Just in time for the anticipated re-launch of the famed fighting franchise, here’s a web series that kind of blows.
For fans of Mortal Kombat, the universe has been given so much exposure it’s hard to track down any new interpretations. From (awful) movies to (awful) TV series to (sometimes great) video games, the serpentine mythology and goofy characterization has received plenty of burn over the years. Enter self-described “super-fan” Kevin Tancharoen who, with some backing from Warner Bros., put together a nine-episode web series re-imagining the backgrounds of some the more recognizable kombatants.
When Kevin Tancharoen unveiled his seven-minute short film, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, I thought he was onto something. He implemented the characters of Mortal Kombat into a gritty, realistic setting, offering an interesting spin on the universe. Warner Bros. declined to take that specific iteration into a larger-scale direction, but they eventually handed him the reins of this nine-part web series, which still retains some of the uniqueness from his original vision, but ultimately comes away neutered and disposable.
I wanted to climb on board with this. I really did. I liked what this guy did with “Rebirth,” an interesting departure from the guilty-pleasure-yet-eardrum-nuking overload of the feature films. And as much of a fan I am of the games, I’ll be the first to admit that the mythology is a confusing mess. But somewhere between Mortal Kombat: Rebirth and Mortal Kombat: Legacy, the formula got watered down and what was left was an unsavory mélange of mythology and gritty realism. Problem is, the mythology is hurt by a cash-strapped budget and the realism is…well, boring.
Each episode focuses on a character, nine installments in all:
* “Jax, Sonya and Kano Part 1”
* “Jax, Sonya and Kano Part 2”
* “Johnny Cage”
* “Kitana and Mileena Part 1”
* “Kitana and Mileena Part 2”
* “Scorpion and Sub-Zero Part 1”
* “Scorpion and Sub-Zero Part 2”
* “Cyrax and Sektor”
Lot of big names there and some more familiar characters pop up in cameos. As for real-world actors you’ll be able to pick out Jeri Ryan (Sonya) and Michael Jai White (Jax) from the lineup but that’s it. Sadly, out of those episodes I only found “Raiden” and “Cyrax and Sektor” passable, the former because it’s most reminiscent of Mortal Kombat: Rebirth (Raiden, the god of thunder crash lands on earth and is taken into protective custody) and the latter because they obviously saved up money to blow out some dope robot effects. Beyond that? Syfy level production and simplistic storylines the whole way — and no fatalities! The good news: it will all be over in about 100 minutes.
The Blu-ray features 2.40:1/1080p transfers of the episodes, and considering they germinated online, the picture quality isn’t bad. In fact, the resolution is so clear, aside from the genuinely decent CGI work of Cyrax and Sector, the remainder of the visual effects work suffers under the HD microscope. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track flexes its muscle here and there, but the mix is nowhere as bombastic as the big-screen Mortal Kombat efforts. Five featurettes for the extras, focusing on the fight sequences, Tancharoen’s fandom, the MK mythology, the character-specific traits and powers and the universe’s weapons.