Directed by: Ethan Spaulding
Written by: Jeremy Adams
Starring: Joel McHale, Jennifer Carpenter, Jordan Rodrigues, Patrick Seitz, Steve Blum, Artt Butler, Darin De Paul, Robin Atkin Downes, David B. Mitchell, Ike Amadi, Kevin Michael Richardson, Grey Griffin, Fred Tatasciore
Reviewed by: Eric Joseph
Well in advance of next year’s live action silver screen reboot, the Mortal Kombat franchise finally makes its return to the realm of animation – and it’s about time. Though a fair amount of you may have some recollection of the Defenders of the Realm animated series, it’s the 1995 feature-length animated flick Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins which springs to my mind whenever a discussion such as this comes up. It’s somehow fallen through the cracks of history, as it was never properly released on any format other than VHS. Well, it was included as bonus content for the first live action Mortal Kombat flick’s Blu-ray release, but that’s not quite the same.
This time, the same talented folks at WB Animation who bring us those DC direct-to-video movies we love so much have taken a stab at the beloved fighting game series. To be succinct, they’ve adapted the events of the initial tournament depicted in the original video game, only with a modern spin on it. But unlike The Journey Begins, it can’t be filed under “guilty pleasure.”
On the one hand, some viewers may come away with that “been there, done that” feeling. Believe me, I understand why, because the original Mortal Kombat has always served as the jumping off point for nearly every adaptation in other media, be it the motion pictures listed above, or the novelization penned by Jeff Rovin and released in 1995 (yeah, that was a big year for this brand).
But on the other hand, the filmmakers have implanted many surprises along the way. The narrative may hit most of the familiar beats as not to stray from hallowed canon, sure, but a fair amount of the focus is placed on fan favorite Scorpion, thereby allowing us to breathe some fresh air away from the usually exploited quartet of Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Raiden. The tournament’s actual conclusion itself is presented in a such a manner that I was able to accept it as both something already established and fresh; a fine balance is indeed achieved.
Something else I found myself quite pleased with was that of the wide array of characters included. Although the usual suspects are at the forefront, we’re treated to cameos from Kombatants spanning the entire series, including Motaro, Baraka and even Nitara. More than a few viewers may be surprised to see Quan Chi playing such a big role this early on.
Of course, you’re probably wondering where the violence level is at, and I promise that it’s off the charts. To be quite honest, this is probably the most violent animated movie I’ve ever seen; the blood spurts, amputations and X-ray bone fractures are presented in all of their gory glory, affirming this isn’t one for the kids.
When it comes to bonus content, four featurettes are available for consumption. While not entirely lengthy, they are decently informative, profiling the main characters and shedding light on how various aspects of the production came together, including character and setting designs, as well as sound.
If anything put me off, it was that the voice acting can be a little too over the top at many points. While the visuals are somewhat inspired by anime, the delivery of dialogue is overdone more than I’d prefer. Very few of the characters were given the subtle treatment in the recording booth, and I’m sorry, but that can sometimes take me right out of the story.
You’ll probably find it odd that I’m going to mention the violence in both the positive and negative sections of this review. Despite not being squeamish myself, the cartoonish ultraviolence often became just that. I’m not sure how much time passes between people getting chopped like carrots, but it’s never too long. Furthermore, I’ve concluded that nobody in this universe depicted can even do something as simple as washing their hands without getting a compound fracture. Eli Roth will need several changes of clean pants if he’s ever to watch this.
Let’s get one thing perfectly clear: although Scorpion’s Revenge isn’t a perfect movie, it’s probably the closest thing we’ve ever received to a perfect adaptation of Mortal Kombat outside of the video game medium. I, for one, hope this Legends series is granted more entries in the coming years, as I’m very anxious to see other tales get similar treatment. After all, this franchise has been around for 28 years, and that means there’s a generous amount of material to mine.