They came from different places, different worlds. But they all came for the same purpose: To fight!
When I first heard about a new Mortal Kombat it was just as everyone else found out. From out of nowhere, a trailer dropped (see below) that starred Michael Jai White as Captain Jackson Briggs aka Jax, a police detective profiling some most wanted types in the out-of-control Deacon city; Reptile a disfigured serial killer, Baraka a psychotic doctor, Johnny Cage a failed action movie star who ended up being decapitated by Baraka and Scorpion, a man hellbent on gaining revenge against Sub-Zero. Even Sonya Blade and Shang Tsung were thrown into the mix. The trailer showed only glimpses of what would be possible if a full series or movie were commissioned but it got a lot of people talking, including me.
On April 12th, Internet media company Machinima.com started showing on YouTube a brand new series Mortal Kombat: Legacy, comprising ten episodes of ten minutes length each. Some of the actors and plot has changed from the trailer; thankfully Johnny Cage is no longer dead and Baraka appears to now be a demon - both changes for the better. Michael Jai White stayed on to play Jax again and along with him are many known faces; Jeri Ryan (the Borg 'Seven of Nine' on Star Trek: Voyager) reprising her role as Sonya Blade, Matt Mullins (Bloodfist 2050) as kickboxing movie star Johnny Cage, a role he is just poured into. The killer criminal Kano is played by Darren Shahlavi, who was the bad guy in Seagal's latest movie. Not shown by episode four are others like Ian Anthony Dale (Tekken) as Scorpion and Ryan Robbins (the werewolf from SyFy's Sanctuary) as Raiden, a role I'm very curious to see played out by him as I just can't picture it.
The first two episodes deal with Jax, Sonya and Kano; Kano is holding Sonya hostage in a warehouse and Jax and his SWAT team go in to rescue her. It's of course not easy as Kano's henchman attack and Kano himself takes on Jax in a great display of kickfighting. I started wondering how the series was going to play out as it was all very 'earthy' so far, and if you know the game you will know that the tournament is held in another dimension called Outworld, not in a warehouse in a run down American city. That's when a shock grenade that looks very out-of-the-ordinary detonates in a flash that takes out half the SWAT. In a final fight with Kano, Jax rips his right eye out before being (supposedly) blown up. The last thing we see is Kano being dragged away by forces unknown, laid on a table and having the famous cyborg eye implant attached.
The third episode is brilliant and plays a bit like JCVD's self-titled movie. Johnny Cage is an action star who can't get work and has put together a footage reel of a reality series he wants to make; In the Cage . He funded the trailer with his own money but his producers can't see it working and dump him. Cage even references Seagal's Lawman series ("No-one ever does anything in it!") and pleads for a chance but is hung out to dry. That's when he hears in the other room the producers pitching his idea to a new up-and-coming glamour girl as a 'tough chick' show. Cage loses it and beats the hell out of the guys before fleeing the scene, now on the run. Mullin's kickboxing skills are some of the absolute best that I have ever seen on screen - astonishingly fast at times. I was impressed in Bloodfist 2050 with him and he's just gotten better.
The fourth episode is a strange hybrid of live action and Japanese-style violent anime and it works well. This is the Mortal Kombat I was expecting; a 'fantasy' world setting in the Netherrealm, with appearances by Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn, the lord of the underworld, ninjas galore and demons like Baraka. After decimating a nearby world, Shao Kahn takes Queen Sindel hostage and as his wife. She brings with her a baby daughter, Kitana, who Shao Kahn clones a sister, Mileena, using Tarkatan blood (Tarkatan's being a cross-breed of human and Neatherrealm folk) and trains them himself as warriors. The live action is interspersed with the animation well and both serve different purposes; live action for much of the narrative and anime for much of the over-the-top action, though by the end we do see Mileena and Kitana about to square off.
There's been a lot of game fanboy bitching about the series on the Internet. Socrpion's costume doesn't look right. Baraka looks like an orc from Lord of the Rings. Sonya isn't hot enough. All those people can have a coke and a smile because these episodes are the best Mortal Kombat representations on film thus far. Sure some of the acting is over the top (Kano and Shao Kahn especially), but what I've seen in the first four episodes so far has gotten me really excited to see the remaining six. Michael Jai White as Jax and Matt Mullins as Johnny Cage are inspired choices. The whole series looks far more expensive than it probably is, a testament to the work that has gone into it.
The links are below for you to watch, so be sure to check them out. It won't cost you anything but your time, and at ten minutes each you won't even have time to finish your coffee. Hopefully you'll be as impressed with the series as I am, and there are a lot of cool characters from the game like Sub-Zero, Cyrax and Raiden still to come.
The YouTube 1080p stream on my flatscreen looks fantastic. Sharp lines, crisp colours and deep blacks. A punching stereo soundtrack. Each episodes runs about 10 minutes.
You can watch all episodes as they 'air' over here on YouTube. There are TV-MA and TV-14 versions that censor the swearing (and perhaps some violence, though I didn't compare. The links below are for the TV-MA versions.
Episode 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6s6UiEuCYXA
Episode 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2lpXVFjEQ8
Episode 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4dDzPMK0ko
Episode 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIFbGNqs0JQ
Mortal Kombat: Rebirth 'Sales Pitch' trailer, 2010
Mortal Kombat: Legacy trailer