Mortal Kombat: Conquest

MKConquestPaolo Montalban as Kung Lao
Daniel Bernhardt as Siro
Kristanna Loken as Taja
Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung
Tracy Douglas as Vorpax
Jeff Meek as Raiden and Shao Kahn

Gamers have long accepted that it is a cold fact of life that movies based on video games, with like three or four exceptions in all these years, suck. However, this does not hold true for TV. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and its two sequels modeled after later games have generally been well-received by fans. So have a number of the various Sonic shows. Actually, they’re pretty much the one thing the blue hedgehog’s had going for him on what has otherwise been a road to Hell.

MKConquest1

Or maybe just the prison that Shang Tsung was banished to for much of this show.

In short, while TV hasn’t had as many adaptations of games as the big screen the gap in quality between the TV and movie attempts beg the question: why not?

Mortal Kombat was not as successful here. I thought the first movie was quite good. Alas, the sequel was terrible and bombed at the box office. In between these movies a kids’ show came out that would probably be hated if more people had actually seen it. I, myself, have seen exactly one full episode and not a second or any other. Suprisingly, a second shot at a Mortal Kombat show was taken. And while this one wasn’t particularly successful either, I have to view it as quite underrated. Watching it as a teenager, I found it to be a very effective combination of drama and martial arts action. This is a belief I still hold.

MKConquest2

I’ve never been this tense except when I was playing video games like those this show is based on.

Mortal Kombat: Conquest is a prequel to the first film. The first episode begins with the original Kung Lao (ancestor of Liu Kang) defeating Shang Tsung to Win the Mortal Kombat tournament. While Shang Tsung is punished by Outworld Emperor Shao Kahn for failing to win Earthrealm through tournament battle (in the movie it was pointed out that this was necessary for Kahn to legally enter our realm) by being banished to the Kobalt Mines (prison), Kung Lao is preparing to live the rest of his life with girlfriend Jen. But Raiden, thunder god and protector of Earth, tells him that must prepare for the next tournament, and that he has been granted the gift of not aging a day until he is killed in a battle. Not wanting to give up his love, Kung Lao isn’t sure what to do. As it turns out, the decision is made for him when Shang Tsung, in one of the many secret escapes from the Mines and attempts at revenge he makes throughout the series, fails to kill Kung Lao but does slay Jen. Kung Lao realizes not only that his decision has been made for him but also that he should have killed Shang Tsung when he had the chance. In the process of foiling Shang Tsung’s attempt at revenge, Kung Lao does meet two other warriors, a former thief named Taja and a former bodyguard named Siro. They are Kung Lao’s allies as he awaits Shang Tsung again in the next tournament, but he must defend himself from the forces of Outworld in the meantime.

The acting is surprisingly solid, especially Bruce Locke as Shang Tsung. Locke makes a perfect villain: power-hungry, vengeful, cruel, and determined. With the background of a tragic and reluctant hero, Kung Lao shows the right mix of sadness and determination. A pre-Terminator 3 Kristanna Loken also does a good job as a reformed thief. The only letdown is Daniel Bernhardt as Siro. He never shows any emotion. He just speaks plainly no matter how the script says he should react. As a result, he’s the show’s low point.

I actually liked this character as a teenager. Harder to do so now that I notice acting.

I actually liked this character as a teenager. Harder to do so now that I notice Bernhardt’s acting.

The show has a pretty simple formula for quite some time. Then plot twists emerge with a mystery or two. I won’t give anything away for anyone wanting to check out the DVD set on Netflix, or wherever, except to say that there are some interesting turns, especially in its late stages. It’s really too bad that this show wasn’t renewed for a second season. The result is that it ends with a cliffhanger that is never resolved. No doubt there’s been some awful fan-fic that tried to explain how the series could have continued, though.

In conclusion, this is a worthwhile TV series that does justice to Mortal Kombat. Just don’t expect much of an ending.

Overall: 7 out of 10

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