Developed, written and produced by Mortal Kombat superfan Kevin Tancharoen, Mortal Kombat: Legacy was originally conceived as a web series that premiered in the spring of 2011 on Machinima.com's Youtube channel after a film that Tancharoen made got noticed. The series proved fairly popular with fans of the Mortal Kombat universe and Tancharoen's attention to detail assured that, despite some quibbles, this would be a series for those who appreciate the mythology behind one of the world's most famous fighting video games. This Blu-ray collection from Warner Brothers' Warner Premiere line gathers together nine episodes and presents them in the following order:
Episode 1-2 - Jax, Sonya & Kano Part One & Two: This episode begins with Kano (Darren Shahlavi) in his warehouse, using his crew to deal stolen technology - he doesn't realize that Sonya Blade (Jeri Ryan) has made her way into his location and is reporting back to Jax (Michael Jai White). Sonya's transmissions are being listened in on by police and Jax and Stryker (Tahmoh Penikett) decide to strike while the iron is hot and move in on Kano. Things get a bit more complicated when Sonya gets captured as it's revealed that her transmissions were actually delayed. By the time the good guys arrive on the scene, Kano has already shipped the goods and is instead waiting in ambush for them.
Episode 3 - Johnny Cage: This episode starts off with a tabloid TV style bit on how former teenage heartthrob/action movie star Johnny Cage (Matt Mullins) fell from grace but we also learn of his early days, his martial arts training and his experiences. From there we cut to the current day where Johnny is trying to get a new reality TV show off the ground but the executives he's talking to aren't interested. He decides to shoot a promo spot himself to sell the idea but he is again shot down. When he realizes that those same executives are basically stealing his idea and casting a foxy female in the lead he should have played, a fight breaks out but in the middle of it time freezes and none other than Shang Tsung (Johnson Phan) appears to offer him a new shot at life.
Episode 4-5 - Kitana And Mileena Part One & Two: This two part episode starts off with a prologue that explains how the kingdom of Edenia fell after the events that transpired when they lost a bunch of tournaments and Baraka (Fraser Aitcheson) and Shao Kahn (Aleks Paunovic) basically trashed the place and turned it into a wasteland. With Shao Kahn set up as ruler, he takes Kitana (Samantha Tjhia), the daughter of Edenia's former royal family, to raise as his own. From here we learn how Kitana's sister Mileena (Jolene Tran) was cloned from her own DNA and how Mileena grew to hate Kitana over the years, leading to their rivalry in the Mortal Kombat universe. This storyline mixes up some animation in with the live action bits, kind of like what was done in Kill Bill, to nice effect.
Episode 6 - Raiden: This episode starts with a bang as a chaotic electrical storm causes a man to mysteriously appear in the yard of an insane asylum. A patient there named Blue finds the man and fights the guards for ownership of him, but eventually the man is taken into the hospital and treated as one of the patients. When the doctors begin to treat him, he tells them that he is Lord Raiden (Ryan Robbins) and that he needs to be released so that he can save the Earth but the doctors figure he might be dangerous and they schedule him for a lobotomy. Raiden is clever, however, and he uses Blue to help him escape.
Episode 7-8 - Scorpion And Sub-Zero Part One & Two: Here we learn how two warring clans gave birth to the franchise's most popular duo. We learn how General Hanzo Hasashi mastered his own fighting technique and became known as Scorpion (Ian Anthony Dale) and we learn how his rival, Bi-Han, became known as Sub-Zero (Kevan Ohtsji) and how he developed the ability to freeze his opponents. When it turns out that Sub-Zero assassinated the Shogun and kidnapped Scorpion's wife, his son, Jubei, gets involved but Scorpion returns to his village to find both his wife and his son dead from freezing - but there's more to this than that and there is definitely a conspiracy afoot involving the dreaded sorcerer, Quan Chi (Michael Rogers).
Episode 9 - Cyrax And Sektor: The last episode of the series tells the story of the Lin Kuei ninja clan who had a knack for kidnapping children and forcing them into submission, making them join their ever growing and increasingly powerful ranks. Two of these recruits, Cyrax (Shane Warren Jones) and Sektor (Peter Shinkoda), are hauled away to take part in the Grand Master's new 'cyber inititive.' Cyrax figures they're going to be killed but Sektor is more confident than that and he figures they're being groomed for the next level. Soon enough the two undergo their cybernetic transformations but Cyrax is obviously having more trouble adjusting to the procedure than Sektor. After some test fights are completed against Project Hydro, Cyrax and Sektor show admirable skill for working together to defeat their more powerful opponent, something the Grand Master approves of and which he hopes to use to further develop his ninja clan.
Say what you will about previous Mortal Kombat adaptations but this one is fun. Yes, you can argue that the stories are too short, and this is common with the whole 'web series' format but Tancharoen definitely has a vision for this series and it evidently did well enough that New Line has supposedly green lit him for a new feature film coming sometime soon. As to this material, it's been made with a modest budget but every penny is up there on the screen to see. By attracting some bigger names like Michael Jai White and Jeri Ryan the series drew attention from more than just the diehard video game crowd and for good reason. This series isn't perfect and the hardcore Mortal Kombat crowd may take issue with quirks and idiosyncrasies with the way that the characters are treated here but from a casual viewers perspective, this works far better and turns out to be a lot more entertaining than a lot of people probably expected it to be. Violent, stylish, slick looking and well put together the series may not necessarily be a deep one, but it is fun and those who enjoy the video games or action movies in general ought to give it a look.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy was shot on high definition video and the AVC encoded 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen 1080p presentation showcases the movie in its original aspect ratio. The picture quality is pretty good here overall. The digital to digital transfer doesn't show any print damage, obviously, and there are no problems with compression artifacts. There are a few scenes where some aliasing is present but no problems to report on in regards to compression artifacts or heavy edge enhancement. Colors are reproduced nicely, detail is strong and overall the image is quite good.
The only audio option on this disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track and while it may not offer up the immersive surround sound experience that the biggest and the best can on the format, it does provide a solid and involving mix. Dialogue stays clean and clear throughout and the sound effects have some solid punch to them. Clarity is strong, directional effects are well handled and properly placed, levels are well balanced and bass response is strong. There could have been more power behind things here and there but overall it definitely does the trick. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH, French and Spanish.
Extras are provided in a series of short featurettes that vary in length from five minutes to about fifteen minutes and which total about forty minutes or so in combined running length. Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Fight spends some time examining how the fatalities seen in the movies were put together and how stunts and effects were used to get them just right. Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Fan Made shows how Kevin Tancharoen made the transition from superfan to the man behind the series and what he brings to this project while Mortal Kombat: Legacy - Expanding The Netherrealm shows us how special effects, sets, costumes and actors all came together to bring the Mortal Kombat universe to life on the screen. Mortal Kombat - Mysticism is a look at the different powers that the various characters in the series wield while Mortal Kombat - Gear is, as you could probably guess, a look at the props that the different characters use in their respective fight scenes. Throughout all of these featurettes we get behind the scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew - if you dug the series, these are worth watching as even though they're short, when combined they actually offer some interesting insight into how this series was made. Menus and episode selection are also provided.
Mortal Kombat: Legacy isn't an instant classic but it's surprisingly fun offering up some origins for some interesting and now fairly iconic characters along with some good storytelling, decent effects, slick camera work and solid production values. Warner's Blu-ray looks and sounds just fine and offers up a few decent featurettes to flesh out not only the technical side of the production but the intent behind its very existence as well. Recommended for fans of the franchise, a decent rental for everyone else.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.