It's easy to look at Mortal Kombat as just a series of flashy Fatalities and unique fighter designs, but its character relationships and interconnected stories have a surprising depth to them. If you find fighting games to be a barrier of entry, whether because of skill-based reasons or a lack of interest in the genre, it can be difficult to connect with the franchise. Enter Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge, the new hard-R animated film from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment that's both an excellent introduction to the series and a relentless collection of references and eye-catching moments for longtime Mortal Kombat fans.
As the name of the new animated film from Warner Bros., NetherRealm Studios, and director Ethan Spaulding suggests, Scorpion's Revenge is mostly about Scorpion, the poster boy for Mortal Kombat who slings fire and harpoon-like kunai weapons in his quest for vengeance. He's got beef with Sub-Zero, another core Mortal Kombat character in the film, and encounters numerous other Mortal Kombat fan-favorites during a tournament to decide the fate of the realms.
If this all sounds a bit familiar, that's because it is. Scorpion's Revenge sticks closely to the classic Mortal Kombat formula while moving some things around to make sure there's something there for newcomers and veterans. The puzzle fits together in a way we're used to, but the pieces are different enough to change up the story without leaving anyone behind.
Though the formula for Scorpion's Revenge doesn't change much, the animation style and the unchained potential of an animated film makes a world of difference in showing what the fighters are capable of. Visceral finishers and x-ray executions aren't limited by a character having one or two Fatalities like they are in a game, so the fighters are free to make the fights as brutal as possible. Heads split and bones snap at an alarming pace, and every time you wonder if Scorpion's Revenge is actually going to go there, it does, and usually takes it one step beyond. If you're here for the trademark violence and memorable moves from each character's arsenal, you won't be disappointed.
The true-to-franchise gore scattered in Scorpion's Revenge is only amplified by the Saturday morning cartoon vibes given off by its balance of humor and quick swaps between characters' sub-stories. Though Scorpion's story is more serious throughout, the quips between supporting characters like Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade, the facial animations, and their reactions to situations can lure you into forgetting you're watching a Mortal Kombat movie right up until someone gets their spine ripped out.
It's those asides from Scorpion's story of revenge that keeps things fresh and lively in the Mortal Kombat film, but the attention required to give each character their dues is also one of the things that weighs Scorpion's Revenge down in parts. You can't have a movie called "Scorpion's Revenge" without focusing on Scorpion and you can't have a Mortal Kombat movie without incorporating more members of the franchise's roster, at least not one that we've seen yet. Juggling these characters and their relationships adds a certain business to the film that feels unavoidable given what needs to be shown. The necessity of packing as much into an hour and 20 minutes is likely why the movie moves at such a brisk pace and gets right to the action so quickly, but it feels like it could have benefitted from an extra half-hour of content without dragging on too long.
If Scorpion's Revenge was a testing of the waters to see what an animated Mortal Kombat series could look like, it's a promising start. The creativity of Mortal Kombat's brutal moves naturally benefits from animation, and talented castings for characters like Joel McHale as Johnny Cage and Jennifer Carpenter as Sonya Blade make the most of their roles by expertly capturing the essence of the fighters. Should there be more to the animated films in the future, the continuation is rightfully earned in Scorpion's Revenge.
Rating: 4 out of 5