Of all video games, Mortal Kombat is one of the most horror. Subject to several controversies since the series first emerged in 1994 – due to its excessive graphic violence and gore – this button bashing beat ‘em up is packed with dark powers, warped monsters, Gothic locations and plenty of head exploding, heart ripping moves that any horror fan would appreciate.
In fact, the original caused so much controversy it paved the way for the creation of software classification boards in the United States, Canada and Australia. And like many great horror movies, the 14 game series, which as of 2021 has sold about 73 million units, has been subjected to censorship and outright banning throughout its history.
The first Mortal Kombat took its inspiration from 80’s action movies, most notably in the Jean-Claude Van Damme look-a-like Johnny Cage character. But more excitingly, since the 2009 crossover between Mortal Kombat and the DC Universe the game has been introducing more and more playable horror guest stars.
2011 saw Freddy Krueger join Mortal Kombat 9 and in Mortal Kombat X, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, the Predator and Alien entered the fray. Finally, Spawn, Terminator, RoboCop and John Rambo joined the ranks in 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11. All of this meant you could not only rewrite the real-life let-down that was Alien vs Predator, but also play out some of your dream battles between major movie villains in all their gory glory.
Although Mortal Kombat did cross over onto the silver screen in the 1995 and 1997 movies and the recent 2021 reimagining, its obvious home, aside from on a console, is in animation which allows the excessive imagery and insane violence to be detailed in the most disgusting and destructive way possible.
Last year’s Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge was a revelation, taking the mysterious titlature character and finally fully telling his history – which just happened to intertwine with several other familiar faces as well as the face shattering Mortal Kombat tournament.
Picking straight up after the explosive finale of the first film, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms starts with an epic war playing out between the rag-tag heroes of Earthrealm and the enemy forces of Shao Kahn.
Tired of all the bloodshed, Raiden does a deal with the enemy and the Elder Gods abandoning his godhood and bringing about a final tournament to decide the fate of all the realms once and for all.
With Kung Lao, Jaxx, Stryker, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage fighting one-on-one for the lives of millions, Scorpion is on his own impossible mission seeking out the Kamidogu, an ancient relic that could bring about the destruction of the universe.
The stakes are high on all sides but that doesn’t stop the all-out action as fists fly, combos rack up and multiple body parts are smashed to smithereens in fight, after fight, after fight, which is actually exactly what you want from a Mortal Kombat film.
Written and directed by Jeremy Adams and Ethan Spaulding who also made Scorpion’s Revenge, the overblown story is as spectacularly silly as they come, abandoning the deep character development and emotional punch of the first instalment. What saves Battle of the Realms is not only that the plot is exactly what you would expect it to be, but also it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The human characters have a cynical sarcasm to the whole scenario, especially Johnny Cage (voiced perfectly by Community’s Joel McHale) whose expletive filled bravado and trash talk counterbalance the nonsensical histrionics all around him.
As I said before, what the audience is really here for is the fights. And there are a whole lot of them between a whole ton of classic Mortal Kombat characters including Kitana, Mileena, Cyrax, Smoke and a new Sub-Zero among others.
The face-offs are fantastic, with each characters trademark moves wonderfully well realised. Added to this are some frighteningly faithful fatalities, the best of all being Shang Tsung’s particularly gruesome forced suicide move. We are also treated to some terrific x-ray moves which look amazingly cool and show exactly which bones are being broken just like in the game.
Lastly, the insane Kaiju style climax sees the Elder Gods combine to battle the seemingly omnipotent One Being who the mad Shinnok has unleashed to unmake everything. It is the perfect crazed ending to a gore-tastic action cartoon, providing cathartic closure and sensational spectacle.
Forming one big fantastic feature, Mortal Kombat Legends Scorpion’s Revenge and Battle of the Realms are excellent action animations that not only pay respect to the game that inspired them, but attempt to take things to another level with the characters back stories and crazy visuals.
All we need now is for Mortal Kombat to totally embrace its horror heritage and make a full-on horror icon fighting game or a crazy crossover animated movie. Either way I am ready!
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms arrives on Blu-Ray on August 30, 2021 and on Digital on August 31, 202