Kevin Tancharoen's reboot of Mortal Kombat is based on a revolutionary and very different vision of what the possibilities inherent in the series were. His Mortal Kombat: Rebirth may have bothered some fans with its loose interpretation of longtime favorites like Baraka and Reptile, but all were intrigued by it.Until now, Tancharoen has been utterly faithful to the world he let us glimpse in MK: R, but somewhere we suspect that the sickness of marketing has already begun to creep into his work.
The gritty realism of the past three episodes has been annihilated in the fourth, leaving us with an odd mixture of a medieval Japanese period piece and the animated sequence from Kill Bill Vol. 1. The grounding in a modernistic plausibility has likewise been done away with. What we get instead is basically a long narration detailing the death of a realm called Edenia at the hands of Shao Kahn, emperor of Outworld.
Treatise is good word for the episode; maybe prologue would be better, though. We knew we were in trouble when the episode was clearly titled episode 4, part 1, and we were right because for eight minutes we get almost nothing but exposition. Edenia is a peaceful world with no problems, blah blah blah. Lost 10 Mortal Kombats, blah blah blah.
As a brief aside, we've always thought the rule that a world or dimension must lose 10 Mortal Kombat tournaments in order to be invaded by an opposing world to be a really ridiculous premise. Personally, we always liked the idea Jeff Rovin put forth in the Mortal Kombat novel that only the souls of the greatest warriors could be used to widen a portal between dimensions enough to let through an invading army.
Anyway, back to this long drawn out and badly motivated tale. Let's do it in 11 seconds. Ready. Lost 10 Mortal Kombats. Realm invaded. King runs. Shao Kahn takes the queen as a wife. Loves her - huh? - but she hates him - duh. Knows the infant princess will hate him - duh, so has a clone with shark teeth made that won't hate him - huh? Queen kills herself to protect her daughter - double huh? The girls grow up training as warriors and hate each other - duh.
See? We could've done that with sock puppets because in the course of the whole episode there are fewer than 20 seconds of fighting, and most of that comes at the hands of a pretty badly done version of Baraka. The idea from MK:R that he was a failed plastic surgeon on earth who went nuts after accidentally killing a patient and mutilated himself into a serial killer is gone. Likewise, any traditional depiction of Baraka is also gone. He's a Tolkien orc, now. No two ways about it. He gets no lines, and stabs people. That is the whole of the episode's fighting.
At best, we believe that the stark contrast between the film styles used in the episode, those of live action and animation, is a cinematic experiment designed to illustrate the differences between the twin female ninja adopted daughters of Shao Kahn, Kitana and her shark-toothed clone Mileena. The episode is clearly designed to serve as their origin story. At worst... the entire episode's grand shift of a marketing ploy to test fan reaction and judge what kind of approach would make a new theatrical release a viable commodity.
Look, we're not trying to get up on a high horse about the artistic integrity of a video game series that owes its success to being able to rip the heads off people here, alright? However, Tancharoen started out with something he obviously believed in and had thought out well in advance. That purity feels like it is being diluted by a desire to use us as a test audience rather than appreciating the web series as a legitimate artistic work in and of itself... something that the medium could really use. We'll wait to pass judgment until next week when part 2 comes online, but we do not love this change-up so far.
Except for one thing. Thank the elder gods someone decided that, unlike the video games, maybe the girls could wear something to fight in that was not made up of three eye patches. We love boobs and the female form as much as the next guy, but having your Amazons be virtually naked and swinging around razor sharp blades in high heels was getting a bit pervy. Seriously, if you added up the total fabric of the three female ninjas in the latest video game, we couldn't make a dress that would cover our two-year-old.
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Be sure to check out our reviews of previous episodes.