Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm Review
My review on the Mortal Kombat Cartoon.
After the release and popularity of the arcade smash hit Street Fighter 2, Ed Boon and his friends had created their own fighting game. And thus Mortal Kombat was born. This game had what street fighter didn't have. It had unique graphics, a story-line with memorable characters and a special factor which made Mortal Kombat truly famous. BLOOD, GORE & FATALITIES.
While it became popular to players world wide, it of course cause parents and moral guardians to freak out about the game’s content. The controversy of Mortal Kombat was what led to the creation of the ESRB rating system.
Just like Street Fighter, these two fighting games had gained a lot of popularity during the 90’s. They both have multiple games for various gaming consoles, toys, live-action movies and a Saturday Morning Cartoon series. And this is where I give my thoughts on the short-lived cartoon series: Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.
After winning the Mortal Kombat Tournament, Shao Khan and the forces of evil have been trying to invade Earthrealm. The only thing standing in their way is Raiden and his team of warriors. So basically this is where the first live action movie left off, in fact there are elements in the show that borrow from the movie. And just like most action filled cartoons, the bad guys will try to take over the world, our heroes are dispatched to stop them, finding plot devices and they use signature vehicles because just like any cartoon they need to sell kids toys.
Because this was released in 1996, the characters and designs were based from Mortal Kombat 3. Most of the main characters are there with the exception of Johnny Cage. Here is where I’ll talk the main characters of the show.
Raiden voiced by Clancy Brown
Raiden is the god of thunder and leader of this team. His design and voice actor are actually pretty good. In the show, he basically gives the team advice and exposition. He doesn't do much in the plot (something Jax would often call him out about), but there was an episode where he actually contributes more to the plot besides talking.
Liu Kang voiced by Brain Tochi
Liu Kang appearance and personality is a lot like his source material. He’s a dedicated shaolin monk trained by the white lotus to defend earthrealm in Mortal Kombat. Just like in the movie, he is romantically involved with Kitana.
Sub-zero voiced by Luke Perry
Sub-zero is my favorite Mortal Kombat character and he’s design is based from Mortal Kombat 3. Because the original Sub-zero died in the movie, (more importantly since Sub-zero became a popular character) another fighter was introduced as the younger brother of Sub-zero and he was on the hero team. Aside from his voice acting, his personality is still the same. He’s cold and stoic, but he is actually likable and competent.
Kitana voiced by Cree Summer
Kitana is the step-daughter of Shao Khan and she too is also romantically involved with Liu Kang. There’s not too much about her other than the fact that she is just as capable of defending herself in battle as well as the others.
Night-wolf voiced by Tod Thawley
Night-wolf is a native warrior who calls upon the spirits to aid him in battle. In the show, he’s the Donatello of the group. Since the show has turned a violent franchise into a kid-friendly show, they need a character that specializes in technology so that they can explain why the MK Fighters have jets and gadgets (After all every cartoon has to be Merchandise Driven). When the team needs to know where a portal is being opened or need ANY technical service what so ever, Night-wolf will take care of it. For some reason, Night-wolf gets his spirit powers by merging with his pet wolf kiva. Okay.
Jax voiced by Dorian Harewood
Jax is obviously the muscle of the team. In the games, Jax has proven that he has brawn and brains. He’s a high ranking soldier who happens to be strategic, serious and strong willed. In the show; he’s an annoying, sarcastic complainer who makes more stupid puns than Captain Planet. He would often poke fun at Raiden for not helping much by calling him “girlfriend”. There was one episode where Jax loses his mechanical arms and he spends the majority of the episode moping and feeling sorry for him self. If he didn't have any arms at all it would make sense that he would feel useless. However, in the games, Jax’s arms were replaced with cybernetic arms because his regular arms were torn off from his body. In the show, the cybernetic arms are nothing more than gloves that he can easily put on and he has been whining about how useless he is because he didn't have his Nintendo Power Arms.
Styker voiced by Ron Pearlman
In the games, Styker is a Street cop recruited by Raiden to save Earthrealm from Shao Khan’s forces. In the show, he is more a military commander and his night stick can close portals. His appearance is just like Mortal Kombat 3, but I have just one question about him. How can we take Styker seriously as a commander, while he’s wearing his hat backwards? Why couldn't they make him the technical genius instead of Night-wolf? Point is I find it hard to believe that a cop gets to give orders and act like a military general. Also why does he hates dogs?
Shao Khan voiced by John Vernon
Shao Khan is the big bad of the show, however we don’t see too much of him except for the final episode. He thankfully appears to be intimidating, dark and intelligent in this kid friendly version of Mortal Kombat.
The Lin Kuei clan mostly appear as the recurring foot soldiers in the cartoon that show up to travel through portals to invade realms. Because this was a Saturday morning cartoon; the soldiers were all robots, just like the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. This was so that the show would be less violent when fighters beat up robots.
Sonya Blade voiced by Olivia d’Abo
Ah Sonya, my sweet Sonya. I have saved you for last because I have a lot to talk about you. In the games and in the first movie, Sonya is a tough, no-nonsense, Special Forces soldier perusing Kano for revenge. During the game’s sequels from MK to Deadly Alliance, she has gone through character development. Sonya may not open up her emotions to anyone aside from Jax but she has proven that she does care about others and would do anything to protect those she cares about.
In the show, Sonya Blade is by far in my opinion, the most overzealous, disrespectful, impatient, uncouth, obnoxious and the most annoying Bitch I've have ever met. She berates people most of the time and would yell out “KOMBAT TIME” every time the team has to fight. Even when there are scenes that show that Sonya is nice, she still comes of as an unlikable bitch with an attitude. Sub-zero is supposed to be brooding and stoic all the time and he’s more likable than Sonya. Just because she’s tough, doesn't mean that she has to be unpleasant.
I have a nice example of how Sonya can be likable despite her tough demeanor. In the 2011 Mortal Kombat Game, she tries to get Kano, but ends up in a fight against Johnny Cage. After Johnny Cage defeats her, Kano shows up to attack Sonya after he threw Johnny off the bridge. After Johnny Cage defeats Kano, Sonya subtly thanks Johnny Cage showing that she can be grateful to other people. Would Sonya do the same thing in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the realm? Nope.
The first episode of Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the realm shows just how unlikable she really is. She distrusts Sub-zero in a bitchy manner despite the latter saving her life, she quickly blames sub-zero when the Tarkatans attack their base and she talks back to Raiden in a rude tone. She does apologize to Sub-zero for being hostile towards him, but she still acts impatient and disrespectful in future episodes. This happens a lot to a point where in the third episode even Raiden grows impatient with her. But there was one other episode where Sonya’s attitude was taken up to the next level to a point where she and the episode itself just became mean-spirited.
Quan Chi shows up to use his magic to make our heroes fight among each other. During the episode, Sonya would call Jax “blubber butt” repeatedly because in the show, Jax’s back-story was that he was really fat when he a kid and was bullied for it. Just because they were under a spell, it doesn't take away the fact that Sonya crossed the line when she told the others about Jax’s past. Sonya was so mean-spirited and cruel in the Quan Chi episode that when Jax told her that she was a loser and that it was her fault that her partner died, a small part of me cheered when he said that. I hope that Phelous does a review on this show and would call out Sonya for being such an uptight bully, just like how he calls out Siro from Mortal Kombat Conquest for being a jerk.
I know i have talked a lot about how i hate Sonya in this series, but the protagonists aren't very likable besides Sub-zero, Liu Kand, Kitana, and Night-wolf.
The Design of the show is okay, but it does look cheap. It’s not great but it’s not terrible either. The Characters’ costume designs are based on the third Mortal Kombat game; however their movements can be a bit stiff and slow especially during a fight scene. There are scenes where the animation is off sometimes. However, the animation has been improved in the final episode giving it an anime feel it.
For the sound, it’s alright. It has remixes of the iconic techno syndrome song and other music that actually gets you excited for a fight sequence. The voice acting isn't great especially Luke Perry’s voice but at least it has some effort in it.
According to everyone to watch it, they didn't like it. Critics gave it negative reviews and even the people who made Mortal Kombat thought that it was a piece of crap. What do I think? I think that this show had potential and if it was done right could have been very successful. I don’t think that the lack of gore and fatalities was what made this cartoon a stinker, after all the first Mortal Kombat film didn't have any gory fatalities but it was a good movie that got its box office money. Hell, this show is what you would call its "so bad, its good" kind of thing. I give it a D+. If you're a fan of Mortal Kombat, you could check out the series for yourself.