Released (DVD/Blu-ray) October 14th. Director: Kevin Tancharoen. Distributed by Warner Bros. The distribution company provided an advance screening of this film.
Legacy manages to make Mortal Kombat feel both true to life and true to the game.
Though you already know what you’re getting into with anything called Mortal Kombat, Kevin Tancharoen’s Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series has managed to be a big online success by simultaneously meeting and defying your Mortal Kombat-based expectations. So you’ll find the characters you expect from the game (and the movies) with the expected level of gore — and finishing moves pulled straight from the game franchise. But where the Legacy series defies expectations is the way it really works as a cinematic narrative — which isn’t quite something we’ve come to expect from movies based on video games. Though it’s told in bite-sized chunks (about ten minutes long), each piece of the story is put together like a miniature movie, with fantastic settings, costumes, and effects that give Legacy a big-screen movie quality… even if you’re only watching it on YouTube.
The series follows the continuity — more or less — of the original Mortal Kombat film franchise, but Tancharoen’s vision has tried to bring a more realistic feel to the franchise by showing us more of the real world these characters inhabit when they aren’t fighting to the death. Sure, there are still elements of the supernatural and the fantastic, but they’re used sparingly enough — though as the series progresses, they become more common — that they feel important when they do show up.
While the original Legacy series was mostly backstory and setup, Legacy II finally dives into the tournament itself, showing fighters recruited, brought to the tournament grounds, and, of course, fighting. This is Mortal Kombat, so if you’re here for action, you won’t be disappointed. Though there’s more dialog and story than you might expect from such an action-heavy setup, when the series hits an action scene, they’re fast and furious. Legacy does a spectacular job of combining moves and scenarios that fans of the game franchise will recognize with new material — and, in many cases, one-on-one fights turning into two-on-ones fights to mix up the battle sequences.
Though you might not think a web series would scale up cleanly to high def, Legacy II looks spectacular on Blu-ray. The series is fun to follow online, but it really shines on a big-screen HDTV where you have the chance to see all of the detail that’s been put into constructing the world… and, of course, properly appreciate those finishing moves.
Though the series certainly leans on action movie tropes to get where it’s going, it’s unlikely that viewers are here looking for a highly nuanced storyline — and the action is a success throughout, so if that’s what you’re after, Legacy II won’t disappoint.
If there’s a point of contention, it’s with the format: even though you can watch the series on DVD or Blu-ray as though it were a 90-minute movie, the episodic format of the original web series is obvious… and the individual episodes are more vignettes than a coherent, ongoing narrative. Yes, there’s a story that progresses from episode to episode, but it doesn’t do it as smoothly as a film that was designed to be a single, 90-minute piece. These vignettes feel like they’re meant to be part of something larger — like each could have been expanded into 30-minute episodes instead of 10-minute episodes. Honestly, each episode feels a bit constrained by its time limits, especially when watched together like a feature film where the lack of smooth transitions from one to the next is glaringly obvious.
Still, it’s a fun, if not perfect, trip to the Mortal Kombat universe that will leave you wanting more… in part because Legacy II ends on a cliffhanger that will no doubt lead us to Legacy III (which doesn’t yet have a release date). But in the meanwhile, you can enjoy the two seasons of Legacy online or on Blu-ray or DVD, with Legacy II just released today.
Bottom Line: Legacy II does a great job of blending the real world with the mystical setting of Mortal Kombat with the kind of action fans expect from the series. The only problem? The cliffhanger ending means we already want to see Legacy III.
Recommendation: So long as you don’t go into Mortal Kombat: Legacy II expecting anything more than a fun action flick, you’ll probably enjoy it — and Mortal Kombat fans, especially, will find a lot to love.[rating=3.5]