Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge is a direct-to-video R-rated animated movie based on the Mortal Kombat franchise created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The film was released on April 14, 2020 through digital outlets, and on April 28, 2020, the 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray sets were released. The movie centers on Scorpion's origins and path to redemption while also reintroducing Shang Tsung's tournament and the realms of Mortal Kombat for long time and brand new fans alike. In addition to Scorpion, Legends also follows the stories of other staples of the franchise like Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax, Liu Kang, Raiden, Quan Chi and guest stars so many others like Sub-Zero, Goro, Kano, Reptile, Kitana, and Baraka.
Mortal Kombat Legends reinvents the franchise with a new continuity that may put off purists but it works for the better rather than rehashing what we've seen before in past live action and animation titles or in the games themselves. Even with Scorpion, he is cast in a different light. Far from the revenge driven Boogieman character, Scorpion is cast in a more morally ambiguous light drawing from familiar archetypes such as Lone Wolf and Cub where a man in the profession of death watches as his clan and family are slaughtered and he's put on a hellish path of vengeance yet still yearns for his past life to be restored all the while, his interactions with other characters like Raiden tip him towards a more redemptive end. Or even just in the Mortal Kombat franchise, this Scorpion's story has perhaps ironic parallels with the Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero video game. As someone who has only played one or two games and seen the live action movies, I was pleasantly surprised to see Scorpion and Sub-Zero's roles swapped around and watching Scorpion be more fully fleshed out a character than I ever remember.
Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, and Liu Kang also gave their own role to play in the movie. By not making it solely about Scorpion, the movie is all the more enriched and layered with characters on their own paths to self-actualization. Liu Kang already starts the movie knowing he is "the Chosen One" meant to save Earthrealm from Shang Tsung and Shao Kahn's plans to merge realms and take control of the new world created by Tsung's tenth victory. But in a surprising move, Kang fails to defeat Tsung's champion Goro and win the tournament – leaving him ripe for a redemptive arc should there be another movie. Sonya moved up the ranks and fought for her place in her military unit in the standard male-dominated world and is chosen for an elite task force only to watch as her partner Jax is brutally maimed by Goro (and put up with Cage). Johnny goes through a path of discovery and learns there's something else to fight for beside himself or trivial pursuits like fame.
Mortal Kombat has always been immensely rich in detail and lore and Mortal Kombat Legends is no different. There are easter eggs, references, and hints at the larger world such as the Elder Gods, Shinnok, the Lin Kuei, and Shao Kahn or small appearances by famous characters to set up bigger roles in a hypothetical sequel like Kitana. The ending itself paves the way for a loose adaptation of Mortal Kombat 2 with Shao Kahn declaring war. There's also a lot of amazing homages to the franchise like certain character's special moves and fatalities like Scorpion's finishing off Quan Chi or Liu Kang's battle against Goro. A lot of locations are ripped straight out of the game in addition into some new ones that fit right in like the collapsing fortress Johnny fights Baraka in. The hat tips aren't limited to the game, keen eyes will see a lot of homages to classic American and international martial arts movies as well as certain anime like Ninja Scroll and One-Punch Man.
Instead of structuring the movie like one of the video games going from one one-on-one fight to the next, Mortal Kombat Legends correctly takes its cues from past martial arts movies that involve a tournament on an island hosted by a big bad like Enter The Dragon, and let's the movie breathe. It really isn't until 40 minutes into the movie when the Mortal Kombat tournament even starts. The opening scene isn't really even typical MK fanfare and presents Scorpion in his past life as a doting father, all the while keeping it on the sly that he is a master assassin who's probably taken many lives, teaching his son a life lesson by observing a conflict among some insects only for his world to be turned upside down. Even after Scorpion's origin story is finished, time is dedicated to opening up the world of the movie and introducing the rest of the main cast and presenting their story and goals. The tournament itself isn't a series of unending fights and there are side quests and team up battles like, Scorpion's search for the key to release Shinnok, the Black Dragons melee or Johnny and Sonya teaming up to fight the creatures released by Kano. The people behind this movie really took the opportunity to not make a rinse and repeat facsimile of what's come before and made their own and genuine interpretation of the franchise with much respect and reverence for the source material.
The direction of the movie also takes the franchise to a new point of view. Rather than the side to side aspect of the games, the fight scenes experiment with new angles and even a bird's eye POV to add to the non-stop action and violence in order to give a bit more life and dynamic feel to what's going on since we're passively participating instead of using a game controller. Yet, there's also adherence to the 90s era mix of over the top violence and adult humor that makes Mortal Kombat what it is. The slightly buffed up character designs oddly lend well to the insane fighting, killing, and maiming that goes on in the movie while still respecting classic costumes from the games. Kudos to the sound team for all the varied FX they had to create for the deaths, blood, bones breaking, and limb pulling moments. In terms of the voice cast, it was surprising to see some voices reprised from the games like Patrick Seitz as Scorpion or new comers that fit into a role like a glove such as Joel McHale as Johnny Cage. Jordan Rodrigues gets an honorable mention for all the hyper Bruce Lee-esque utterances he gives as he unleashes his attacks. The special features were an excellent range that explores different aspects like adapting the franchise, the cast of characters, the sound effects, designing the wardrobe and weapons, and a commentary track with writer Jeremy Adams and producer Rick Morales.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge weaves Scorpion's surprisingly illuminating tale of vengeance and redemption amid the back drop of the non-stop action and gratuitous violence of a martial arts tournament that decides the fate of Earth and the universe. A love letter to the franchise and 28 years of content, Legends also paves new territory with an original take that sets up a potential animated franchise.
Rating: 8 out of 10