Mortal Kombat Legacy II is this year’s biggest Internet disappointment

Mortal Kombat Legacy II

It’s still a cool logo. Shame about the product

Before discussing the failure’s of the year’s big web series, it’s worth going back to where it began. In 2010 Kevin Tancharoen’s short film, Mortal Kombat Rebirth, created for $7,500 as a pitch to Warner Brothers hoping to get the greenlight to start work on a full length feature, was excellent. Featuring a surprisingly good cast for a web series, fronted by Star Trek Voyager’s Jeri Ryan and The Dark Knight’s Michael Jai White, and dragging the mythological based series into the real world, it served as a reworking that in ten minutes, was better than either of the two silver screen Mortal Kombat movies that had preceded it.

Warner Brothers weren’t sold enough to allow Tancharoen to begin work on a third big screen outing for the franchise, but they did stump up some cash for a web series, and the resulting Mortal Kombat Legacy released the next year remains one of the most impressive web shows you can see. Adding Battlestar Galactica’s Tamoh Penikett to the cast, featuring impressive fight sequences and a range of different styles suited to the characters portrayed, the project wasn’t perfect, but was very impressive.

Using each episode (or at times, two) to tell an origin story for different characters allowed Tancharoen to experiment with different storytelling techniques, and use the ten-minute constraints of webisodes wisely. Sub Zero and Scorpion’s family rift is shown to have started in feudal Japan and their film is reminiscent of countless Samurai stories. Movie star Johnny Cage was treated to an E!-like celeb gossip intro, Jax and Sonya Blade have an action shoot out with criminal Kano, the more fantastical story of Kitana and Mileena is told in part by a Ghibli-esque anime, and Thunder God Raiden is treated to an excellent short where he is trapped in a psychiatric institute. Not all aspects worked and some were divisive, but there was something for every fan of the series.

The success of the show prompted Warner Brothers to trust Tancharoen with a second series and a 2015 feature film. Talking of the former, Tancharoen promised a more linear plot revolving around the tournament itself and the typical ‘more of the same but better’ aspirations.

He failed.

Admittedly the reaction I’ve seen from others has been positive, but there are countless problems with Legacy’s second run that are all too easy to point out. Mostly, we’re dealing with a new cast and mostly, they’re as wooden as a log cabin. Despite some nice ideas (for the first time in history, Liu Kang is almost interesting), the dialogue is clunky and the script cries out for an editor.

Take this sequence as an example. In episode 3 we’re shown the backstory for newcomer Kenshi, for who it seems Daniel Southworth has based his performance on a sneering Steven Seagal. It’s not a bad short, leading up to a fight that sounds like it has promise in episode 4. Come episode 4 though, we don’t see it; instead the screen goes black, some heavy chords hit and we’re left to assume that he won, but was blinded in the process. Not to worry though, because later in the episode the characters face off again, and this time we’re treated to some acceptable martial arts and hammy effects. Done.

Then we get to episode 5, which is ostensibly about two pieces of Ikea furniture having a row (or to put it another way, Kitana and Mileena), which is composed of flashbacks to their original episodes from the first season, and then? They stand and watch Kenshi’s fight, with Johnny Cage (Casper Van Dien phoning it in as the most pathetic incarnation of the character you’ve ever imagined). We’re treated to some vaguely different angles of the same so-so fight and the same angles of the same hammy effects.

The production values vary wildly. Sweeping shots of Macau and landscapes constrast oddly with Mileena’s appalling facial make-up and Sub Zero’s motorcross mouthguard. Varied and attractive filming locations in Earthrealm go up against a field and a beach for Outworld.

The pacing is nonsensical, with three episodes giving time to the story of one fight, and others serving as naught more than reminders of what’s happened previously.

Despite the promise to focus on the tournament this time around, there are countless flashbacks (not in themselves, bad things), and the ‘tournament’ itself boils down to a campfire on the beach and three fights which occur as the result of aimless walks around the same dour landscape.

The brilliant origin episode in season one which introduced us to Raiden is forgotten, and now the character (played again, by an inferior actor) serves only as the protagonists’ expositionist, except he doesn’t explain anything of note because he’s onscreen for less time than it takes the opening titles to roll.

Tancharoen’s script is littered with immature drops of clumsily-delivered F-bombs that do nothing but suggest a teenager was working on the script, he serves up the wrong fatality to one character, appears to have completely ditched any pretence of realism as seen in the first series,  there’s no mention of favourites such as Jax, Blade or Kano who anchored its success, let alone appearances, and after ten episodes which, objectively speaking tell no real stories beyond those of Kung Lao, Liu Kang and Kenshi (the rest is filler and repetition) the tournament we were promised has barely begun.

It’s not all bad. It’s a lot of fun to see one positive piece of recasting and welcome Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa back as Shang Tsung after 18 years. That’s about it though. There’s none of the inventiveness we saw two years ago, absolutely no risk-taking (unless you count letting the work experience kid write the banter), a lack of wow! moments, a failure to agree a purpose for the season and so tell either a collection of stories or one cohesive one, a dropping of the varied filmography that worked so well first time around… The whole thing feels like lazy, directionless, fan-film filler till the movie comes out.

None of this would really be an issue if it were the first we were seeing of Tancharoen’s Mortal Kombat work, but we know he can do better. Legacy II’s greatest crime isn’t that it’s bad, but that it’s disappointing, because after two years and with a solid base it should have been very, very good.

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One comment

  1. Lionshare

    I personally think that this season was worthless. Fine if Kevin wants to change the story, I’m all for it but, you have to explain what the hell is going on. That’s were he totally failed and for a so called big time director, he should have known better.

    1) Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Kenshi and Ermac are from Japan feudal times. Actually Sub is Chinese yet now he’s Japanese, whatever Kevin, but I digress, that was at least 400 years in the past for this tournament. Is the tournament no longer once every generation? Are Raiden and Sho Khan allowed to look throughout time itself to find fighters and teleport them to the proper time frame? Kenshi obviously won as he had the sword, so why is Ermac there? Is Sho Khan now allowed to search through out the dead through out time to find fighters?

    2) Stryker – other than being a totally heel, why is he there? How is it possible for his walkie talkie to still work if he’s in Outworld? Where is his back story? We need a flashback because we’re not smart enough to go back to season 1 for Katana and Meleena yet we’re suppose to know why Stryker’s there?

    3) Who in the hell thought Casper van Dien would be a good Cage? Why is Cage such a wimp? Where is Cage’s “I’m better than everyone” attitude? Cage always felt he had to prove himself. In this sad series he runs from fights yelling for mommy to save him.

    4) Raiden explains that everyone has special powers. Really? What powers does Stryker have? If Cage’s special power is speed, why didn’t we see some speed during that sorry fight with Kang? Oh that’s right, Casper van Dein doesn’t know martial arts nor have any speed. Why again was Casper given Cage’s role?

    5) Why in the world do we need so many flashbacks? Even more so season 1 flashbacks? Are we not smart enough to rewatch season 1?

    6) Who in the world thought a Pulp Fiction style, that failed in this series type of show is what was needed?

    7) CLIFFHANGER?! REALLY?! WE’LL HAVE TO WAIT 2+ YEARS TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN KANG VS LAO?

    8) How exactly does the tournament work? Do they just aimlessly walk around until they find the enemy? Are they allowed to interfere in another’s fight? How does one know they’re the winner?

    These are just some of the questions that needed to be answered yet weren’t. He tried and failed to jam so much information into a single series it made it feel empty.

    I can go on and on with the mistakes in bad acting, bad fight choreography, bad story line, bad costumes, bad editing, and bad personnel. Rebirth was 100 times better and he didn’t have a budget. Season 2, which had a nice budget and was hyped up so much and forced everyone to wait 9 months but didn’t live up to it’s hype.

    If Kevin’s goal was to kill the legacy series he did and excellent job. If it wasn’t, then he did a piss poor job. Instead of giving a good quality storyline he gave us the puberty quality that focused on the adolescent fatalities and fake blood and gore that only the mindless kids of this generation care about.

    I don’t want Kevin anywhere near MKIII the movie. He’s proven that he can neither write nor direct a movie of this caliper and he obviously doesn’t have a mentality age over 12 to do it.

    There will “NOT” be a season 3 now thanks to Kevin and we’ll never see what happens between Liu Kang and Kung Lao.

    The one and only bright spot is the failure of a series was the dinner scene between Tsung and Kang. In that short 5 minutes segment everything we needed to know about why Liu switched sides was there. All his flashbacks in the show were pointless.

    Now just think how much more we could have had if Kevin would have thought like and adult and not a teenager. Please Kevin stay away from Mortal Kombat and go back to directing dancing shows.

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