Writers: Kevin Tancharoen, Aaron Helbing and Todd Helbing
Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Last year, director Kevin Tancharoen ("Fame") caused a major stir when he inadvertently released "Mortal Kombat: Rebirth," a strikingly dark take on the video game franchise that he made in the hopes of getting the chance to direct a new "Mortal Kombat" film. And while a new movie has yet to materialize, Tancharoen still got what most short filmmakers can only dream of: the literal keys to the kingdom.
Earlier today, Warner Premiere released the first episode of "Mortal Kombat: Legacy," a new nine part web series that brings Tancharoen's vision to life in live action with some surprisingly high production values. Michael Jai White ("Black Dynamite") and Jeri Ryan ("Star Trek: Voyager") reprise their roles from "Rebirth" as Jax and Sonya Blade, respectively. And for this first episode, they're joined by "Dollhouse" actor Tamoh Pennikett as Striker and Darren Shahlavi as Kano.
The story finds Sonya tracking Kano's illegal cybernetic shipment, which ultimately draws Jax and his forces into an elaborate trap by Kano's Black Dragons. As an opening installment for the series, this was a strong showing and the episode moves at a pretty fluid pace. White and Ryan acquit themselves well in their roles, but Pennikett is disappointingly one note in his. Granted, being the "by the book" cop is kind of a thankless task. But Striker is such a stock character here that he could have been played by an actual piece of cardboard and no one would have noticed the difference.
However, the action is not a problem. For the most part, Tancharoen manages to pull off some impressively shot fights, especially during the closing battle between Kano and Jax. The only time things get a little off track is when the special effects are used to create unconvincing fire. Those effects look so bad that it actually reminds you that this is a web series that was probably shot on a modest budget.
Surprisingly, Ryan is kind of minimized here. The story completely skips over Sonya's capture and she spends most of the running time chained up in Kano's lair. Her eventual escape is a nice piece of stunt work, but it'll be very disappointing if we don't see Sonya fight someone before this series is over.
Despite some occasionally trite dialog from the writers, White really carries the piece as Jax. White brings some good intensity to the part and it helps that he's already trained to fight before joining this project. With White in the lead, this is a Jax that I can buy as a main character.
Overall, "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" favorably compares with the first "Mortal Kombat" film from the '90s. And this was one of the more entertaining web series to come along in a while. If you ever loved "Mortal Kombat," then you definitely have to check this out.
The first episode of "Mortal Kombat: Legacy" is also available to view here at Crave Online, via Machinima.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.