Test your might (hapless TV script writer)!
If you can’t show intense blood and gore on your TV series based on a violent video game that is known almost entirely for its reliance on intense blood and gore what are you to do? If you answered: “ladle on gallons upon gallons of complex plot and mythology,” then, friend, you could have been a writer for Mortal Kombat Conquest.
Originally airing on TNT from 1998 to 1999, Conquest was a live action series stocked with video game regulars and set years and years before pixel-version Liu Kang and his cronies started murdering people in an attempt save Earth-realm from the forces of Shao Khan.
Here, the main Kombatant is Kung Lao (Paolo Montalban), seen here before toting his infamous razor-rimmed monk hat. Recruited by Raiden the God of Thunder (Jeffrey Meek) to recruit a stable of champions to thwart Shang Tsung and Shao Khan’s diabolical machinations. His two main colleagues in the fight against evil are Siro (Daniel Bernhardt) and Taja (a very young Kristanna Loken).
For the next 22 episodes, this trio encounters such game luminaries as Sub-Zero, Quan Chi, Scorpion, Reptile, Rain, Kitana, Noob Saibot, Reiko, Mileena, Smoke and Goro himself. Along with these recognizable faces are a slew of invented characters with names that sound like prescription meds for erectile dysfunction like “Vorpax” and “Omegis.”
That’s all well and good, but the big question is: how do you fill 22 45-minute episodes with content? The answer is simple. You sling dialogue like a madman. This is about as story-dense a show based off a video game about adult men exploding into clouds of intestines and rib-cages. Part of me is hugely impress at how much plot these writers were able to wring out of the premise. The other part of me–a much bigger part–was bored sideways.
These episodes felt interminable. And I’m the target audience! Honestly, the show would have been better served in thirty-minute increments, allowing for smaller bits of downtime between the fight sequences. As it stands, the martial artistry–which isn’t that bad actually–is buttressed by endless, flat dialogue.
To the showrunners’ credit the battles and general production design have that Mortal Kombat theatrical feel, scored with the mandatory techno soundtrack. Sets are cramped and dark and over-produced, but that’s Mortal Kombat for you. The budget certainly wasn’t there to allow sweeping crane shots of the New Zealand mountain ranges. Money apparently wasn’t pumped into costuming either, as the more ornate outfits (Quan Chi’s for example) look like cosplay nightmares. The women of the show are regaled in pretty much what you’d expect: cleavage-popping spandex.
Which makes Conquest something of a contradiction; the audience appears to be middle school boys, but I can’t imagine the overly-complicated storytelling was particularly engrossing. Hence the abbreviated life-span.
The DVD debut offers nothing more than the episodes themselves, presented in the original full frame format with a 2.0 Dolby Digital surround audio mix in tow.