Writers: Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
One of the stranger bits of feedback from last week's episode of "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" basically stated that I was acting like I knew Johnny Cage personally.
All kidding aside, I've been playing "Mortal Kombat" since the first game hit the arcades. I've gotten every game for the home systems, watched both movies, the live action TV series and even the horrible animated series. So, yes. I know "Mortal Kombat" pretty well at this point. And last week's episode was a pretty s***y Johnny Cage story that wasn't worthy of the name "Mortal Kombat."
This week, the focus shifts over to the history of Kitana (Sam Tjhia) and Mileena (Jolene Tran). Well, sort of. Most of the episode actually follows Sindel (Beatrice Ilg) and the rise of Shao Khan (Aleks Paunovic). The episode also has a very strange reliance on a fairy tale-like voiceover to narrate every action and it sometimes shifts into partially animated sequences instead of sticking with live action. In fact, some of the best moments were animated, like Mileena's attempts to suppress her "overbite" and the attack of the Tarkatan warriors.
If the entire episode had been animated, it would have been a more effective way to tell this story and it probably would have been able to give it the epic scale that it needs. The decision to use voiceover almost exclusively also hurt this episode. It felt like the writers didn't trust that the material would work on screen through dialog alone. But the narration made things even cheesier than they needed to be.
I suspect that the animated segments were due to the budget limitations of the series. It's actually kind of surprising that the creative team even tried to depict the conquest of Edenia at all. It simply can't be done in live action on the budget they were working with. The new Baraka isn't bad in live action, but I was expecting the more unique take on that character from "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth;" where he was a human who graphically mutilated himself to become the ultimate killer. The approach here is technically faithful to the original, but the other incarnation was more interesting.
The story itself is actually pretty close to the "MK" source material as well, although it did give me a few "WTF?!" moments like Sindel's soul merge with Kitana and her subsequent suicide for poorly defined reasons. The one really interesting angle that came out of this was that Jerrod — Sindel's husband and Kitana's father — survives his apparent demise through the use of a double. Which means he should still be out there somewhere.
Paunovic's performance as Shao Khan was remarkably unimpressive. Even if he had his crazy skull helmet, he still probably wouldn't have looked right. It reminds me of the time that Syfy cast John Ralston as Ming the Merciless in the last "Flash Gordon" TV series. For all I know, Ralston could be a great actor; but he was horrible as Ming. And I get the exact same reaction from watching Paunovic trying to portray the emperor of Outworld.
There's really not enough here to make a call one way or another for Tjhia and Tran as Kitana and Mileena. They simply don't get enough screentime to really emerge as characters. And even more unforgivably, we don't even get to see them fight! Now, if next week's episode is an actual continuation of this one, then that problem may already be fixed.
But if the story just jumps to another character again then it's going to be a huge cop out.
Crave Online Rating: 5.5 out of 10.