The Mortal Kombat franchise has been adapted for the screen since the early days of the franchise, including to attempts to tell the games’ story in animated form. The first animated take was Mortal Kombat: The Journey Begins, a tie-in to the first live-action movie, that included weak hand-drawn animations and segments of embarrassingly early CGI. A few years later, we got a season of Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, a Saturday morning cartoon that acted as a quasi-sequel to the live-action movie. It was below average but had its moments.
Quality aside, what linked those two attempts at cartoon kombat was that they were meant for a young crowd and therefore went against the usual blood and gore Mortal Kombat is known for. Rather than throw a harpoon into his opponents’ chest, Scorpion would just throw a rope or chain and wrap his enemy into a cocoon like he’s Spider-Man. Nobody got stabbed and nobody ever broke skin.
Even the live-action movies were a bit cleaner than many would have preferred. Sure, we got Johnny Cage slicing Scorpion’s head apart with a shield and a couple of impalings, but we didn’t get to see any torn spines or chunks of brain.
The latest animated movie, Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, at least looks better than the other attempts at Mortal Kombat cartoons. Besides, it’s by Warner Bros. Animation, which just gave us that kickass Shredder vs. Batman fight from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover movie.
What separates this animated movie from the other movies and cartoons is that this will have an R-rating. At Final Kombat 2020, series co-creator Ed Boon showed off the red band trailer and we got to see a world where everyone who doesn’t have plot armor has a skeleton made of balsa wood, skin as strong as newspaper, and 30 gallons of blood to spill.
The cast not only includes Joel McHale as Johnny Cage (the best casting), as well as various voice actors reprise their roles from the more recent games. We also have Kevin Michael Richardson once again supply the voice of Goro, as he did in the original film.
The story appears to be a retelling of the first Mortal Kombat game. This story has already been retold in the first live-action movie, the story mode for Mortal Kombat 9, and presumably the new live-action movie coming out later this year. Mortal Kombat Legends tells the story from Scorpion’s point of view. Hanzo Hasashi acts as the protagonist of Shang Tsung’s ominous tournament, even if Liu Kang is the hero destined to win it all.
This is a wonderful contrast to the live-action film, because as much as it kicked ass, it was rather annoying to have Shang Tsung handwave the roles of the warring ninjas with, “Yeah, they hate each other, but I’ve turned them into my slaves so they only exist for fight scenes.” I get that the cast was bloated enough, but he’s still the marquee character.
Also nice that Scorpion is actually piercing people with his spear this time around and not…whatever that hand creature was. It still boggles my mind that Paul W.S. Anderson decided that Scorpion had a CGI Piranha Plant inside his hand and we all shrugged and went with it. We were that in love with the fresh concept of CGI effects, I guess.
Oh, and there’s lots of cursing in the animated movie, too. Sure, I can get behind that as a novelty, but they’re never going to top that moment in Mortal Kombat X when Bo’ Rai Cho called the Predator an “ugly motherfucker.”
Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge comes out on digital on April 12 and April 28 on Blu-ray.