Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms (2021) Review
Between the live-action reboot of Mortal Kombat and my growing appreciation of the animated Batman films, it was pretty much a given that I would check out another of Warner’s animated offerings, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms.
Battle of the Realms begins with a couple fleeing through deserted streets before being confronted by a trio of nasty-looking creatures. They kill the couple but Raiden (Dave B. Mitchell, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous) arrives in time to save their baby whom the mother names Liu Kang (Jordan Rodrigues, The Fosters, Light as a Feather) with her dying breath.
We’re barely a minute in and already there’s a decapitation and a pair of eyes exploding from their sockets. This is a good sign.
Years later, in an eerily familiar development, Shao Kahn (Fred Tatasciore, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Army of the Dead) can’t accept that he lost and unleashes his minions to change matters. When the Earthrealm forces fight them to a standoff, Shao Kahn and Raiden ask the Elder Gods for another tournament, a final Mortal Kombat. Raiden also asks to surrender his immortality and fight in it. The Elder Gods agree.
That’s just the main plot. Battle of the Realms has multiple subplots involving the new Sub Zero, Kuai Liang (Bayardo De Murguia, Tiny Pretty Things) and his quest for revenge against Scorpion (Patrick Seitz, Attack on Titan). Lin Kuei (Paul Nakauchi, Carmen Sandiego, Diablo III) and his efforts to create a cyborg army. And Shinnok’s (Robin Atkin Downes, Batman: Soul of the Dragon) search for the Kamidogu with which he can unleash The One Being and destroy all of the realms.
And that is Battle of the Realms’ biggest problem, there is way too much going on to try to fit into a ninety-minute film. With all of these subplots competing for time, none of them really get the treatment they deserve. And with the way they intersect with each other, it can get very confusing who is who and just what is happening at any given moment. Especially if, like me, you haven’t played all the games and are a more casual fan of the franchise.
But director Ethan Spaulding and writer Jeremy Adams, who also gave us Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge, know that the plot is a secondary consideration for much of Battle of the Realms’ audience. They’re there to see familiar faces such as Johnny Cage (Joel McHale, Dark Harbour, Becky), Sonya Blade (Jennifer Carpenter, The Devil’s Hand, The Exorcism of Emily Rose), and Jax (Ike Amadi, Trollhunters: Tales of Arcadia) engaged in bloody combat. And they deliver that and then some.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms rarely lets up on the action for more than a few minutes. While the lack of dialogue and exposition adds to the confusion, it also means there are as many fights as possible. And as befits a game franchise known for its violence, they are brutal.
Heads frequently roll, limbs are ripped off, bodies torn in half and, in one particularly memorable brawl, a character is forced to tear their own head off. Frequent use is made of X-Ray vision so we can see bones snap and bullets strike organs. The film very definitely earns its “R” rating, and I have no doubt it would get an “X” or “NC-17” if it was live-action.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, or just looking for some hyperviolent fun, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms should be just what you’re looking for. While not mandatory, I would strongly recommend seeing the reboot and Scorpion’s Revenge first if you’re new to Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms is available on Digital and Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment. You can check their page for the film for more details.