Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge Review – Flawless Victory
Directed by: Ethan Spaulding
Starring: Joel McHale, Jennifer Carpenter, Steve Blum, Patrick Seitz, and Jordan Rodrigues
Written by: Jeremy Adams
Video game to film adaptations are in a better place than they have ever been before. Between Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog, video game movies are becoming a far cry from the joke they were in the early ’90s and late ‘2000s, where each new one was almost guaranteed to be a disaster. Animation, however, has bucked this trend for decades. While live-action video game adaptations struggled, animated movies based on these beloved franchises thrived. Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie is arguably still the best video game to film adaptation regardless of being live-action or animated. But its rival franchise, Mortal Kombat, has ironically been the opposite. The first Mortal Kombat movie was the first, and arguably only until very recently, good video game to film adaptation. Unlike others of its time, it did not shy away from its source material, was faithful to it, and prioritized putting real martial artists in the leading roles to deliver on what makes Mortal Kombat great, the fights. While its other live-action adaptations are less fondly remembered (the less said about Mortal Kombat: Annihilation the better…) Mortal Kombat has surprisingly never achieved success in animation, a medium it seems perfectly suited for. Only boasting one notoriously terrible Saturday morning cartoon, MK seemed to just never have a chance to shine in animation.
So when a few months ago, DC Animation, the house behind the various DC Animated features, announced a brand new animated Mortal Kombat movie, many fans were understandably excited at the possibility. Would this film be able to deliver on what made Mortal Kombat beloved around the world, or would it be dragged down to the level of… “Kombat Time”? Thankfully that isn’t the case as Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge is everything great about the Mortal Kombat franchise. It is fast, kinetic, stuffed with great action, and unapologetically violent.
The film begins with the backstory of Hanzo Hasashi, aka Scorpion. We then get the setup for the rest of the film, a retelling of the story from the first Mortal Kombat game. Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, and Sonya Blade are recruited by Raiden to fight in the Mortal Kombat tournament on Shang Tsung’s island to prevent the invasion of Outworld. While the premise is similar, the story ends up taking a different route to that same destination, making it interesting enough for fans who already know this story like the back of their hand. Characters from later games are introduced earlier and in different roles than the games, most notably Quan Chi. This keeps the story fresh and interesting, even for MK veterans.
The animation is also spectacular. The character models sport a more block-shaped type of figure, something more akin to the recent DC animated films, but this is broken up by moments of frenetic action that warp and distort the animation, approaching something more akin to Kill la Kill or Gurren Lagann than anything with Batman or Superman in it. Add to that brief flashes of “X-Ray” attacks that, just like Mortal Kombat X and 11, will zoom in to certain attacks so you can see bones breaking, eyeballs splitting, and all the other gory gruesomeness that makes MK what it is. It is spectacular to see and makes what could have been very drab, by the numbers action scenes far more dynamic and kinetic than expected.
The voice cast is also spectacular. Even though the only returning cast members from the most recent games are Steve Blum as Sub-Zero, and Patrick Seitz as Scorpion. Which makes sense because those two are perfect in their roles, and at this point, hearing anyone else behind the blue and yellow masks would be too offputting. The main cast, however, sports all-new voice talent like Jennifer Carpenter as Sonya Blade, Jordan Rodrigues as Liu Kang, and the absolute stand out, Joel McHale as Johnny Cage. Who is perfectly cast as the witless, self-absorbed, Van Damme spoof. The whole cast does an amazing job and breathes life into these recognizable and beloved characters.
The film isn’t without some faults, however. At a brisk 80 minutes, the film blazes through the story, getting through each character’s setup and motivation in about 15 minutes. Before you know it, the first round of the tournament has already started. While this does help us get to the action a lot quicker, even some of the fight scenes feel a tad too rushed. Johnny’s encounter with his first opponent barely lasts as long as his introduction did, and Liu Kang’s fight with Kitana is so brief, you’d be forgiven for forgetting it even happened. Considering how some of the more recent DC animated films have sported runtimes much longer than necessary, I would have much preferred Mortal Kombat Legends getting an extra 10 or 15 minutes to play around with its characters. The animation, while still outstanding, isn’t without its shortcuts either. Some scenes stick out as goofy, while others are clearly static for the sake of saving the animation budget. Even though it makes up for it where it matters, or in fact because of it, these small instances stick out even more.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge is a treat for fans of the Mortal Kombat franchise, adult animated features, and kung fu films in general. I sincerely hope we get to see more of MK from WB Animation. I would love to see the original MK trilogy redone in a series of films in this style.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge is as bloody, fun, and over the top as the games they come from. A brief, but incredibly enjoyable romp through the story of Mortal Kombat 1 with fantastic animation and a stellar voice cast.