To celebrate the first anniversary of Machinima Prime -- the online video supplier featured a massive 24 hour live stream featuring multiple Machinima guests, specifically director Kevin Tancharoen. The divisive director is responsible for the radically reinvented digital-first series Mortal Kombat: Legacy -- a project that brought Machinima record setting ratings and will enter a second series in Fall.
Appearing late in the video [23:40:00]; "KTanch" waxed the MK basics, grappled with the gameplay basics & offered a first run preview of things to come! The full 24 hour video can be found embedded below, but you'll want to skip ahead to get to the good bits. Update: Oops! Looks like the video's been set to private for now. Read on to find the details in our critical review.
It's fair to say you either love Kevin Tancharoen, or hate him. For some fans, his approach to Mortal Kombat is imprecise and disrespectful. To others, it's an exciting contemporary take that satisfies a segment of the imagination, even if it clearly departs from the source material. If you find yourself already leaning one way or the other, it's unlikely what you see here will change your assumptions.
The main event is an action packed preview clip from Legacy II, but those interested in really scrutinizing the man behind the Rebirth will probably find their cynicism reinforced.
Mainstream entertainment is so entrenched in the age of franchised niche adaptations, we know to expect a director paying lip service to their "fandom" of the property in their care. Tancharoen has been no exception to the rule. That said, he's also made no bones about laying his tackle on the proverbial chopping block, openly acknowledging episodes that bare little or no resemblance to the source material he supposedly loves. Personal preference will determine whether you deem this bold, or just stupid.
On the 24 hour stream, the director further submits himself to exposure, practically inviting critics to call him on the falsities of his supposed fandom. A nightmare session of Noob Saibot's MK2011 fatality training, and some dubious meanderings through the MK product history will likely raise the ire of some hardcore fans. It should be said that he's really on the spot under these conditions, but if you're approaching this all with a hint of cynicism, it's certainly understandable.
Like a vast many; Tancharoen cites Scorpion as his favourite character, and the rivalry between he and Sub-Zero as an iconic touchstone. He refers to the joy of earning the trademark ending sequences that told this tale of vengeance and mistaken identity. This all sounds good on first impressions, until we roll the never before seen preview. Then things again start to unravel.
It's fair to say the motocross armored Sub-Zero of Legacy II has already been one of the most controversial elements pre-release [read more]. A departure from the iconic design best associated with the blue warrior; it's a direction that seems to shout budget more than gritty practicality.
The spectre of Christopher Nolan's tempered reinvention of the Batman franchise has hung over Legacy often, but what really comes to mind here is not urban pseudo-realism, but rather the famously growled line of discouragement, "I'm not wearing hockey pads." So stark is the shift that it almost makes one completely forget the moustached mask that came with Scorpion's adaptation as samurai, rather than ninja. The less-than-faithful translation doesn't stop there.
When a rough cut was shown to audiences before the 1995 cinematic release; Paul W.S. Anderson learned a harsh lesson in the expectations of audiences ready to see Mortal Kombat. The test crowd made their feelings known -- Scorpion and Sub-Zero are not friends.
The '95 feature film made efforts to justify the alliance between arch-nemeses, but the fact remained that this was an unnatural betrayal of one of the best known storylines in the series. Time and plot-twists have eased the blow, but it's still surprising that Legacy II would not only tie these characters together, but do so through glimpses of a lifelong childhood friendship. The pledge seems to be here to provide further betrayal -- actually a deception hatched by Quan Chi [in Episode 7], per the twists of MK4. It's an interesting choice, to say the very least.
The quality of action was a criticism levelled at the first series. It starts slow, but this preview really makes some impressive strides toward ramped up martial arts action. There's a risk that obsessions with the trivial, surface elements of gratuitous violence could pull the rug out from under this project. In an interview with series co-creator John Tobias, he reminded, "anyone who really believes that the only reason players play MK is for the violence probably has never really played MK."
A good fight is necessary in martial arts fiction, and they definitely deliver some great moments in the preview. You'll know the sweetly satisfying knee strike when you see it. Scorpion's teleporting hellfire is a welcome addition to the choreography. Fatalities taken directly from the game(s) will be featured in Legacy II. Here's hoping they're worth it.
What we know of this second series is that it tells the story of the Shaolin Tournament (of the first game and film). Tancharoen clarifies that Legacy II will be completely linear, telling a single story across each episodes chapter with less dislocation than the anthology of the last series.
The series has its share of supporters in the right place, as well. Casper Van Dien has apparently been more than happy to embrace the less admirable traits of the arrogant action star Johnny Cage. Likewise, producer Lance Sloane has championed the over-the-top fatal violence that is a trademark of the games. He will no doubt be a driving force as the franchise attempts to spin-off into a much discussed feature film.
The return to the big screen has already been teased by the director, who notes the script calls for a brand new character of the films creation. He hopes the support will flow two ways, allowing this new character to become a downloadable playable addition to the next Mortal Kombat game. NetherRealm Studios Creative Director Ed Boon has teased a long term eye for an MK sequel with the arrival of the coming console generation [full story].
Draw your own conclusions by watching the 24 Hour Stream Video [or just skip to MK]. Recap all the info and media in our Mortal Kombat: Legacy II Kompendium! Find discussion on each item and more movie madness in the Media & Merchandise forum!