO MUCH! ❤
Zhang Mingen (Lieutenant Zhang) ~ Great actor!
Zanilia Zhao (Yin XinYue)
Plot (Prequel to The Lost Tomb)
Set in the early 1900s when China and Japan were caught up in the war of the century, nine families have risen to power in the famous city of Chang Sha. Their leader is the mysterious, but fearless Zhang Qi Shan. His origins may be a mystery but his brilliance, bravery, and power are there for the world to see. When a mysterious train comes to town absent a driver but full of dead bodies, it’s clear something bad is coming to Chang Sha. Desperate to stay ahead of the Japanese and the traitors who help them, while trying to defend both his nation’s history and its future, Zhang Qi Shan is in for the ride of his life. Joining him are his two closest friends and fellow members of the Nine Families – Er Ye (an opera singer and heir to a famed tomb-building family) and Ba Ye (a fortune teller with a knack for understanding the hearts of both the living and the dead, but also a nose for getting into trouble with a capital “T”). It’s a story that will lead them through underground tombs, plauge-infested villages, prison camps, spooky marshes, and more. Can Zhang Qi Shan and his friends overcome the obstacles that face them above and below ground while still keeping the people they love safe at home?
So I originally found this drama because I fell in love with “The Lost Tomb” and was looking for something similar. When I found out it had a prequel – “Mystic Nine” – I was quick to put it on my ‘To Watch’ List. Unfortunately, I actually took me a few months to check it out, and I wish I’d watched it sooner. Definitely one of my favorites for 2016 and probably an all time favorite all-together!
MUSIC: I liked the music, although to be honest I never remembered much of it. The opening song didn’t reach me as much as some of the Chinese ones do (Journey of Flower has some great music), but it didn’t bother me either. To be honest, the intros were like 4 minutes, so I generally skipped to the show 😛 I give the music a 7 simply because I didn’t really notice it at all. It was suspenseful when it needed to be suspenseful, exciting when it needed to be exciting. Nothing spectacular, but it fit – you know?
SPECIAL EFFECTS: The special effects for this show were really excellent. I think there were two or three scenes towards the end (when it went really tombsy and “supernaturally” that there were some effects issues that bothered me, but by and large I went through all 48 episodes and never felt like it was fake or manufatured. No CGI issues, no obvious green screens. It was all pretty realistic. And considering how much they packed into this film – I was super impressed. I mean we had tree coffins and giant temples and monstrous mazes that were just mind-boggling in the way they constructed them. I thought it was really well-done.
CHARACTERS / ACTING: OMG I loved all the main characters so much. Not the bad guys – I mostly found them A) annoying, B) not very well done, C) a little obvious, and D) not even close to matching up to the good guys in abilities. But the good guys – I just found them to be so much fun. All of the main leads were really well developed, they matched their characters extremely well, and they all played off of one another like it was a real relationship.
The friendship between Fo Ye, Er Ye, and Ba Ye was just extremely well done. You could feel how strongly they felt about one another. Their sadness when one was going through something difficult, the amused tolerance Fo Ye has when Ba Ye goes off about something “fortune tellery.” They are strong, confidence, intelligent men – but the writers just made them very realistic. They were somehow both excellent heroes and really fun characters you would like to be friends with. Ba Ye and Lieutenant Zhang were just totally awesome – they definitely add to the re-watch value! Ba Ye is my favorite, loyal to a fault but really fun and entertaining. He is a great comedic role in the film, especially compared to the other three men’s more sober roles. He brought just the right amount of humor into the film to let it be angsty and dramatic without going overboard. I’ve got to say those four are probably one of the best “bromance” collections I’ve ever seen. Even the women were excellent – and I tend to get annoyed by them more easily. I actually really enjoyed Zhang Qi Shan’s relationship with Xin Yue, and really got into their plotline. Er Yue and his wife just brought out so many feels – it’s seriously a love to transcend time.
LENGTH: This drama is long – and (the only really bad thing I’m going to say here) sometimes long-winded. There were a few times when the Bad Guys were plotting or the Good Guys were plotting and I just wanted to get back to the action scenes. I ended up getting attached to almost all of the main characters and their plots – I just wasn’t a fan of watching the bad guys talk and talk and talk. So I’d maybe super-speed or skip through those parts. You’ll pick the story up easy enough without them. But don’t let that stop you from watching the drama though! The other parts more than made up for it.
PLOT: Not a lot of romance – It really was more of an action/adventure tale. There is one couple that had a lot of angst, but nothing between them – more like they got a hard break from the rest of the world. The rest of the romance was pretty cute, fun, and bubbly. So it wasn’t any of that – if they’d just talk it’d all work out – stuff that I find really annoying. I like that – it was way more focused on friendships and the adventure.
As for that adventure, there were of course some plot holes. There was actually less “tomb” stuff than I expected given the title. A lot less. Tomb-things really only covered about 1/4 of the show imo. I never really understood about how the train ended up in Chang Sha. Nor how a couple of the family lines were going to survive considering the lack of heirs or their status at the end of the show. Given the ending, are there still Nine families? Did we just replace them later? Slightly confused there. REALLY wish we’d seen Ba Ye’s heir in The Lost Tomb – he’d make a great addition to that series! But by and large it all worked out.
They meandered a lot (just when you thought everything was solved, something else would happen that started everything up again), but that gave it the “long adventure” feel. I really enjoyed most of their adventures – they were well-written and exciting. Spent a lot of nights drawn from episode to episode. I think this was better viewed as a “many small stories that run together” sort of film rather than trying to make one giant story out of it all. I thought it was well-done and quite fun (Ok, I just loved a lot of it).
I know the ending of the bad guys felt a little anti-climactic, but it kind of worked. I think? Kinda? Still not sure how I feel about that.
Many people were upset with the final ending because it isn’t particularly a happy ending. It leaves a lot of things unfinished. No questions were left unanswered – it just didn’t leave everyone happy and safe at home in the end. But to be fair, I felt like this drama needed that. It left me feeling like their adventures and story would continue – like things weren’t really over. Somewhere, Zhang Qi Shan and the nine families are still fighting against the enemy, still protecting China’s heritage, and leading it into the future. Which is a perfect set-up for “The Lost Tomb” series which it prequeled. I don’t actually like stories that “end” – I like my adventure series to finish with the next adventure awaiting. This did that for me!
FINAL THOUGHTS: Please check this drama out if you like adventure or fantasy kind of films. If you want something really slapstick-comedy, this isn’t it – there was certainly a lot of drama a serious topics addressed. But I thought it was a really great blend. I laughed through a lot, cried through some scenes, and was really rooting for the romantic couples and good guys to win. It may not be the best-written show ever, but it certainly entertained me way more than most!