My interest in today’s review was born from a short film called Mortal Kombat: Rebirth that hit the internet on my birthday in 2010. As with most things that came out on June 8th, it was pretty awesome. It took the world of Mortal Kombat that had previously been rendered goofy and unwatchable into something intriguing and vaguely realistic. I was entirely intrigued. But apparently Warner Bros. was not, and they passed on turning it into a movie. What they did instead is allow the director to turn his idea into a web series. But I found out that this had happened well after the first season had been released, so I felt like I had to do it all at the same time, which doesn’t really matter because the episodes are only like 10 minutes apiece. And so I watched, and prepare to review, Mortal Kombat: Legacy Season One, created, written, and directed by Kevin Tancharoen, based on characters created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, co-written by Todd Helbing and Aaron Helbing, and starring Michael Jai White, Jeri Ryan, Darren Shahlavi, Matt Mullins, Sam Tjhia, Jolene Tran, Ryan Robbins, Ian Anthony Dale, Devan Ohtsji, Shane Warren Jones, and Peter Shinkoda. Find it here on Machinima’s YouTube channel.
The story of the show is basically a prequel to the original game and we get introduced to the characters a few characters at a time. Sonya Blade (Jeri Ryan) gets captured by Kano (Darren Shahlavi) and Jax (Michael Jai White) has to rescue her. Johnny Cage (Matt Mullins) is failing to get his acting career back on track. Shao Kahn (Aleks Paunovic) overthrows the kingdom of Edenia, taking Queen Sindel (Beatrice Ilg) and her daughter Kitana (Samantha Tjhia) as his own, and creating an evil twin of the daughter that might actually love him who he names Mileena (Jolene Tran). Raiden (Ryan Robbins) comes to Earth and is put in an asylum. Sub-Zero (Kevan Ohtsji) kills the family of General Hanzo Hasashi (Ian Anthony Dale), and the anger and vengeance turns him into Scorpion. And Kano’s early endeavors lead to the creation of two robots from Lin Kuei warriors, Cyrax (Shane Warren Jones) and Sektor (Peter Shinkoda).
It’s hard to complain about something that is readily available for free on the internet … but I will do my utmost. Actually, I kind of liked this series. I’ve been really hit and miss with the Mortal Kombat franchise over the years. I liked about 50% of the games, and probably a much lower percentage of the live action endeavors. In the defense of the games, I never was that big into fighting games. There’s really no defense for most of the movies though. As for this show: it works. The episodes are a little short for what I’m used to, and the story is not surprising to people with a basic understanding of Mortal Kombat, but it was interesting to watch a half real world, half supernatural interpretation of Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t quite as based in the real world as the original trailer that drew me into the show, but it was good enough. But when I say it was unsurprising, I refer to events like what happens when an explosion is about to go off and Jax is nearby. Spoilers: there was damage to his arms. The devil, you say! Then, even though I really liked the way they set up Raiden’s story, it was almost what I expected. I thought it was cool (and made sense) that some dude falling out of the sky claiming he was the God of Thunder (without looking like Chris Hemsworth) would be put in an asylum. I expected him to be able to escape because they tried to give him electroshock therapy. A Taser is almost as good. It takes them until about Episode 4 to start getting into the supernatural, but they never really went that overboard with it. You kind of need to go supernatural when you start putting Outworld into it. The whole part of the story when Shao Kahn overthrows the king works well enough, but Shao Kahn also proved himself fairly stupid. Why would you send Kitana to kill her father if you’re trying to keep it a secret? There’s a huge chance one of them will recognize the other and unveil the whole thing.
The look of the show was solid, especially when you take into account the fact that it was made for YouTube and probably did not cost them a lot of money. Most of it was probably fairly practical until they started getting into the supernatural stuff, but the look kept up. And when it seemed they couldn’t afford the look they wanted, they supplanted it with a Kill Bill style animation that was still pretty awesome.
The action was fine, but it took a little too long to get there for my tastes. I mean, this show IS based on a fighting game, right? But it did eventually start into it, and I found it very satisfying.
I was pleasantly surprised by a lot of the cast for this show. They actually got some fairly decent sized names for something with such a low budget, and from what I’ve seen on Wikipedia, they got a few more. This season had Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan, and next season adds Casper Van Dien and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. Perhaps some names that some people wouldn’t recognize, but most are faces that they definitely would. But Van Dien replaces the guy that played Johnny Cage in this season, a guy named Matt Mullins. I thought he did an excellent job, so I’m not sure why you’d bother to replace him just because you can get a slightly bigger name, especially when that bigger name can’t possibly do the martial arts as well as Mullins did. And Johnny’s episode was actually fairly interesting for a character I have no interest in. I especially liked that Johnny Cage used to be a Power Ranger. The weirdest thing about the characters of this show was how long it took for them to introduce two of the biggest Mortal Kombat characters: Sub- Zero and Scorpion.
I would say that I definitely recommend Mortal Kombat: Legacy for a number of reasons. First, it’s an interesting, vaguely real world prequel to the Mortal Kombat series with some decent – albeit simple – writing to the story. Second, it looks pretty damned good and has some decent enough action in it. Third, they actually got some decent actors, and a few well-known ones. And finally, watching the entire series is shorter than most movies, coming in at about an hour and a half. So what could it hurt? Mortal Kombat: Legacy gets “Solid” out of “Toasty!”
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