Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge wants to have its cake and eat it when it comes to telling a compelling origin story and retelling the classic tournament tale, but it has enough blood-soaked martial arts action to be a good time nonetheless.
The live-action Mortal Kombat movies are legendary so-bad-they’re-amazing relics from a bygone era, and there’s a case to be made that all game-to-film adaptations should be just like them. Alas, that isn’t possible, so we’ll instead have to suffice with Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, the first MK adventure to be produced at Warner Bros. Animation, and a film that takes itself slightly more seriously than its classic predecessors. Nevertheless, it isn’t quite serious enough to be dull, even if its attempts to fuse an origin story for a long-time fan-favorite character with the classic Earthrealm vs Outworld martial arts tournament is a case of trying to have one’s cake and eat it. Or, this being Mortal Kombat, stamp the cake into pieces.
Things start promisingly enough, with a grisly opening in which Hanzo Hasashi (Patrick Seitz) is forced to witness his wife and child be brutally murdered at the hands of Sub-Zero (Steve Blum) and the Lin Kuei clan before he’s eventually offered a tantalizing deal by the sorcerer Quan Chi (Darin De Paul) and rechristened Scorpion, the skull-faced fire-breathing Hell ninja who just wants people to get close to him – though admittedly for rather unpleasant reasons. He’s sent to the island where Shang Tsung (Artt Butler) is hosting a martial arts tournament between representatives of both Earthrealm and Outworld, though it’s naturally rigged in favor of the hosts so that they can secure a coveted and world-subsuming tenth victory on the bounce.
Earthrealm is well represented by the usual suspects: Thunder God Raiden (Dave B. Mitchell), noble warrior Liu Kang (Jordan Rodrigues), no-nonsense military lady Sonya Blade (Jennifer Carpenter), and failing movie star Johnny Cage (Joel McHale). Together they’re up against a litany of Outworld cameos – Goro (Kevin Michael Richardson)! Kano (Robin Atkin Downes)! Baraka! – and the sneaky politicking of Quan Chi and Shang Tsung, not to mention their own internal rivalries and the titular revenge of Scorpion, whose personal lust for retribution threatens to upend the whole tournament.
This is, naturally, a bit much to grapple with in an 80-minute movie, and so both primary components feel a bit underserved. Beyond Scorpion’s endless immortal badassery you never really get a sense of what his personal loss cost him or what it means for him to sacrifice more and more of his humanity in order to enact his revenge; and on the other side of things, all the wider world-building is sped through at a breakneck pace to the detriment of heroes and villains alike, and the relationships between some of these characters – some of which, like the budding romance between Sonya and Johnny Cage, are integral to the franchise – feel notably thin.
But, a question: Does anybody care that much? If you’re here, you’re probably here for a few very specific things, all of which Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge reliably provides. Insanely violent fight scenes? Check. A wealth of character cameos and other nods to the series’ history and mythology for the benefit of longstanding fans? Check. An irreverent and knowing sense of humor? Check. These things are integral to the franchise’s identity and this film doesn’t skimp on them, so at the very least it embodies Mortal Kombat’s off-the-wall self-deprecating spirit.
If we’re being frank, Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge isn’t a great film even by the standards it sets for itself, but it’s plenty of fun all the same – an energetically gory and entertaining fan-service vehicle with enough bone-crunching action to satisfy. Not a flawless victory, but a win nonetheless.
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