Monday, May 18, 2020

Review: The first animated Mortal Kombat movie comes out swinging

Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge Review
It has arrived to us at last. Our first animated Mortal Kombat movie. Would you be surprised if I told you that its probably the Mortal Kombat movie I like the most?

Is it perfect? Nope.

Did I dig it regardless? I sure did!

Once upon a time in 2010, Kevin Tancharoen made the short film "Mortal Kombat Rebirth." Which treated Mortal Kombat like "The Dark Knight," it was a darker, grittier, more realistic take on the material and it was surprisingly pretty cool. At least I thought so at the time. I went through a stage where I thought "dark and realistic" was cool and should be applied to everything. What's odd about "Mortal Kombat" is that it tip-toes between serious and silly, which probably why the two live-action movies haven;t been that well received. Even though for me personally, there's some guilty pleasure in the first film. Once Kevin Tancharoen made in impression with his short film, he got the chance to make a TV show, which felt like the movies in tone and style, leaving me a bit bummed.

This new animated film by Warner Bros. seems to hit the right tone on the head. It doesn't shy away from the extreme violence that the video game is known for, but its also dramatic in its development. It also takes the story in a different direction, which allows the film to both have success and failure. One of the things the short film by Tancharoen hinted at was the idea of a movie with Scorpion as the main character. In the games, its always seemed like "Mortal Kombat" was Lui Kang's story, so making a movie revolving around one of the most badass anti-heroes in all of gaming was pretty cool. In the opening moments, we see the popular sequence of how Scorpion came to be, with his family being killed by what he thinks is Sub-Zero's ninja clan and he gets his powers in the Netherrealm (pretty much Hell). It's bloody spectacular from the start.

Lui Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade all do eventually show up. They all feel straight out of the video game. Joel McHale provides the voice acting from Cage, and its such a perfect combination of voice and character that I simply wanted to applaud. They are introduced quickly and by the time they land in Outworld for the big tournament, things move at such an accelerating pace that it almost feels like you're watching a short film. The movie moves so fast, that we don't really feel why the tournament is that important to begin with. Maybe I just wanted more time with all the action, which was pretty good for an animated movie, but the most important element of the movie moves so fast that it almost doesn't feel like Mortal Kombat.

I'll admit it upfront, I am not a huge gamer. I certainly like to play them, but only a few series' have ever struck me so hard that I would consider myself obsessed with them. But Mortal Kombat has appealed to me in such an extreme way all my life. I love this world and I love these characters. With that said, I can't really believe the treatment of Lui Kang here. In the games, Lui Kang is the champion of Mortal Kombat, because he's the best fighter. In this movie, without giving anything away, he sort of just fumbles into the top spot. I know its Scorpion's story at the end of the day, but they still could have made it his story without totally diminishing another character in the process. I know its probably bad film criticism on my part to let my bias show here, but I'm being honest. They do Kang dirty here.

At the end of the day, there is enough extreme crazy to keep fans of the series happy. The violence gets so off-the-rails that I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. This is a cool movie that doesn't really have the strange script goofs the live action movies did. I hope the upcoming Mortal Kombat movie feels like this one in style.

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