When the trailer for Director/Choreographer Kevin Tancharoen’s reimagined Mortal Kombat debuted last June there was much confusion and debate as to what exactly online audiences had just watched. Fans were left with more questions than answers as Tancharoen’s realistic renditions of Midway’s famous fighters appeared and set the tone for what looked to be a new feature, short film, web-series or video game.
Now with the release of the first episodes of Mortal Kombat: Legacy this month, those questions were finally answered with fans receiving a sort of “Ultimate Experience”, their beloved fighters getting a realistic overhaul and redefined backstories. TMP watched the first two episodes of the brutal new web-series and had a quite a bit to take home afterwards.
Tancharoen is obviously aware that the vast majorty of the American population knows who the characters are and their functions within the series. We are immediately introduced to an All-Star cast including the hardcore martial arts phenom Michael Jai White as Jackson “Jax” Briggs, Star Trek: Voyager alum Jeri Ryan as Sonya Blade, Tahmoh Penikett from Dollhouse as Lt. Kurtis Stryker, and martial art film regular Darren Shahlavi as the terrorist Kano.
Episode I drops the viewers right into the action. Sonya Blade has gone solo on a mission to either apprehend or kill Kano, the terrorist who murdered her partner.
Jax and Stryker are back at home base and mount a support mission in the event Sonya is either captured or killed.
We then see that Kano has lived up to his name and has succeeded in capturing and torturing Sonya.
As she has been incapacitated, Jax and Stryker arrive with soliders in tow and all hell breaks loose. A rather unepic but very realistic fight breaks out between Kano and Jax proving Tancharoen’s desire to avoid the supernatural aspects of the game and ground the characters in reality. How this idealism will be maintained when characters such as Scorpion and Sub-Zero arrive will certainly be interesting to see. The episode ends on the tried and true explosion cliffhanger with lives apparently hanging in the balance.
Episode II picks up right at the end of Episode I with Kano and Jax recovering from the blast and then proceeding to really rip into one another.
The fight is brutal and rather quick as, just in reality, such fights between trained combatants can turn one-sided very quickly. Explosions occur leaving the fate of Jax, Kano, and the recently arrived Sonya in question, but we are then given a glimpse of the outcome. Sonya is hospitalized where she is informed of Jax’s fate by Stryker. We then see Kano’s outcome as an underground doctor repairs the badly mangled right section of his face with metal plates and a cybernetic laser eye that glows red when Kano awakens.
I am happy to report that the production value of this new series matches the value of its cast. Sets are well designed and functional serving as appropriate backdrops to the action scenes between characters. What is missing however is the feel that you are watching the fighters from the games battle. As in the film adaptations, it always felt that it was live action versions of the characters on the screen, but in Legacy, that entire overshadowing sensation is gone. Here, the characters are gritty, real, and very human.
As we eagerly anticipate Episode III which promises the debut of martial arts actor Matt Mullins as Johnny Cage, the first two episodes are currently available on the YouTube channel of www.machinima.com.