The texture of Mortal Kombat in the mainstream has always played clean even though the video games themselves were, many times, extremely violent. But older video games as they were done could make it a little more palatable. The new “Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpions Revenge” pulls the gloves off in a great way. Like the new progression of “Harley Quinn” the new angles of Warner Brothers Animation, in this regard, go back to the best styles of anime combined with that inherent American sensibility. This film is brash, brutal and vicious. It is not for the faint of heart and you have to have the stomach for the gore it brings. But within that context, it you like the animation sequence in “Kill Bill Vol 1”, amp that up a little bit and you have this progression. The story is one that feeds well into the Mortal Kombat story, that of revenge. In this retelling and texture, it is Scorpion, whose child and wife are taken from him violently much like Maximus in “Gladiator, that fuels the core of the story. The peril of this beginning sequence in the snow is beautiful and sets the stakes for the rest of the film.
Like “The Odyssey” or “Dante’s Inferno”, Scorpion must make a deal with the devil in order to pursue his vengeance. It is a dark path but the introduction of Liu Kang, Sonya and Johnny Cage with Raiden leading them gives the story connection and balance. The Sonya and Johnny Cage angle plays into old tropes but feels organic. This is balanced because once they get into the fight arena the tone has a little bit of a “Big Trouble In Little China” feel which reflects how that remake would have worked with The Rock playing in that world (as was rumored years ago). This levity gives it a slight respite from the action which is what this tome is truly about. The brutality, as it goes on, is visceral but grounded because of Scorpion’s loss in the beginning. The cut-aways to bone cracking also sells the disjointed humanity in realistic terms that you don’t often see in animation, even in anime. This balance feels distinctly American and gritty despite the origin of the IP. This Mortal Kombat is the new thought process and it feels right though a tad extreme for the uninitiated.
By Tim Wassberg