Sweet Tasting Reciprocity
Basing a film on video games doesn't have to be negative. For example, the exaggerated camp caused by Street Fighter (1994) was joyful. There was no escaping how wonderfully Raul Julia played General Bison. Actually, this final performance was dedicated to his kids.
Far more violent in presentation and graphic quality, Mortal Kombat united gamers and divided others. On one hand, players spanning all ages, sexes and backgrounds found escapism in the gory fighting. This angered politicians and parents concerned that the video game culture was filling the minds of kids with violent imagery, which they might act upon. However, that's for another discussion.
Specifically, the direct to DVD animated feature Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge doesn't entirely sidestep the ultra-violent punchline. However, such bone shattering effects are not the raison d'Ítre. Unlike Constantine: City of Demons which was a plague of mindless barbarism, the 2020 Mortal Kombat film has other ambitions. Also, it's quite funny.
Crucially, director Ethan Spaulding has designed this project with fans and newcomers in mind. As such, humour and well-defined characters are prioritised. Essentially, the fate of the world rests upon several brave warriors. Arriving at the designated island, celebrity Johnny Cage (voiced by Joel McHale), soldier Sonya Blade (voiced by Jennifer Carpenter) and Liu Kang (voiced by Jordan Rodrigues) must compete in a tournament. If Shang Tsung (voiced by Artt Butler) and his horrible minions succeed, it's game over. But that's only half the story. Another major catalyst involves Scorpion (voiced by Patrick Seitz) who desires revenge for the annihilation of his people and family.
Regarding animation, Mortal Kombat Legend: Scorpion's Revenge continues the high quality work established by titles in the DC lineup, including Wonder Woman and Son of Batman. Backgrounds are varied, well-lit and convey different effects. For instance, one fight on a crumbling tower has what appears to be a charcoal rendering on the walls. This adds an atmospheric dimension.
Long time fans will find more to like in this animated offering compared to the 1995 film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson. The concept lends itself to animation due to greater fluidity of motion. This allows the suspension of disbelief to be sustained much longer. Therefore, wire work and cartwheels prove no match for the artist's pen.
Meanwhile, the funniest lines belong to Johnny Cage, though it's important not to forget the others. More than once Sonya makes Johnny pay dearly for his advances. Indeed, the characters in Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge resonate with incendiary charisma. If you can look past the blood, then an altogether more enlightened experience awaits you.
A poem to close:
From a Mortal Kombat game
to a film without shame.
For Scorpion, there was only one path.
A road to ultimate wrath.
Johnny Cage enjoys a good pageant,
sipping martinis while taking tips from his agent.
When he discovers the spectacle isn't fake,
drastic measures he will take.
With Earth Realm under threat,
and stormy tides set,
the tone can be fragile.
Moves and countermoves so volatile.
The editing proved elastic
like some beautiful plastic.
Music was there and gone.
Getting the job done.
Johnny Cage was funny.
His interactions with Sonya Blade simply... honey.
Such colours reshape and glisten
for this student can listen.
(Released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Rated "R" by MPAA.)