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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Movie/TV Talk - Mortal Kombat

Stop! Ninja Time!
Duh duh-duh-duh! Duh-duh! Duh-Duh (Can't touch this!)

In one of the few surprises for this month, I’ll be looking at the Mortal Kombat movies as well as the Mortal Kombat Legacy web series. Ever since the 90’s, I’ve been a semi-fan of the franchise. It pretty much started with the first MK game. My uncle had a Sega Genesis back then, so I would sometimes play some of his games. I haven’t played all of the MK games. I know I haven’t even played the most recent one on the PS3. Still, if there’s a movie or series out there that involves Mortal Kombat, I’ve probably seen at least some of it even that piece of crap called Mortal Kombat: the Journey Begins.

Background
I don’t remember when I saw the first movie, but I know I saw it before I ever saw the second movie. I do own the first movie on DVD. I actually remember wanting to go see the second movie, MK: Annihilation, in Columbia. I think the movie was there for a couple of weeks and then gone the next. Ouch. I did eventually see it on VHS. About a decade later, I heard about the Rebirth video and the web series, and that got me a little psyched.  I saw first season when it came out back in 2011, and I saw the second season back in 2013.


Mortal Kombat (1995)
In this first movie, the tournament to end all tournaments happens. Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade are instructed by Raiden (no, not this one) to fight in the Mortal Kombat tournament for Earth’s salvation. If they or anyone from Earth realm loses the last battle against Goro and Shang Tsung, Earth will be taken over by dark realm of Outworld. The movie ends with the heroes winning, but Earth starts to get attacked by Shao Khan, leader of Outworld.

While the movie is not the greatest thing since laser printers, I still really like this one. It’s not completely dark but it’s not completely campy. It fits somewhere in-between. I really liked the fist-pumping music especially the theme. I liked a lot of the characters like Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Raiden, and especially Shang Tsung. The villain’s performance was over-the-top and I loved it. Most of the fight scenes (something that is needed in a movie like this) are well done and pretty exciting. I also like how all of the combatants from the first game and a couple from the second game are used. My favorite fights are where Cage fights Scorpion and where Liu Kang fights Reptile in human form.

What fighting stance is that, Liu? The "I'm a bad brother from another mother" stance?

There are some things that I am kind of “meh” about. The acting’s not the greatest. Sonya was okay but she and her storyarc weren’t that interesting. Also, some matches were a little lackluster. “Sonya vs. Kano” and "Liu Kang vs. Kitana” are the biggest examples. I won’t complain about the lack of gore since I’m that big into gore and yes, I know that MK is normally gory. It also sucks that Scorpion and Sub-zero, two popular characters, are only made henchmen here. While they are the best parts of the movie, it sucks that their story didn’t get told. Overall, it’s not perfect, but it is a pretty good movie based on a video game.

Favorite Quotes:
Johnny Cage: I'm in a hostile environment. I'm totally unprepared. And I'm surrounded by a bunch of guys who probably want to kick my ass... it's like being back in high school.
......
Scorpion: Get Over Here!
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Shang Tsung: It has begun!
.......
Lord Rayden: I have looked into their souls... and yours. One of you three with determine the outcome of the tournament. The fate of billions depends upon you. Heh, heh, heh... Sorry.
.......
Johnny Cage: Those were $500 sunglasses, asshole.
.......
Raiden: I don't think so.


Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
In the sequel to first movie, we pick up right after the last movie ended. Shao Khan and his hordes from Outworld start to take over Earth realm. Raiden and the rest of the heroes have to find a way to stop Shao Khan and his forces. While this movie is considered to be one of the worst video game movies ever, it’s okay. It’s not really on the level of the first movie. By just watching the beginning, you can already tell that the movie is going to not be that good.
Man, the hordes of Outworld have seen better days.

The movie looks cheaper in budget especially when you look at a lot of the costumes. Then, you notice that people like Christopher Lambert and Lyndon Ashby aren’t here. The only people who reclaim their normal roles form the last movie are Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Talsia Soto (Kitana). Also, the acting is not really good. It wasn’t Oscar-worthy in the last movie, but you can really tell it’s bad in this one. I also thought it was weird how every combatant from the series at this time was shoehorned in here. Characters like Nightwolf or Sub-Zero would show up, do something cool, and then disappear for the rest of the movie.

While it’s not good, at least it moves at a fast pace. Also, the fight scenes are a little better. If anything, the whole movie is tied together with fight scenes. The music was still fist-pumping as well. It also tried to adapt MK2 and MK3. As you can tell, there isn’t a lot to say about this movie that is good. Overall, the movie’s a dud.  Still, if you really want to see it, go on ahead.

Favorite Quotes:
Shao Kahn: The Earth was created in six days; so too shall it be destroyed; and on the seventh day, mankind will rest... in peace!
.......
Nightwolf: Feel your Animality.
.......
Sindel: Too bad *you*... will DIE!
.......
Jax: You got an incredible set of legs... for kicking I mean.

……………………….


In 2010, Kevin Tanchocaren directed a short seven-minute video that was basically a pitch for a new Mortal Kombat movie. It was gritty and realistic. I thought it was cool, but I did miss the supernatural aspect. That pitch ended up evolving into the web series called Mortal Kombat: Legacy.  Since both seasons are pretty different in terms of scope, I’ll split them up and talk about them separately.

Season 1
The 9-episode season tries to fill in the background with certain characters from the franchise. Most of the season is full of two-parters and we end up getting three standalone episodes. The season is decent as a whole, but there are flaws. The stuff I really like is the fight choreography. It’s straight-up awesome in both seasons really. The casting was also pretty good. We get actors like Michael Jai White, Jeri Ryan, Tahmoh Pinkett, Ryan Robbins, and Ian Anthony Dale playing characters from the games. The acting is decent for a web series like this.
This was probably one of the best casting choices.

There are also some standout episodes. The two-parter involving Jax and Sonya was pretty action-packed. The episode featuring Raiden (Ryan Robbins) is probably the best episode out of both seasons. It was able to pack both realistic and supernatural punches. The final two-parter features Scorpion’s origin and it is pretty good. The rest of the episodes were hit-or miss for me. The one that I really have to scratch my head over is the one about Sektor and Cyrax. Why is there an episode about these two characters??? They’re not even that interesting.

Another nitpick is on the length of the episodes. A normal episode would run for about 9 to 12 minutes. In a lot of the episodes, a minute would be taken up for a recap and another minute would be for credits. It’s like this in the second season as well. It’s kind of annoying especially when I believe the stuff could go longer. I guess it’s just their budget and that sucks. Another nitpick would be that we don’t get more interesting characters here, but there is season 2 to consider. Overall, Season 1 was pretty decent.

Season 2
The 10-episode season takes it a step further and we actually get to the tournament. I believe it’s the second tournament, but it’s not exactly stated. Origins and backgrounds on characters are interwoven with the matches at the tournament. We get a lot of returning characters and some more popular characters like Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Kenshi joining the fray. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa comes back as Shang Tsung and he is probably one of the biggest highlights of the whole thing.  We also have Casper Van Dien as Johnny Cage and Brian Tee as Liu Kang. While this season has as about as many flaws as Season 1 had, it’s not half bad.

Oh no! Liu's wearing a black hood! He's gone bad! Symbolism alert!!!

The fight choreography was pretty good a lot like the last season. We ended up getting a lot of martial art actors like Mark Dasacos, Dan Southworth (Eric from Power Rangers: Time Force!!!!), and Michelle Lee. The acting was pretty “middle of the road.” Some of it is good and some of it isn’t. I really thought Brian Tee played a cool Liu Kang. It’s revealed that a lot of bad stuff happened to Liu after the first tournament and Shang Tsung was able to recruit him to the dark side. His arc was actually one of the better arcs. I also liked Kenshi’s parts and I’m not just saying that because Kenshi’s played by one of my favorite characters from Power Rangers. We also delve further into Scorpion’s and Sub-zero’s life and we see them fight in the present day. All I can say is this: Zod from Man of Steel got it easy.

He'd be more awesome if he only had some “Quantum Power!

A lot of the complaints I had for Season 1 count for Season 2. The recaps and credits take up a lot of story-time. I was also confused with where Scorpion’s and Sub-zero’s flashback scenes take place. Everything else is in present day while their flashback was in Feudal Japan. I know Scorpion’s a ghost, but Sub-Zero’s a human, so that was weird. As I said before, there was some crappy acting going on this time. Also, it felt that the story was rushed at times. My last complaint (and it’s a valid one) is that it ends on a freakin’ cliffhanger as Liu Kang starts to fight Kung Lao. That’s just wrong. Also add the fact that Tacho… the Taco man (sorry) is probably not coming back to direct a Season 3. All in all, Season 2 is about as decent and frustrating as Season 1 was.


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Overall, do I recommend any of these? I can at least recommend the first Mortal Kombat movie. It’s not perfect, but I still think it holds up. Since I am of sound mind (I think), I won’t recommend MK: Annihilation. Still, if you want to riff it or watch it with friends, go on ahead.  As for MK: Legacy, I’m on two minds with that. If you’re an MK fan, I say check it out. If you’re not a fan, it’s up to you. Well, I’m outta here. Peace, God Bless, and “ACABACC…” or it’s “ABACABB.” Figure it out for yourselves.

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