The makers of DC’s Animated Universe let Mortal Kombat begin
While the Mortal Kombat video game series is largely known for its ultraviolence and devastating finishing moves, its world is somewhat unappreciated as a wild mashup of genres and characters with a sprawling mythology.
Paul W. S. Anderson’s 1995 filmed adaptation played for the most part like a very fun but weightless remake of Enter The Dragon, adapting the first game in the series which centers on a martial arts tournament. Since then, the video game franchise has soldiered on through numerous iterations, each adding layers of world-building to an increasingly large and varied cast of characters. 2011’s modernized game remake Mortal Kombat (aka MK9, the first game developed by Warner Bros after acquiring the property from Midway) reinvented the franchise for HD consoles, taking nearly two decades of story evolution and remaking the original arcade games as a cohesive, unified narrative within a deep story mode.
WB Animation’s new film Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge performs a similar re-introduction on the movie front. Whereas Anderson’s movie adapted a hot new video game franchise, this new version of the same story comes from a place of familiarity with the wider established canon, working with a much larger cast of characters and taking further stylization and story elements from the games, which themselves have become much more sophisticated and cinematic.
As in the 1995 film, the trio of Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage partner up as the representatives of Earthrealm in the Mortal Kombat tournament. But this time the narrative’s perspective shifts focus to the character of Scorpion, a tragic figure who returns from death to avenge his murdered family, and his feud with nemesis Sub-Zero.
Probably the first question anyone will have when considering any new Mortal Kombat film is whether the graphic violence is present. Anderson’s PG-13 film toned down the gore to appeal to mainstream audiences, and its live action combat, while fantastical, hewed closer to conventional martial arts than the game’s outrageous and acrobatic special moves. In the lower-stakes world of DTV animation, the franchise is afforded far more freedom.
Is the extreme violence a factor here? The answer is a big yes, with one key difference. The movie is full of special character moves, lacerations, eviscerations, beheadings and limb removals, nut-punches, bone-crunching, impalement, x-ray blows, familiar finishing moves, and all that sort of thing. However, whereas the game violence clearly aims to be pointedly gratuitous and mean-spirited, here the battles carry narrative weight and the violence serves a purpose.
The animation, made by the same folks behind the DC Animated Universe, looks great and is very dynamic. The stylization is sort of a “Mignola meets Tartakovsky” aesthetic, with hard-edged angular stylized character designs.
The film is traditional 2-D animation, but during action and fight scenes the camera effortlessly operates in 3-D space, and character movements can take on anime-like distortion and perspective — it looks really great.
I’m not sure if the fan-service packed Scorpion’s Revenge will hold much appeal for viewers who aren’t fans of the franchise (optimistically, I think so, as it’s narratively self-contained and starts things from the beginning), but for anyone who enjoys the games, this is definitely a terrific and reverent addition and expansion of the franchise you love.
Scorpion’s Revenge is available now in both 4K and Blu-ray packages. I personally picked up the Target exclusive Blu-ray Steelbook, so that’s serving as the basis for my review.
Special Features and Extras
- The Savage Sound Design of MKL (3:44)
The sound team goes nuts on all things booming, crunchy and squishy, while incorporating the familiar sound design of the games.
- Mortal Kombatants (4:36)
The cast of Mortal Kombat is a weird one full of a lot of varied characters — ninjas, soldiers, monsters, sorcerers, elementals, cyborgs, and demons. This featurette covers thoughts on a handful of the most interesting characters.
- The Weapons, Wardrobe, and World of MKL (7:08)
Production design of the environments and props
- MKL: From Epic Game to Extreme Animation (4:57)
Thoughts on the game’s trademark violence and translating it to an animated feature
- Trailers — Batman: Hush (1:48), Wonder Woman: Bloodlines (1:43), Superman: Red Son (1:45), Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (1:32), Birds of Prey (2:28)
Get it at Amazon:
If you enjoy reading Cinapse, purchasing items through our affiliate links can tip us with a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.