Mortal Kombat: Conquest The Complete Series
Back in the 90s, Warner Bros. wanted to capitalize on the Mortal Kombat craze by developing a TV series that would serve as a prequel to the films. While it was short-lived, it developed a fan following of its own and after nearly a couple decades, is finally available on DVD. I got the chance to check out the new release ahead of time to help you decide whether or not it's worth picking up. So come to check out my review!
When I was younger, Mortal Kombat was my jam. I was already big into martial arts (back when I was just getting started), I was a big gamer and remember playing the hell out of the MK series over at my buddy's houses on their SNES, and I'd about worn out the VHS tapes on the Mortal Kombat films. So when I learned about a live-action TV series coming out, I was instantly hooked and engaged. In fact, I credit the series with me getting hooked on WCW, as I had to sit through Monday Night Nitro before watching the show!
Conquest, however, only lasted for one season but the worst part is that WB waited has waited so long to officially offer up the season for Mortal Kombat fans to relish. If you're not familiar with the series, let's talk about it briefly. The show served as a prequel to the movies, taking fans back in time to an early series of tournaments in which Kung Lao defeated the evil sorceror Shang Tsung. Once the battle was done, however, he turned his attention to preparing the next generation of warriors to defend the Earth-realm in future battles. The defeated Shang Tsung, however, isn't content to sit back and let this happen. Instead he goes about doing his best to foil Kung Lao's endeavors at every turn.
This is the basic set-up for the entire series, and every episode basically boils down to the bad guy's latest "master plan". This allowed for some of the classic/iconic Mortal Kombat characters to show up periodically. While that was cool and fan-favorites like Sub-Zero and Scorpion were handled incredibly well, in a lot of ways it was a Power Rangers style bad dude of the week show. Take from that all the positive and negative connotations that you will.
To be entirely honest, it's not exactly difficult to see why the show never made it to a second season. The acting is...well, it's pretty basic and while they weren't necessarily bad performances, they weren't winning any awards either. I won't lay that entirely on the actors', however, as the scripts for the show didn't give them much room to work with. Despite featuring new and classic characters from the movies/games, Conquest failed to really FEEL like a Mortal Kombat experience.
The good news, however, is that the martial arts action in the series, the main selling point, is pretty good. The choreography continued to improve throughout the season and as I re-watched the series, I was impressed with how well they've held up all these years later. While they may not be as intensive as something like The Raid, they're still solid fights that manage to keep your attention and get your heart rate going.
Re-watching Mortal Kombat: Conquest has been the ultimate nostalgia trip for me. I remember being glued to the television every Monday Night waiting for the show to come on, and it's nice that I'm able to get that once again on DVD. The hard truth, here, is that the series itself definitely shows it's age in a lot of ways. While the fights remain cool for the most part, and seeing the interactions between some of your favorite MK characters is still kind of neat, the storyline isn't enough to keep you engaged.
All shows age, but the ones that withstand the test of time are those with powerful storytelling, timeless themes, or iconic characters you can't get enough of. While Mortal Kombat: Conquest certainly has plenty of characters, that's not nearly enough to sustain it. What's really a bummer, however, is that the DVD comes with no bonuses whatsoever. It's a very bare-bones package that only offers up the 22 episodes of the series, without any addition goodies for die-hard Kombat fans to enjoy. Because of this, it's really hard for me to make a full recommendation, unless you're just dying to own this series now that you finally can. Without any extras, all you're left with is a neat little piece of Mortal Kombat history...and that's about it.
If you never caught the series back when it was on, it will be fun to watch through the short-lived series just to see how it all played out. However, the lack of a stronger story and characters keep the series from being more than that, and is likely to be collecting dust on your shelf. From a nostalgia point of view, I'm incredibly glad to have it. It's a piece of my childhood, but without that factor playing in, I'm not sure I'd be able to justify the purchase price.