Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind is a movie that only die-hard Mortal Kombat fans will appreciate. It is full of exaggerated violence and references to the previous two animated films, as well as a story that explores a warrior who is not as protagonist as the rest of the fighters in the saga: Kenshi (Manny Jacinto). Unfortunately, being a direct sequel to Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, it lacks much of the excitement and energy of that film and its predecessor, Scorpion’s Revenge.
Set several years after the bloody conclusion of Battle of the Realms, Snow Blind explores a dilapidated Earthrealm, a shadow of its former self. A group of bandits led by King Kano (David Wenham), prowls the wastelands, forcing their “protection” on the villages left behind after the kingdom’s destruction. A team of explorers, consisting of Kabal (Keith Silverstein), Kira (Courtenay Taylor), and Kobra (Yuri Lowenthal), discover Kuai Liang (Ron Yuan), the now former Sub-Zero.
Liang leads the troops towards a cocky young warrior named Kenshi, apparently the only one willing to take on this group. Kenshi writes checks that his fighting ability can’t cash, and finds himself in the middle of a plot Shang Tsung (Artt Butler) hatches to trick Kenshi into stealing his ancestral sword, Sento. All this leads to a confrontation between two groups (one generally good and one generally evil) in a battle for Earthrealm and the wasteland, as well as for time itself.
But while Battle of the Realms was pitched as direct combat between some of Mortal Kombat’s titans, Snow Blind feels more like a Mad Max-style post-apocalyptic thriller. than an extension of a richly detailed video game universe. It’s frustrating, because there are glimmers of greatness woven throughout, especially when it comes to weaving a story around one of Mortal Kombat’s lesser-known personalities.
On the one hand, centering the plot primarily around Kenshi is a smart move. He remains the central pulse of the film from start to finish, and it’s truly compelling to see him go from lowly fighter to adversity-hardened warrior. This leads to some interesting situations that are really attractive.
But Snow Blind spends too much time away from Kenshi when he has already drawn us in and we want to know more about him. The end result is a plot tangle between Kenshi’s growth as a warrior and Kano’s fall.. There are countless fights between minor characters like Ferra/Torr, Drahmin, and Erron Black, as well as The Black Dragon’s subunits, but in the end all you want to see is Kenshi getting better and Kano defeated, not his subordinates repeatedly challenged, and much more. any of that feels like filler in a movie that badly wants to focus on Earthrealm’s apocalyptic qualities rather than the actors working to defend it.
The plentiful battles are well-animated, with a fluidity that seems almost out of place for low-quality character designs.
These battles boil down to a series of predictable encounters and ultimately lead Snow Blind back into the familiar. A young warrior must learn to be humble if he is to succeed in defeating a great enemy, meeting new faces and learning new skills along the way. But history is so full of other battles that he doesn’t have time to breathe.
Visually, Snow Blind misses the mark. It does an admirable job of illustrating the bleak desert that inhabits most of Earthrealm. But that comes at a price: bland, brown environments that permeate the entire film. The only exceptions are the neon green hues of the Well of Souls and certain snowscapes further on. Unfortunately, the character design isn’t much better. Their ultra-stylish looks, combined with hard, angular faces and bodies, come across as cheap and uninspired. Mortal Kombat has always employed a visual style of its own, so to see it disappear in favor of these illustrations is disappointing.
Having said that, the many battles are well animated, with a fluidity that seems almost out of character for low-quality character designs. It’s a veritable ballet of destruction that’s right up there with the Mortal Kombat games, as well as more recent adult animation like Castlevania and The Legend of Vox Machina, and it works well here.
Mortal Kombat Legends: Snow Blind is an interesting effort to further illustrate Kenshi’s past, but it muddies its own plot. It’s a colorful apocalyptic thriller with a bright new Mortal Kombat paint job. Some of Kenshi’s story moments are satisfying, and it’s refreshing to see a character who doesn’t get a lot of screen time shine for a moment. But that’s not enough to sustain the entire movie. Kenshi’s plight is worth watching, but if he’s shaken off his attachment to Mortal Kombat, what’s left is a thin homage to post-apocalyptic carnage that simply won’t resonate with audiences that aren’t die-hard fans.