Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms arrives on Digital, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack on August 31.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, much like Scorpion’s Revenge before it, is a movie aimed squarely at the hardcore Mortal Kombat fan. It’s packed with tongue-in-cheek references, an abundance of bone-crunching scenes of gratuitous violence, and story beats that mimic the events of the games. But while Scorpion’s Revenge still managed to anchor its story around Hanzo Hasashi and the tragic origin story of Scorpion through the lens of the first Mortal Kombat Tournament, Battle of the Realms feels all over the place, attempting to tell too many stories at once and not doing any of them justice.
Battle of the Realms picks up where Scorpion’s Revenge left off: with an Outworld invasion of Earthrealm led by a very angry Shao Kahn who’s a very sore loser after Shang Tsung’s failure in the Mortal Kombat tournament. But that invasion doesn’t last for very long because eventually, Shao Kahn proposes, you guessed it, another Mortal Kombat tournament.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms
Then while that’s going on there’s also other completely disconnected subplots involving the Lin Kuei and the cyber initiative; Kuai Liang and his desire for vengeance against Scorpion for the murder of his brother; Shinnok’s scheming in netherrealm to retrieve the kamidogu, and it’s all just a lot, especially for a movie with a less than 90-minute run-time.
It feels like there could have been four Mortal Kombat Legends movies that each focused on a single subplot, but instead, they were all mashed together into a single movie, and as a result, every character feels flat.
Kung Lao, who is supposed to be like a brother to Liu Kang, barely exchanges a single line of dialogue with him; Stryker just shows up without any explanation of how or why a normal-ass police officer found himself in a battle against supernatural monsters, and Kitana says she doesn’t have a choice but to follow Shao Kahn, but we never get to see that toxic father-daughter dynamic that leads her to want to side with the forces of Earthrealm.
As a result, all of the character moments fall on their face, resulting in a movie that is basically just all about the action and the fanservice, and at least in that regard, it delivers.
There are some gnarly moments of over-the-top violence that any Mortal Kombat fan is sure to appreciate, and Joel McHale as Johnny Cage continues to be a perfect voice casting choice for the obnoxious Hollywood star that’s in way over his head.
Visually, Battle of the Realms is also a bit hit and miss. The backgrounds are gorgeous and do a great job of replicating the looks of locations from the games, like the Lin Kuei Temple from MKX and Kahn’s Arena from MK2. The character designs are far more polarizing, characterized by heavily angular faces with chins that often look just as sharp as some of the weapons they wield. I’m not a big fan myself, though I can see the appeal of the stylized look, especially with how well it meshes with the ultra-violence.
The animation does its job well enough, with some fun fight choreography that is full of small nods and references to the game, though there are certainly some rough edges. Just as a single example: In one fight of Kung Lao vs Shao Kahn, Kung Lao takes a tumble along the ground, and instead of his hat flying off him, as you’d expect it to, it just kind of folds into the ground, only to be completely straight in the next scene, which elicited an unintentional laugh out loud moment out of me.