MORTAL KOMBAT LEGACY II
The web-series back in full-force. Should it have stayed gone?
The popular web-series Mortal Kombat Legacy returned with its second “season” this week. Most people are in agreement that this series has been a fun gift for MK fans. Considering the project is a springboard for fan-turned director Kevin Tancharoen to helm a feature film, and that we’ve been waiting over a year for new material, let’s dive right in.
SPOILERS with a "K"
Episode 1: Liu Kang starts a fight with some dudes at a karaoke bar, because he doesn't like the song they are singing.
Seriously. This is how we're starting. But I’ll come back to that later-
Scorpion and Sub-Zero suffer the most from a technical standpoint. Awful wigs, oddly cast supporting players (Besides the point, Lin Kuei are Chinese so what are they even doing there?) and a dumb-ass motocross/paintball suit for Sub Zero, completely kill the Feudal Japan vibe they are going for. Ian Anthony Dale returns as Scorpion, but its Eric Steinberg chewing scenes with overacting as Sub Zero that are notable. For his scenes, Mortal Kombat borders on kitsch. You'll either love it or hate it. Like last season, Scorpion and Sub-Zero get probably the best fight of the series once again. The slide, the teleporting- it’s awesome. But then they give Scoprion THE WRONG EFFING FINISHER. It’s these kinds of things…
I appreciated that Kevin tried to follow the cannon story for Scorpion and Sub Zero, but I think he added too many elements in the two episodes, and tried too hard to cram it all in there, when it's better letting information and discoveries unfold over time. As is, I thought he put it together in a confusing way. They were handled more succinctly in S1. As it is here, Scorpion has killed both Sub Zeros before the tournament even started. Huh?
The most filler story is Kenshi’s quest for a mystical sword. This could have been told easily and didn’t need to be dragged out over 2 episodes. The old man’s tale is fine, and the fight with Ermac is good. Both characters look good, but it’s too bad Ermack’s voice is over-processed garbage and hard to understand.
We return to the Kitana and Melina rivalry, and here is where you’ll find the poorest acting. Samantha Jo returns as Kitana, but stunt woman Michelle Lee is new as Mileena. Even though she’s terrible, she’s the more enjoyable to watch of the two, because you can tell she’s having fun in the role. They have a good fight, and I always liked the fairy tale aspect of their story. I could nitpick the ugly jaw makeup, or Mileena’s endless supply of sais (?) But what brings their episodes down is time wasted with a replay of the Kenshi fight, and their encounter with Casper Van who is just awful as Johnny Cage.
The strongest story of S2 is probably the arc between Liu Kang and Kung Lao. Remember that karaoke thing? It gets explained in Episode 2. It’s a paper-thin excuse, but it’ll do. The good news is, Mark Dacascos’ Kung Lao comes off as a very strong character. The dynamic between the sanctimonious Shaolin monk, and our ex-White Lotus hero is interesting. Brian Tee re-imagines Liu Kang as Jin from the Tekken fighting series. Kang is so broody and angry, and kind of a jerk- he comes off as not very likeable. It’s both disappointing to me but also, oddly intriguing.
In episode 9, he gets a magnetic dinner scene with Shang Tsung, a role reprised from the movie by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. It’s only talking, but it’s the best episode of the series.
I’ll end this review by noting that the tournament itself doesn’t even get going in this run of 10 episodes. A disappointment, since it goes against what we were promised. A few fighters are summoned, but ‘Team Raiden’ is never fully assembled (don’t expect to see established players like Jax or Sonya return). There is no sign that proceedings will even begin until the end of the very last episode. Dragging things out in this way is insulting to the audience. Season 1 told whole stories for each character in less time. This is particularly frustrating because story pacing is such an issue here. The web format isn’t utilized well, so when episodes end, they don’t feel like cliffhangers- instead, it feels like we are constantly being interrupted. Nothing flows because the narrative can’t gain the momentum.
When this happens, such blame can only fall on the director, and I’m sorry to say but Kevin Tancharoen has absolutely no facility when it comes to telling a meaningful story. Take this minor observation: for some reason, some characters can’t get through a sentence without saying ‘fuck’. This is a prime example of immature writing that thinks it’s cooler than it is. Attempts like this to be ‘hardcore’ or ‘badass’ are laced throughout Mortal Kombat Legacy II. Like how for some reason, Kevin seems to think beards = gritty, so everybody's got them. It sucks. Stryker, Raiden, Johnny Cage- what is he doing?? The cheap budget I can forgive, (I thought they got more money?) but re-designs like a Stryker without a cap- his ONE defining characteristic- (Stryker’s cap is as iconic to him as Kung Lao or Raiden’s hats are to them) just make you wonder where Kevin is coming from. As a fanboy himself, he should know better than to do pet-peevey things like this.
After watching Mortal Kombat Legacy II I am extremely weary of letting Kevin Tancheroen ANYWHERE NEAR a feature length Mortal Kombat movie. Studio backing and more money doesn't not fix fundamental shortcomings when it comes to writing, creativity, and directing talent.
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