The third entry in Kevin Tancharoen’s web-series, Mortal Kombat: Legacy is easily the best released so far. Riding high on the action-heavy first episodes that introduced Jax, Sonya Blade, Stryker, and Kano to eager audiences, Tancharoen breaks off and brings us a new character, the fallen martial-arts star, Johnny Cage.
Cage is played by 5-time martial arts champion Matt Mullins (who currently holds a 4th degree black belt in Shorei Ryu and is best known for his work on the Discovery Channel, having co-founded Extreme Martial Arts). Bringing in such a remarkable fighter is simply another example of Tancharoen’s desire to showcase the brutal realism of Mortal Kombat while maintaining a distance from the supernatural elements of the video game series. And as Episode 3 showcases, it works like a charm.
The episode plays out like an E! True Hollywood Story at first, documenting the meteoric rise and catastrophically silent fall of martial arts sensation Johnny Cage. After a strong debut on the small screen, Cage has since slid slowly into obscurity. A hard reality made all the more personally painful by his temper, a string of highly publicized run-ins with the law, and the one factor that affects all actors: age. Having struck out on the big screen, Cage desperately moves to recapture his glory days and protect his fading career. Be sure to watch out for the nice cameo by Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon during the recap!
Having failed to woo network executives with his pitches for an action-themed show, Cage is handed his walking papers. But while leaving, the ugly truth of Hollywood rears its head and once again and Cage is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
Afterwards comes the first break in the realism that originally attracted me to the series. While the act could be explained away in Episode 4 to ensure that the realism is kept, I have to admit that I both anticipated this move as well as the slight depression from seeing it happen. But that could all be corrected in the next installment. Afterall, how else could we expect them to introduce the notorious mastermind behind the inevitable tournament: Shang Tsung portrayed by Johnson Phan.
Of the entire episode, Tancharoen captures one thing perfectly and that is the reality of martial arts. The director shows what can occur when an individual enters the world of martial arts lacking the correct intentions and desires. While the study can bring focus, clarity, and confidence to the right-minded, those arriving from a negative place (such as harboring a major chip on their shoulder or having something to prove) can be brought great misfortune with the misuse of their fighting techniques.
This does not go to say that these individuals are any less dangerous. On the contrary, they often are more so. Combined with an explosive temper, such people are wildly unpredictable and capable of unleashing great destruction upon themselves and others. Tancharoen captures this beautifully and also succeeds in combining it with the ugly truths that hide behind the Hollywood facade. Such is the harsh stigma of Johnny Cage.
The best of the series so far, check it out at www.machinima.com as we feverishly anticipate the arrival of Episode 4 and the debuts of Kitana and Mileena on May 3rd.