As the title very bluntly states (Subtlety has never really been MK’s strong suit), Earthrealm heroes are in the battle for lives and the survival of humanity as Shao Kahn makes moves to forever solidify his place as not just Emperor of Outworld, but as Kahn of all the realms. Returning to thwart such lofty ambitions are Raiden, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Johnny Cage, and Jax. On the B-story side, there is a whole scavenger hunt for some McGuffin by Scorpion and a begrudging Sub-Zero. A slew of familiar faces join the fray, and longtime fans of the franchise will undoubtedly recognize them, though the ways in which they are utilized may leave some cold. In many ways, this installation deviates from what made Scorpion’s Revenge a great adaptation, eschewing a more focused story for an approach that’s reminiscent of one of the pitfalls of MK3 and the generally maligned Mortal Kombat: Annihilation film: hollow fan service with an extensive roster with shallow plotlines for the canon fodder. All that being said, Battle of the Realms is a fun romp, with much of its weaknesses being generally forgivable until the absolutely messy third act. We’re talking jumping a mosasaur chowing down on a Megalodon type of shark-jumping here.
While I was really impressed with Jeremy Adams’ script and Ethan Spaulding’s direction of the earlier Scorpion’s Revenge, Battle of the Realms is a bit less successful for me. It feels like a bit too much was crammed into the 80-minute runtime, leaving little time to develop the core relationships. For starters, an integral character’s turning point and their romantic relationship with another feels like it’s completely unearned. The buddy cop movie between Scorpion and the younger Sub-Zero also feels a tad rushed, too, without allowing for a believable resolution to their enmity.
What I have continued to appreciate about these movies is the art direction. The style is a balanced blend between more Western styles and anime, a direction that seems to becoming more mainstream with Warner Bros.' animated projects. The characters retain much of their essence, though with some updates that reflect some of the more recent sensibilities in the recent games. For one, the female characters aren’t wearing barely anything as they’re wont to do in some of the game iterations. Sonya’s costuming reflects her military background while Kitana’s outfit, while revealing, feels less gratuitous. The fight sequences are well done, feeling fluid and absurdly violent, as is befitting the franchise. Along with the requisite Fatalities and general butt-kicking, Bone Breakers, a more recent addition to the MK canon, make a return, too.
The voice acting is generally up to snuff, too, with voice actors from the previous installment returning and some veterans from some of the video games coming back, too. There are occasional F-bombs dropped, which isn’t unusual given the R-rating of the flick. In short, there’s little that should be surprising here, especially given the language and gore content of the recent iterations of the MK franchise.
Overall, a less solid follow-up to the rather stellar Scorpion’s Revenge, but fans will likely still enjoy this. It’s absurdly violent, occasionally campy, and pretty on-brand, despite a few missteps along the way.