Mortal Kombat Legacy: Filmality

I’ve been playing a lot of the new as of late. I blame this on the fact that NetherRealm Studios really seems to understand exactly what made Mortal Kombat a hit in the 90s, which is over-the-top violence that pretty much wraps around to become a total parody of itself.

Also, the computer is a dirty cheater and I needed to find a new source of self-punishment now that the whole grad school thing is over.

I was never a huge Mortal Kombat fan, preferring the more polished gameplay of Street Fighter. However, plenty of my friends liked it, so I put in a good amount of time with the series. As I watched the footage of the newest game hit the web, with its total throwback nature and familiar characters, it really touched home on the whole nostalgia factor. NetherRealm put a ton of fan service in the game for those of us who grew up playing it, and I’m sure that’s gone a long way in making the game a success. So yeah, it’s good. Enough said.

To coincide with the release of Mortal Kombat (which confusingly goes by Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat 9, or Mortal Kombat 2011 depending on where you look), a live action mini-series called has been running on Youtube via the Machinima channel. Since it meets my stringent criteria for viewing (it’s free to watch, I can view it at any time, and each episode is pretty short), I decided I’d check it out and see what it’s all about.

It’s… pretty much what you would expect it to be. I mean, we’ve seen repeatedly that it’s very difficult to translate most video game plots to cinema. This rule applies doubly when referring to a plot that consists entirely of thinly veiled excuses for people to fight each other one-on-one to the death. I know that the Mortal Kombat series has some sort of mythology it follows. There seems to be that there are even people who care about it.

This isn’t the first time Mortal Kombat has done live action. There were several movies. If you asked my twelve-year-old self about the first one, he’d probably say it “was pretty rad.” He’d also tell you that pogs were “awesome.” Twelve-year-old me is an idiot.

Hey, twelve-year-old me, pogs were not a great game. Stop spending your money on them. You're only going to end up writing jaded blog posts about them.

Mortal Kombat: Legacy seems to be trying to ground the series in as realistic a setting as it can possibly muster. The episodes deal with arguably the most relatable characters in the entire series: Sonya, Jax, Kano, and Striker. In other words, a couple of army soldiers, a criminal, and a cop. There’s some weapon smuggling and a bust gone bad. An easy entry point for people unfamiliar with anything Mortal Kombat. Won’t they be surprised when we get to the parts with the ice ninja, fire-breathing skull ninja, and dinosaur ninja!

It’s pretty standard stuff. Lots of gunfire, explosions, and dramatic poses. People get kicked through inexplicable piles of boxes that lay out in the middle of hallways. I didn’t cringe too much at the acting. It was kind of cool to recognize Jeri Ryan as Sonya. NetherRealm even went out of their way to make Sonya look like Ryan in the game.

That is one strategically placed badge.

Surprisingly, of the three episodes released thus far, I’d have to say that the episode featuring Johnny Cage as a fading action star was by far the best. I was expecting a more humorous episode, based on his characterization in the game, but they took his character down a more serious path that made for a more engaging plot than I anticipated. If you check out only one of these episodes, I’d suggest this one.

Overall, while it is not a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, Mortal Kombat Legacy has been an entertaining way to pass dinnertime over the last few days. I will most likely be watching the rest of the episodes as they are released weekly, if for no other reason than to see if they explain where Kung Lao bought that pimp razor hat.

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