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Mortal Kombat: Legacy
Tonight's Webseries Presentation

MORTAL KOMBAT: LEGACY

Starring: Michael Jai White, Jeri Ryan, Ian Anthony Dale, Darren Shahlavi, Tahmoh Penikett

Written By: Aaron Helbing, Todd Helbing, Kevin Tancharoen Directed By: Kevin Tancharoen

See It Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l3jrR5XMSU&list=ELeWDvdC4t8Yw



What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

SKETCHY FONDUE.

“You do know how to make this stuff, right?”

.


Pairs Well With...

COORS.

Because anything made with big corporate backing has to be better, right?


“I know what it is.  Work faster.”


My first ever experience with a webseries – and that of the majority of people I know who are not “in the business” themselves – was with Mortal Kombat: Legacy.  Looking at it now after having spent a lot more time with the indie-dominated medium,  it seems rather odd, considering that this one’s got major corporate (as in Hollywood studio) backing.

My most distinct memory from that first experience?  I felt as though I’d been lied to, and that the production team was just trying to throw a whole bunch of stuff at the wall to see what stuck.

Now, with a bit more time to think it over and a fresh viewing, it feels more like sloppiness than lying, but I still think that the production team was just trying to throw a whole bunch of stuff at the wall to see what stuck.

Taking its genesis from the stunt that was the short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, Mortal Kombat: Legacy is very much a red-headed stepchild that wasn’t really wanted, per se.  The story goes that the project was meant to be a movie but the studio said “no,” and then somehow one party or the other re-pitched the thing into a webseries.  Call it making lemonade, except for the fact that the entities involved behind the scenes don’t seem to have a good grasp of what a webseries is supposed to mean or be, and that they appear to keep changing their minds about it as they go along.

First and foremost, even though Mortal Kombat: Legacy (which is an inane title, by the way; a nonsense word tacked on to the familiar name, signifying nothing) represents a full-on re-imagination/reboot of the Mortal Kombat universe that aims to retell the concept from scratch, if you don’t know the original story behind the game “Mortal Kombat” before coming into this webseries… forget it.  No one’s telling you what’s going on, at least not during what’s called “Season One.”  Instead, the audience is presented with a multitude of character origin stories with next to no context, with an occasional vague reference to a tournament being made during the course of just a few of them.  Episodes of a coherent whole?  Not without that context (and the original short film doesn’t count; Mortal Kombat: Legacy may have spawned out of that project, but the story has changed and indeed contradicts the series); instead, there are half a dozen short films that don’t even share a cohesive style of filming… unless one counts combat that’s ruined by too much slo mo and too many camera tricks.  (Even without checking IMDB first, one could easily guess that the mastermind behind this series has a resume heavy in music video.)  It is, frankly, a frustrating, uncoordinated mess that gets annoying really fast.  Would sticking to one style of presentation have been so hard?  And maybe an explanation of the general concept during one of the introductory episodes?  How about continuity between episodes?  Would that have been such a stretch?

I have seen dozens of independent webseries with “wing and a prayer” backing deal with all of the above and make it look like no sweat.  (I know it’s not; that’s just how good they are.)  This webseries has major studio backing (Warner Brothers is kind of a big deal) and established Hollywood talent.  (Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan are just the start.)  All things considered, I expect better from that kind of muscle, and with Mortal Kombat: Legacy, I’m just not getting it.

That’s a shame, because I want to enjoy Mortal Kombat: Legacy.  I love the base story.  I love the world.  I like Kevin Tancharoen and company’s concepts for reshaping it.  I like that they’ve been given a chance to play.  But all of the name talent and the decent sets and the crisp camera shots and the pretty special effects don’t mean anything if the results are inconsistent, unfocused, and play like a high end film school experiment wherein the object is to see what sticks.  In a word, it’s Direction, and at least for Season One, it’s plain to see that however interesting his ideas may be, Kevin Tancharoen really should have used some of the studio’s cash to hire himself a buddy to sit in or at the very least share the Big Chair.

When I first watched Mortal Kombat: Legacy, I came away feeling as though I’d been presented with smoke and mirrors that led to nothing; senseless fanfic that had somehow been given a blessing a a fat wad of cash.  Now, I truly believe that Kevin Tancharoen and his crew are trying their best… but their best doesn’t measure up to the standards set by people with way less money and no studio to back them up.

I’m intrigued enough to see where this leads, but it’s fan’s hope for a world moreso than it is for the quality of what’s been presented thus far.  If Mortal Kombat: Legacy proves anything, it’s that cash and higher end production values don’t equal quality.

Bottom line, Mortal Kombat: Legacy hasn’t reached the point of Fatality… but as of the close of Season One, its health meter is tiny and red.



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Season One | Nine Episodes, 8.5 – 13 minutes each


Episode 1: Jax, Sonya, and Kano (Part 1) – Wherein our premise is introduced.  Observation #1:  The production values certainly can’t be denied here.  Observation #2:  Trevor Goddard’s legacy lives on.  Observation #3:  Nicely plotted, there, Kano.  Observation #4:  It’d be a nice battle if it was better directed and didn’t keep dropping into slo mo to highlight the effects budget.  And everything else.  Observation #5  Between the slo mo and the lengthy credits, knock at least 3 minutes off the claimed runtime.

Episode 2: Jax, Sonya, and Kano (Part 2) – Wherein the previous episode continues.  Observation #1:  Do we really need a minute and a half of “in our last episode” when this episode clocks at under 9 minutes?  Observation #2:  Dammit, Michael Jai White is a credible fighter.  Stop messing it up with camera tricks!  Observation #3:  Lens flare!  Observation #4:  Interesting explanation of how Jax gets to be Jax.  (Kano’s is fine, too, but that was blatantly telegraphed.)  Observation #5:  Just assume all the runtimes are lies.  (The bookends are out of proportion and the slo mo stretches the truth.)

Episode 3: Johnny Cage – If you saw the original short film that preceded the web series, this episode shouldn’t exist.  But anyway.  Observation #1:  Tabloid expose show!  As good a way as any to introduce a celeb character, I suppose.  Observation #2:  Whoa, what?!  Johnny is supposed to have been a Power Ranger?  I call “shenanigans.”  Observation #3:  Why is this episode drop-bleeped when the previous ones were uncensored?  (Notable what they do and don’t censor here, by the way.)  Observation #4:  The slimy, backstabbing industry thievery is right, but the sex discrimination usually goes the other way.  Be interesting if it didn’t, though.  Observation #5:  Like the ending.

Episode 4: Kitana and Mileena (Part 1) – Wherein we get more Outworldy.  Observation #1: After all the gritty reality of before, this animated opening is a bit jarring… and then it switches styles right away?  And goes back again?  What is this, Ed Wood?  Observation #2:  Nice job on the Tarkatan makeup.  Observation #3:  “Make one in her likeness that won’t.”  Interesting.  Observation #4:  I do like this music.

Episode 5: Kitana and Mileena (Part 2) – Wherein the previous episode continues.  Observation #1: Here we go again with the “previously” stuff.  Observation #2:  That should be an exciting fight, but there’s too much trickery for it to work.  Observation #3:  Well, at least we were saved from the Vader poaching.  Oh, wait; nevermind.  Observation #4:  Good story; not so good execution.

Episode 6: Raiden – Wherein we see a very good standalone short film.  Observation #1: What’s with the disclaimer after all this time?  Observation #2:  Oh, tough break teleporting into the backyard of a mental institution.  Nice play on the “if God showed up today” theory, though.  Observation #3:  Such arrogant evil, those doctors have.  Frighteningly real.  Observation #4:  This is exceptionally well acted.  Observation #5:  Ha!  Tase the god of thunder and lightning.  Well played.  Observation #6:  The only way out is… well written.

Episode 7: Scorpion and Sub Zero (Part 1) – Wherein things are turning Japanese.  Observation #1:  I don’t think it’s possible for Scorpion to be uncool.  Observation #2:  Exceptionally beautiful setting.  Observation #3:  What blue eyes you have…  Observation #4:  Oh, dear.  We’ve liquid nitro’d the Shogun…  Observation #5:  Looking at these runtimes, there was no reason to split this episode up.

Episode 8: Scorpion and Sub Zero (Part 2) – Wherein the previous episode continues.  Observation #1:  Oh, dear.  The kid thinks he can be L’il Scorpion.  Observation #2:  Ice cold ninja magic!  Observation #3:  I understand he’s got to be consistent and say it in Japanese, but “Get Over Here!” isn’t quite the same that way.  Observation #4:  Of course families only exist in these things for one reason.  Observation #5:  Well there’s a way to recruit someone.

Episode 9: Cyrax and Sektor – Wherein I don’t observe my usual rule about season finales, because this creative team has no real concept of what a season is, and this episode neither finalizes nor arc-completes anything.  Observation #1:  The real world gets weird.  Observation #2:  If you’re paying close attention, this ties in to the first episode a teensy bit, but don’t worry if you missed that.  Observation #3:  What’s Kano doing with two eyes?  Observation #4:  I do believe this is ripping off a section of the Van Damme Street Fighter movie.  That’s hilarious.  Observation #5:  The fighting looks just as fake, but now that the fighters themselves are obviously not real, it finally works.  Go figure.


Final Thoughts On The Season:  It’s not really a season.  There’s no major arc.  The continuity is questionable at best.  If you’re not already in on the secret, there’s not even a point to hold it all together.  This is throwing stuff at the wall and hoping for it to stick.  Is there potential here?  Tons, but this is one project that’s in desperate need of some structure, and it’s trying the hell out of my patience.

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2013


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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