Following the success of Kevin Tancharoen’s Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short-film, Warner Bros. green-lit the director’s Mortal Kombat: Legacy webseries – which was intended to serve as a companion to the storyline featured in NetherRealm Studios’ latest Mortal Kombat video game. As a result, season 1 of the series was a mix of standalone character-centric vignettes (Raiden, for example) along with interconnected episodes that set-up a larger narrative (featuring Sonya Blade, Jax, and Kano, among others) – leading to a sometimes uneven response from viewers who gravitated to certain fan-favorite kombatants (and Tancharoen’s unique interpretations) over others. Still, despite the few ups and downs, the series generated enough interest, and Machinima YouTube views, to justify a second season (not to mention a planned feature film reboot).
While the big screen Mortal Kombat movie is still a way down the road, and unlikely to be directly connected to the Legacy storyline, Tancharoen has nonetheless returned for season 2 – introducing a fresh batch of fan-favorite kombatants (such as Kenshi and Kung Lao) while also revisiting some of the franchise’s most iconic faces (adding further layers to characters like Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion).
Whereas season 1 enabled Tancharoen to mix his “real-world” approach to Mortal Kombat Rebirth with the more fantastical elements of the video game series, allowing the director to let his imagination run wild, season 2 is a much more straightforward experience. The action, stories, and character designs are still grounded and believable but, this round, the filmmaker simplifies the core story by transporting all the main characters to Shang Tsung’s Island for a new Mortal Kombat tournament. On the island, warriors of Earthrealm and Outworld, chosen by Raiden and Shang Tsung, respectively, fight for the fate of their realms – while each kombatant’s backstory is explored through individual flashbacks.
Fans of Tancharoen’s unique take on the Mortal Kombat universe, especially those who prefer the Rebirth idea, might be slightly underwhelmed by the more direct methodology on display in season 2 – if only because the filmmaker’s more abstract ideas were always interesting to see (even when one or two extended their reach). That said, without question, the season 2 format delivers a significantly more cohesive and satisfying narrative experience – since the unified focus allows Tancharoen room to dig into each of the characters (not to mention create heightened conflict by putting them in the same place).
Instead of simply delivering new match-ups between kombatants that have faced-off countless times before in animated, live-action, and video game form, Legacy season 2 actually adds fresh layers to the actual men and women engaged in Mortal Kombat. Sub-Zero and Scorpion fans will see Tancharoen build upon the mythos he explored in season 1 – injecting a surprisingly rich and emotional angle to the iconic blue versus yellow rivalry. Similarly, the filmmaker takes one of the most well-known characters, Liu Kang, who is traditionally one of the least interesting in the series, and provides a fresh coat of story material that results in exceptionally intriguing ramifications.
Returning viewers will also notice that the series has received a bigger (albeit still modest) effects budget – punctuating the already engrossing fight choreography with cool supernatural elements and slow motion set pieces that highlight the webseries’ most entertaining (and downright brutal) moments. Longtime fans of the game will get to relish in several of the franchise’s favorite special moves and fatalities recreated in their full M-Rated gore – supplying a fun tease for how disturbing (and exciting) it would be to see an R-Rated Mortal Kombat feature film.
The primary cast members are competent in their roles – with Ian Anthony Dale (Scorpion), Mark Dacascos (Kung Lao), and Brian Tee (Liu Kang) delivering standout performances that would have no problem holding their own in a dramatic TV or film MK adaptation. Similarly, moviegoers who enjoyed Paul W. S. Anderson’s 1995 Mortal Kombat feature film will likely revel in seeing veteran actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa back in the role of Shang Tsung. Unfortunately, even the best performances in season 2 are undermined slightly by stilted deliveries from some of the extras that flesh-out flashback scenes. Most of the setbacks are easily forgivable, limited to a few lines of stilted dialogue, but from time to time they serve as a jolting reminder that, in spite of the many areas where Legacy excels, Tancharoen is still working with a limited webseries budget and resources.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy season 2 is another entertaining exploration of the battle between Earthrealm and Outworld, made believable by smart filmmaking choices, with some genuinely fresh ideas, slick fight sequences, and epic moments that should satisfy franchise faithfuls. Even though Tancharoen manages to make sense of the increasingly convoluted franchise mythology, less informed casual viewers might have trouble jumping-in at season 2, given the amount of time Legacy spends playing to its core audience through iconic match-ups, finishing moves, and long-established character dynamics. Still, until we finally get a modern (and bloody) MK movie on the big screen, Mortal Kombat: Legacy is a fun and proficient way to explore the franchise world and its unique kombatants.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2 is now available in its entirety over at Machinima.
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