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Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)

DVD Cover (Warner Brother)
Movie Connections:
Mortal Kombat
> Mortal Kombat (1995)
> Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
> Mortal Kombat: Legacy (2011)
Genres / Traits:
Action, Fantasy, Martial Arts, Video Games

7.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Crispy
Added: September 03, 2011
In 2010, director and film maker Kevin Tancharoen filmed a brand new treatment of the popular fighting game, Mortal Kombat, and released the teaser trailer on YouTube. Mortal Kombat: Rebirth rewrote the entire mythos and placed it in a realistic setting. For example, Baraka and Reptile, originally alien races from other dimensions, were respectively portrayed as a crazed plastic surgeon and a cannibalistic sufferer of a skin disorder. Tancharoen's plan was to build up enough fan support (which he succeeded to an incredible degree) that Warner Brothers would allow him to move forward with a full-length release. Unfortunately, it didn't go exactly as planned, since series creator Ed Boon felt that such a realistic treatment was too far removed for comfort, but they were impressed enough to hand Tancharoen the reins to a new series, Legacy.

Season one of this particular adaptation is actually an anthology work, and the ten minute episodes were all released on YouTube on a weekly basis. As of yet, Legacy doesn't have its own plot. In its place are nine webisodes, reintroducing us to some of our favorite characters, setting the stage for when the show actually takes off.

Jax, Sonya and Kano
Special Agent Sonya Blade (Sonya Blade) has discovered the whereabouts of the notorious criminal Kano (Darren Shahlavi), head of the Black Dragon, where a shipment of stolen robotic weaponry is being prepped for delivery. She sends the location to fellow agents Jackson 'Jax' Briggs (Michael Jai White) and Kurtis Stryker (Tahmoh Penikett); but Kano hasn't earned his reputation by falling prey to ambushes so easily.

This opening two-part story serves its purpose very well, as the history between these three is well known to long-time fans, but easy enough to deduce by new comers. It also pleases the Rebirth fans by offering a story that was already set in the realistic world, not to mention featuring the same actors for Sonya and Jax. Finally, it established Kano's viciousness and Jax as a sheer bad-ass quite nicely.

Johnny Cage
Taking the format of a "Where are They Now" style entertainment show, we catch up to teenage martial arts actor, Johnny Cage (Matt Mullins, another Rebirth alumni). After an explosive start on the Power Rangers TV show, his career quickly fades due to Lindsay Lohan-esque scandals, drugs, ego, and age. After repeated failed attempts at kick-starting a new show for himself, it seems his career is over. Until, that is, a mysterious stranger shows up with an offer.

Now don't get me wrong, I loved what Linden Ashby did with the character, but I think I prefer Mullins' Cage a bit more. Ashby's was cocky and sarcastic, and while Mullin's still has these traits, there's a whole new level of desperation and anger added. Hopefully this will go a long way from keeping Cage as simply the comic relief character.

Kitana and Mileena
This rather long-winded two-parter sums up the history of Shao Kahn's conquering Edenia, the fate of Sindel (Beatrice Ilg), and the the rather uneasy relationship between "twin sisters" Kitana (Samantha Tjhia) and Mileena (Jolene Tran). Basically, after Edenia lost its tenth Mortal Kombat, King Jerrod (Kirby Morrow) was doing all he could to evacuate his family, wife Sindel and infant daughter Kitana, from the invading Tarkatan army. As they're fleeing through his palace, he's assassinated by General Baraka (Fraser Aitcheson), but Shao Kahn (Aleks Paunovic) notices it's a clone. He then takes Sindel as his wife and Kitana as his daughter, but instructs sorcerer Shang Tsung (Johnson Phan) to clone the baby, as an insurance policy should she ever learn the truth. The order is quickly carried out, but he adds a little Tarkatan blood into the mix, which has some interesting results on the girl's visage. Sindel soon commits suicide, and Shao Tsung raises the two as his personal, and most lethal, assassins, purposefully playing on the growing rivalry, and resentment, between them. However, their most recent target has given Kitana reason to doubt the life she was raised in.

The first of the stories to break away from the realistic approach, this one caught a lot of flack on the internets for it; but personally, I don't feel that's where the ball was actually dropped. These webisodes are about the characters; but that's skipped over here in favor of a narrator talking us through the events on screen. I know this one stuffed a lot of information into it, but they could have found a better way of doing it. I also wasn't a fan of the repeated use of animated sequences, presumably done for budgetary reasons. Making matters worse is that this episode has my sole complaint acting-wise, Aleks Paunovic. There is absolutely nothing menacing here, which is detrimental when we're talking about that character. And adding even further insult to injury, Mileena's mouth was changed from a giant maw of razor fangs to a Glasgow grin, and Baraka is a orc left-over from Sauron's reign; they both looked retarded, although I suppose it is a step up from the Halloween mask that Ray Park wore in Annihilation.

Raiden
In stark contrast to last story's plot-heavy explanation, there's not to much of story at all in Raiden's (Ryan Robbins) episode. He falls from the heavens and crashes into the yard of a mental asylum; not a good setting when you get up and try to explain that you're the god of thunder and lighting descended to protect the world from an evil sorcerer from another realm. So begins ten minutes of Raiden demanding his freedom, beating up guards, and being heavily drugged over and over again.

Honestly, I have no idea how I feel about this one. While it was nice seeing Raiden being humanized, which was part of his original storyline, the whole thing was completely out of left field. After thinking about it for a little while, I think I'm going to give this a tentative thumbs up. The episode itself was on the weak side, but I'm excited to see what he's going to do once we get going, since it's obvious that we're getting a more active Raiden this go around, instead of the laissez faire coach that Christopher Lambert portrayed.

Scorpion and Sub-Zero
The Shirai Ryu was a feared clan, in no small part because their leader, Hanzo Hashashi (Ian Anthony Dale, the fourth and final actor to reprise his role from Rebirth) was a deadly warrior, especially with his trademark weapon, the Kunai, which is basically a blade on a rope. Despite his lethal battlefield prowess, he's quite the family man, and the only thing he wants is to keep his son from the horrors of the life he's lead. As the clan is awaiting the arrival of the majestic Shogun, Hashashi receives a message that he has arrived early, so he sets out to meet him. As he travels, he discovers the Shogun's dead, frozen body far from home, and is attacked by a member of the rival Lin Kuei clan, Sub-Zero (Kevan Ohtsji). Hashashi wins the fight, but the distraction was enough of a delay to prevent him from getting home in time to protect his family. As he mourns, he is murdered in cold blood; but offered a chance at revenge, for a certain price.

In my opinion, this two-parter had the most nods to the source material and uncoincidentally, brought the most smiles to my face. I absolutely loved seeing these two going at it, I just wish it focused more on the war between clans instead of Scorpion's family life, but I can see why they went that route. Rebirth seemed like it was going to focus primarily on Scorpion and his bitter feud with Sub-Zero, which I thought was brilliant. As much as Midway wants to try and force the spotlight onto Liu Kang, those two brightly colored ninjas have and always will be the face of the franchise. With that said, I wasn't a fan of Scorpion's Shogun mask, hopefully that will be nixed now that he's a hell-spawn, likely into something more skull-based.

Cyrax and Sektor
If Raiden's episode had a weak plot, this one has none at all. We simply sit back and watch Cyrax and Sektor en route to the lab where they will undergo the cybernetic process that will make them into more effective killers. Cyrax seems reluctant, but Sektor berates him for lacking loyalty to the clan. Upon arrival, they're transformed and fight a previous robot to make sure all has gone according to plan.

This just might by my favorite episode of the series. Sure, I loved the Scorpion/Sub-Zero sequence and this one is pretty shallow story-wise, but the fight at the end of this is amazing. The CGI is actually passable, and the fluid grace that all three robots displayed was absolutely beautiful. Plenty of flips and acrobatic strikes were used, but they didn't tread into that corny realm of wire-fu. They may not be the characters to watch in this new series, but I'm betting their action sequences certainly will be.

As a whole, it's a little difficult to get a read on Legacy, since all we have so far is a collection of glorified character vignettes; and the fact that my personal enjoyment varied so much from character to character just makes it that much harder to pin down Tancharoen's ultimate direction. He's got consistent strong acting on his side, but his stubborn reliance of "gritty realism" may lead the series away from what makes Mortal Kombat so great. On the other hand, a lot of people are clamoring for that very route to be taken. Basically, I'm thinking it's going to inevitably polarize its audience, and I see many an internet debate pointing to the same evidence as to why it's either amazing or terrible. Personally, I will definitely be tuning in to the future installments, and I give a full recommendation to Mortal Kombat fans to check this out. Mortal Kombat: Legacy has an extraordinary amount of potential, and I'm hoping that Tancharoen can keep it going strong (and maybe add my favorite character, Reptile, while he's at it). 8/10.
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