‘Mortal Kombat: Legacy II’: Blood, Guts, and Solid Camera-Work

/ Oct 1, 2013


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The history of the “Mortal Kombat” franchise in web video is an interesting one. Who can forget the release of “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth,” an independently produced short film that re-imagined the popular gaming franchise into something much darker, grimier, and honestly, more refreshing? The release of the film, which was directed by Kevin Tancharoen, generated a lot of buzz online. It caught the attention of Warner Bros., which owns the rights to the Mortal Kombat franchise, and created chatter that the studio might use the film as a jumping off point for a new feature film.

A feature film is rumored to be in the works, with Tancharoen back on as director. Though before any of that happened, Warner Bros. decided to partner with online video network Machinima in 2011 to distribute a reimagined web series, “Mortal Kombat: Legacy.” The series went on to generate 70 million views across all of its episodes. Not bad for what was originally a pitch from a choreographer-turned-director to do a new Mortal Kombat movie.

In fact, the series did so well that Warner Bros., Machinima, and Tancharoen decided to return for a 10-episode second season, which premiered all at once on Machinima last week. The series continues the story of all of your favorite game characters, from Liu Kang to Scorpion, and tries to tell an ensemble story leading up to the next fighting tournament to decide the fate of the world.

So how does “Mortal Kombat: Legacy II” stack up? Well, in terms of viewership, it seems to be doing quite well. The first episode of the second season has generated over 2.4 million views to date on Machinima and the 10th and final episode has accumulated close to 550,000. That’s in one week. By any measure that signals good things for Warner Bros., Tancharoen, the future of the planned feature film, and Machinima.

And to be fair, the show has every reason to generate that kind of viewership. While in no way perfect, the entire series is well-shot and directed. The action-choreography is top-notch and creates some genuine thrilling moments (most notably in the episode featuring Sub-Zero and Scorpion, whose climactic battle is worth the wait — they don’t show up until the latter half of the series).

Is the acting good? Not really. Some of these actors seem to be the distant cousins of a couple of wooden planks in my family’s garage. Some of the writing is laughably silly.

But then again, this is a fantasy show that features characters that go by names like Johnny Cage, Kitana, and Sub-Zero. It’s a show that features fighters who have supernatural abilities like the ability to shoot fireballs out of the palm of your hand, and yet being unable to save your girlfriend from a dude with a gun.

“Mortal Kombat: Legacy” is not really meant to be a prestige drama. It’s for an audience that thrives on terms like “fatality” and preposterous death scenes. And these the show has in abundance.

Yes, the second season tries to cram too many characters into a total running time of 120 minutes. But, again, the show is about entertaining the Mortal Kombat fan, who is more interested in seeing all of his or her favorite characters and a bunch of fight scenes than a tight, narrative drama.

What I’m trying to say is, “Mortal Kombat: Legacy II” is a great show if you’re the type of person who would watch a web series about Mortal Kombat. By those metrics, the show is a great success. By any others, it could use some work.

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