Review: ‘Mortal Kombat: Legacy’ Makes Its Online Debut

By  · Published on April 14th, 2011

What started out as a web short, and what may some day become a feature length film, is currently a debuting web series. A company named Machinima, in conjunction with Warner Bros., brings you the first episode of the new web based series Mortal Kombat: Legacy. The first episode tells the story of an evil guy named Kano (Darren Shahlavi) who has a hideout where he leads a force of evil guys in evil tasks, and their captive Sonya Blade (Jeri Ryan) who is a police person of some sort. The thrust of the episode’s around 11 minute runtime is a pair of police named Jackson Briggs (Michael Jai White) and Kurtis Stryker (Tahmoh Penikett) leading an assault on Kano’s compound and trying to get Sonya out.

Technically, the show is up to par with any sort of action sci-fi show that you might see on basic cable currently, so clearly Warner Bros. is investing a decent amount of money into this project. But aside from the purely financial concerns of what they’re capable of doing, the show is pretty artistically put together as well. The image looks very digital. I guess that’s to be expected, as it’s largely the advances in digital photography that are making projects like this possible, and the slight waxiness of the actors doesn’t take much away from the aesthetics of the show. Much of what we see is set in a dark warehouse, and while we largely get a shadowy noir look to things, the lighting design seems to be well thought out enough to keep the frames visually dense and interesting.

The action we get is well presented and easy to follow, and the minor special effects don’t look at all bush league in comparison with what we get on modern television. Really, I think a lot of people will be surprised with how good this Internet based show looks. It might turn a lot of the snootier heads out there that think original programming should stick to the realm of broadcast television.

Where the episode is less impressive is the story. The main actors are all experienced professionals, and instantly that sets this apart from other video series we’ve seen with web origins, but the dialogue they deliver is the kind of clichéd macho talk that could have been spit out by a random action movie dialogue generator. In particular a couple of F-Bombs seem gratuitous and stupid. And the story we get, or at least the semblance of story we get, appears to be nothing more than a patchwork of recycled action scenarios. I realize that this is only the first episode, but really no effort is made whatsoever to establish who these characters are or why we should care about them. What we get felt like a TV show cold opening followed by the episode’s action packed third act. Any sort of story or character work that might have happened in between gets cut out. That might be acceptable for diehard fans of the Mortal Kombat universe who are happy just to see these characters realized in live action, but for someone who only knows Mortal Kombat as the fighting game with lots of blood, I was less than impressed with the introduction to these characters and their world.

Kevin Tancharoen gets both a directing and writing credit on this episode, and I think that if this debut show works best as anything, it’s as a showcase of what the man can do as a director. Here he proves that he has what it takes to make something that looks just as professional as anybody else working today. The other names on the script are Aaron and Todd Helbing, and they’ve both done work on episodes of Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Smallville before this. If Mortal Kombat: Legacy was ever to get spun off into a feature length film, I think I would already be comfortable with Tancharoen’s name in the director’s slot. But, so far, I would hope that he would be working from a script written by a more substantial talent. Who knows though, maybe as the series develops I will be proven wrong. That would be a nice surprise. Check out the episode for yourself below:

Writes about movies at Temple of Reviews and Film School Rejects. Complains a lot.