When this film was announced I was a mix of excited and confused. I was excited because the prospect of a well-animated Mortal Kombat feature that was rated R could be amazing. I was confused because by the time of its announcement. I was well-aware that a live-action reboot was in production so the timing of it all seemed odd. I know it’s not like they can’t exist simultaneously but still.
I’m a pretty big fan of animated films. I absolutely love all of the DC animated features so seeing that WB Animation was behind the project made me feel confident that it would at least look good. And for the most part it does. It’s not the smoothest animation with all the big budget finesse but I think it’s solid.
In regards to the narrative, it takes an interesting approach. Considering almost 30 years of lore had been fleshed out, the writers really honed in on the story they wanted to tell without trying to cram every character and reference it could find into the film. This is an approach I hope the new film takes as well.
The film focuses on Scorpion’s backstory and journey for redemption while weaving it into the premise of the first Mortal Kombat. It can’t be denied that the film borrows some of its structure from the original live-action film which I’m cool with. That movie is almost 25 years old, and I’m surprised it took this long for a reboot.
In regards to Scorpion, the narrative is mostly faithful to the source material. I say mostly only because it took at least four games for Hanzo Hasashi to learn who was responsible for the death of his family. But this film pulled no punches to the brutality of it all. And to be honest, I was surprised they showed his son die on-screen. I did read that they scaled back the death though. Apparently, they were going to show an icicle pierce through him but decided against it. And it’s not necessary. The scene is heartbreaking enough.
But the story essentially follows familiar beats of our three main heroes plus Raiden, albeit with a variation on their introduction. Joel McHale was made for Johnny Cage, at least the more arrogant version of the character. Not saying he could never do serious material but this version is him all the way. Jennifer Carpenter is good as Sonya, laying down a good tone of badass. Although I couldn’t say she brought anything unique to the table that elevated the character beyond that. The voice actors for Liu Kang and Raiden are fine. They are fairly stoic and one-dimensional, but the end of the film does set up what could be a sequel focused on Liu Kang.
Most of the cast is filled with lesser known voice actors but hearing Steve Blum voice Sub-Zero again was a nice treat. He was the voice for the character in Mortal Kombat X and 11 and he does a great job. Plus, Kevin Michael Richardson reprising his role as Goro once again! See? I told you he was awesome. And Goro gets to be responsible for Jax losing his arms which was a great twist. That would have been a good pun had he twisted the arms off, but alas he went for the pull method.
The fight scenes are done pretty well which should be expected in an animated feature since you can do anything. The gore is everything you ever wanted it to be. In fact, had this been live-action, I think the film would have been slapped with an NC-17 rating with this level of gore. The utilization of the X-ray moves was cool and can really only work in animation. It would either be distracting or ridiculous in live-action. At least in my opinion.
Some of the dialogue is eye-roll inducing but works all the same. One such example is Sonya’s line “fuck with the blade, you’re gonna get cut.” Like it’s so bad but lands for some reason. I did appreciate the myriad of Easter eggs throughout the film. The filmmakers knew they couldn’t touch on everything so they just tossed in little nuggets here and there which I appreciated. The “test you might” area in the dining hall was a nice wink. We got cameos from lesser known fighters like Nitara and Motaro. I’m almost positive the creature torturing Hanzo in the Netherrealm is Moloch from MK5, but I’ve not seen anything to officially confirm that. It looks like him.
This was a fun, breezy take on a familiar story and really makes me hope they look at doing more of these animated films. In fact, each film could take on a particular set of characters and games in the series. Since Scorpion, Sub-Zero and Quan-Chi have had the spotlight, let the next film focus on Liu Kang’s journey as the tournament moves to Outworld. The third could be about Kitana’s history with Shao Kahn, her mother, Mileena and so on as Kahn invades Earth. Just a suggestion I have that will hopefully come to fruition in some way.