HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Mortal Kombat: Legacy 2
HTS Overall Score:73
I was a big Mortal Kombat fan growing up, playing all the video games from the Gameboy, the Sega Genesis, and even up through some of the ps3 incarnations, before they started get a bit too far from the roots. The movies were a guilty pleasure for me, as they were just plain AWFUL in execution, but so full of cheesy fun you could feel the velveeta and cheddar squeezing out from every vein (although the second one was only good if you had a full six pack of beer in you). There were rumors and hints at a sequel of the franchise, with Christopher Lambert reprising his role as Lord Raiden, but that quickly dissipated and fans thought there was no hope of ever seeing a live action adaptation of the famed video games. However, Kevin Tancharoen made a short film in 2010 called “Mortal Kombat: Rebirth” featuring a much more grounded and gritty take on the video games and pitched it to Warner Brother’s to start a new movie. Not only did it get good feedback from Warner, but the short film went viral on YouTube and the fans start clamoring at the gate, which got Tancharoen the immediate role as the Director for the upcoming film. Due to circumstances that are not known to us, the film is on indefinite hiatus and the idea for the movie got turned into the YouTube micro series that we now know as “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”.
The first season was a great introductory season, filmed in 9 sections and released one per week and then finally combined into a feature length presentation on home video. Each of the 9 episodes run anywhere from 6-12 minutes each, making up about an hour and a half of material, and each one focuses on the introduction of a new character. We get to see Johnny Cage, Sonya, Jax, Kano, Raiden, Sektor and Cyrax, and of course the famed dueling ninjas, Scorpion and Sub-Zero. There was hints at the upcoming tournament as we see Shao-Khan (Aleks Paunovic) and his mighty army preparing for an upcoming war on earth realm, but the majority of the time we’re just character building, showing us the Kombatants and their backstory.
This season takes a drastically different approach as the show gains its footing and irons out some of the wrinkles from last year. Instead of releasing an episode a week the creators decided to release them all in one shot as a feature film with chapter breaks, rather than a small episode with its own opening and ending credits like before. Not only has it gotten a facelift with mechanics, but several main characters have been re-cast as season one was proved to be an experiment that turned out for the better. Raiden gets recast with David Lee McInnis, Johnny Cage was played by a true martial artist in the form of Matt Mullins in season one, but the powers that be decided to recast Casper Van Dien in his place. Shang Sung was played by a young Asian man by the name of Johnson Phan, but was impeccably recast with Cary Hiroyuki-Takagawa (who played Shang Sung in the original 1995 movie), but his face change is reconciled with the fact that he’s a sorcerer and can change form at will. Last but not least, Stryker has been replaced with Eric Jacobus instead of Tahmo Penikett (from Battlestar Galactica). Most of the recasts do just fine, especially since Raiden was barely introduced last time and Stryker was only seen for a couple minutes. I’m torn on Casper Van Dien, as have having Mullens play the part was better for the fight scenes, instead of using trick photography to get him to look good, but Casper Van Dien is fantastically campy and does an amazing job at playing Johnny with that cocky panache that he’s known for. Not only does the series recast some old faces, but it adds some new ones as well. Kenshi (Dan Southworth) and Ermac show up on opposing sides as well as the addition of Kung Lao (Mark Dracascos) and Liu Kang (Brian Tee).
This time the show gets started quickly, giving us some back story on the difference between Kung Lao and Liu Kang. This time Liu is not the savior of the planet, as he’s bitter and angry after losing his fiancée years ago and getting kicked out of the lotus clan, the ones who defeated Shao Khan ten years ago. Also, it seems this loosely ties in to the first movie, as Liu fought against Shao Khan in the previous tournament, only to lose his girlfriend and end up being a killer for hire. Now he’s joining with Shang Sung and the Outworld opposition along with the deceived Scorpion, The Demon Ermac, Princess Katana, and her twin sister/clone, Mileena. With time running out these 5 villains have to fight to the death against the saviors of our world, in the form of Kung Lao, Johnny Cage, Stryker, Kenshi and Sub-Zero. Let the games begin.
I was pleasantly surprised at some things and let down by a few things as well. Let me get the bad things out of the way first. This season was a big step up in some ways, but a notch down as well. Some of the recasting worked, but with the added dialogue of this season we get a few wince worthy writing moments, especially between Kung Lao and Liu Kang. Secondly, there wasn’t a whole lot of filler, as there is such a short timespan for the series, but the episode with Mileena, Katana and Johnny was cut way too short because they spent half the runtime rehashing the fight between Kenshi and Ermac. Which brings me to my final complaint. Ermac was originally a leather clad ninja, but here they changed him to a scaly demon that almost resembled Reptile in a way (from the reimagining he got since reptile was ORIGINALLY a ninja as well). On the topic of costumes and appearances, I was a bit let down by Sub-Zero’s modern day costume as it looked like he was covered in blue and black BMX gear, which could be because of the shoe string budget, but Scorpion looks so dead on perfect that I think they could have gotten a more amenable costume for him.
With that out of the way I have to say there is a TON going for this Season. Casper Van Dien hams it up the as the cocky Johnny cage, but Kenshi, and Liu Kang steal the show as the newbies. Kenshi is spot on perfect representation of the blind Ronin, both in his feudal Japanese role and as his blind rogue role in modern times. Liu Kang is by far the best actor on screen, as they gave plenty of screen time to show his reasoning’s and motivation for being on the opposing team this go around. His lines were done well and his fight scene in the bar was just plain awesome. Although he’s not in it for much, Cary-Hiroyuki Takagawa is pure gold as he plays the twisted sorcerer just as he did for the original movie. He’s such an visceral actor emotion wise and his little “fatality” moments had me feeling like the teenage boy I was when I wore out my VHS tape of that movie back in the late 90s.
The fights are just as good as leas season, with the exception of Casper, but the real awesome inclusion is the attention to detail and the fatalities. We got to see a few costumes with Cyrax and Sektor and Hyrdro, but we’re out in full force this time as Scorpion gets his full outfit and Kenshi is running around in his rogues gear the whole time. Mileena and Kitana are geared to the teeth as the appealing sirens, and actually better played and choreographed this time around than the 1995 incarnations. As for the fatalities, we had one with Hydro at the VERY last episode, but this season we get to see 4 of them, with three being jaw droppingly awesome (and one unexpected one), straight out of the video games. I was almost dancing around in a circle at some of them as you can see that Kevin has a lot of love for the original characters and games.
The show has some flaws, and some of them are rather glaring, especially the limited budget, but I’m still amazed at what they’ve been able to pull off with what started as a tiny viral fan film to get a foot in the door for a different project. It’s spiraled into something much bigger than they originally thought, even if the reboot movie doesn’t end up getting made. I’m excited for next year to see where they take this and who else gets added in to the roster of fighters.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=29665[/img]The 2.39:1 AVC encoded images ranges from good, to great, to amazing at times with excellent colors, lots of detail, and decent blacks. The first season’s blacks were deep and inky in the night time scenes, sometime a little too deep and introduced some black crush. Here the blacks aren’t as deep as they could be and the really dark sequences tend to look a bit washed out at times. The lighter scenes, on the other hand, look simply spectacular as they showcase lots of fine detail on the Kombatant’s body armor, costumes and reflected off their weaponry galore. That drained color palette from the first season seems to be mainly abandoned for a more natural look, albeit tinged with teal and gold undertones at times. Contrasts and skin tones look really nice, except for a couple desaturated scenes where the skin tones would take on that stylistic pale look that the first season was known for. I really enjoyed the different colors and permutations of the classic costumes as they showed a lot more pizazz and pop then some of the costumes from before, especially the redesigned Scorpion costume and Kenichi’s alternate costume. While the encode has a few flaws, mainly the washing out of some of the black levels and a few soft spots here and there, it’s very good by most movie standards, and excellent for a YouTube micro series.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=29673[/img]As with the video, the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a good track that could be greater due to a few technical issues, but still a great action oriented experience when need be. Dialogue is crisp and clean, for the most part, but can sometimes be a bit drowned out when the action starts and the music starts pulsing at full power. Surround use is good, sometimes excellent, but there are some times when I felt they could have used a bit more activity, specifically with ambient noises as they really mostly came alive during heavy action periods of the movie and were filled with kicks, punches and a heavy dose of the soundtrack. Still the LFE is just as powerful as the first season, delivery bone crunching impacts and the roar of a powerhouse score that underlines the intensity of the action. Not a perfect audio track, as it could have used a bit more fine tuning in the studio, but it gets the job done, and gets it done with style.
“Mortal Kombat: Legacy II” is a great follow up to last year’s “Mortal Kombat: Legacy”. Taking the story to the tournament it raises the stakes from an introductory season to one that adds some meat to the experience and gets us in the thick of things with the fighting. The new characters, the new fatalities, everything works together and sets us up for an exciting third season for the fans. I was a bit bummed that Jax, Sonya, Cyrax and Sektor didn’t make an appearance, but at the same time I’m rather glad, as it would have been a bit too many characters to juggle around. Here’s to hoping they get brought back in next time. Definitely a recommendation if you’re at all a Mortal Kombat fan.
Starring: Ian Anthony Dale, Cary Hiroyuki-Takagawa, Samantha Jo, Casper Van Dien
Created By: Kevin Tancharoen
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 80 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 14th 2014
Buy Mortal Kombat: Legacy II Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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