You’ve got to hand it to Warner Brothers Animation; they’ll go there. I recently reviewed the 1995 Mortal Kombat and complained about how video game movies rarely ever capture the thrills gamers experience playing the original arcade game. Ethan Spaulding’s 2020 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge addresses a lot of my complaints.
Real brief. This is once again an origin story of the Mortal Kombat series with an emphasis on Scorpion. Shirai Ryu grandmaster Hanzo Hasashi (Patrick Seitz) witnesses the murder of his clan, wife, child, and himself at Sub-Zero’s (Steve Blum) hands and the Lin Kuei clan. Now relegated to an eternity of torture in the Netherrealm, the Sorcerer Quan Chi (Darin De Paul) offers Hasashi a chance to be resurrected as Scorpion and take revenge against Sub-Zero in exchange for loyalty and to be his representative at the upcoming Mortal Kombat tournament, held only once a generation.
This year’s tournament is significant. If thunder god Lord Raiden and his fighters cannot defeat Netherrealm’s champions, Earth is lost. Representing the forces of good are Liu Kang (Jordan Rodrigues), Johnny Cage (Joel McHale), and Sonya Blade (Jennifer Carpenter). On the other side is Scorpion, syndicate leader Kano (Robin Atkin Downes), Goro (Kevin Michael Richardson), and Sub-Zero.
Quan Chi’s crew is a band of murderous badasses. On the other hand, Lord Raiden’s recruits are tough but have mental weaknesses. They have a little something to learn about themselves. Meanwhile, as Scorpion, Hasashi finds himself conflicted about serving the evil sorcerer.
“…offers Hasashi a chance to be resurrected as Scorpion and take revenge against Sub-Zero…”
Storywise, Scorpion’s Revenge is not bad. In fact, it’s above average for the genre. The tale is essentially the same plot as the original movie but focuses on Scorpion’s quest for revenge. Unlike that film, the story is never jokey, taking a serious approach to Mortal Kombat lore.
The real attraction here is the violence and gore. It leaves nothing to the imagination. Stabbings, quarterings, and dismemberments are on full display and quite graphic. Be ready to take it all in. The Shirai Ryu clan’s massacre is haunting, and yeah, when Sub-Zero warns Hasashi to stand down, or his son will die, there’s no mercy for that poor kid. The movie earns its R rating.
Scorpion’s Revenge is done in the same animation style that Warner Brothers has produced over the past two decades, though utilizing a bit more CGI. It will be familiar to any fan of WB animated shows. It’s clean and clear but has a made for television quality. It makes you wonder about the possibilities of a Pixar-quality computer-animated story. That would be cool.
How does it stand as an adaptation? Does it feel like the game? Yes, for the violence. No, because it’s still a cartoon. Because the original video game consisted of photo-realistic images of the fighters and even a stop-motion puppet for Goro, there is that disconnect between the movie and arcade game. The hand-drawn 2D animation might work for Street Fighter, but not Mortal Kombat. It just falls short of the thrills that only a live-action film can produce.
I’d describe Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge as a comic book adaptation. It’s cool, looks good, and has all my favorite characters. Though it falls short of being a great video game movie, it is definitely a good, above-average adaption. Ironically, this probably puts it in the “best” category. If you’re a true fan of the game and care about backstory, then this is for you.
"…earns its R rating."