Warner Brothers (studio)
23 May 2021 (released)
12 May 2021
Video game movies tend to get a bad rap and usually for good reason. Yet over the last few years, we’ve seen filmmakers give these adaptions a little more substance and respect. While not perfect, films like 2018’s Tomb Raider were so much better than the likes of 2005’s Doom … and the 2019 Doom film too. So Mortal Kombat has made a return to film after the cash grab movies of the 1990s and looks pretty awesome from the trailers. Well, I was very kindly provided a screener’s link to the new film and all I can say is …
Get over here and read the review!
Mortal Kombat as a gaming franchise is so immense now, with a huge cast of characters, dense and compelling lore, and plenty of kickass moments that old and new fans love. This movie has a lot to live up to and respectfully keeps things simple for the first outing.
The film starts off rather peacefully believe it or not, as we see the life of Shirai Ryu ninja clan leader, Hanzo Hasashi, otherwise known as the might Scorpion. Living with his wife and two beautiful children, until his clan and village are attacked by the Lin Kuei, led by Bi-Han, otherwise known as the Sub-Zero (if you are not geeking out at this stage, then the film is not for you). Blood is spilled and vengeance is set in stone from this day as Bi-Han escapes to Outworld and Raiden, the powerful Thunder God takes Hanzo’s surviving child to safety.
Flash forward and we follow Cole Young, a competitor in the underground fighting scene who on one fortunate day is told he is chosen to help protect Earthrealm in the glorious and bloody tournament own as Mortal Kombat. However, a powerful figure from Outworld known as Shung Stung, and a select few deem that the Earthrealm champions should be taken care of before the tournament. As if Earthrealm loses one more Mortal Kombat Tournament, the Elder Gods will deem it unfit and allow Outworld to do with it as they please. Basically, Outworld will turn Earthrealm into their bitch.
It’s up to Cole and his new acquaintances, Sonya Blade and Jaxx to round up fellow fighters and stop Outworld’s plan of assassination to gain the upper hand. What occurs is Cole and other fighters, such as Kano, are to be trained and prepared by Earthrealm champions Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and their master Raiden.
So, what we have is a rather good setup, with the right characters for both defending and trying to defeat Earthrealm, along with key players such as Shang Tsung, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero just sweetening the deal. Of course, this first installment to a potential film franchise will not match the epic-ness and caliber of the most recent games. But to be fair the games have had plenty of time to mature, while this film is considered baby steps in comparison. But a solid beginning if that.
Cole, while nothing special is likable and the rest of the cast is very cool, with Sonya and Jaxx helping massively with their charm and adding to the drama. Shang Tsung is played beautifully well by actor Chin Han, bringing that camp but threatening nature we know and love from the MK badass. But the standout star here is Kano with his vile but humorous outbursts towards everyone, perfectly timed comic relief, and epic attitude making him truly hugely entertaining. I could easily watch a film all about him and the Black Dragon Clan.
While the story is nothing original and often just repeats tropes we have seen before, I like the dynamics between each of the characters, who are all portrayed extremely well by their respective actors. I’m also pleasantly surprised we’re getting a solid start-up to what could be a brutal and entertaining franchise of films. What makes Mortal Kombat worth watching is, of course, it is gore, fighting, and fatalities (yep, they have those here).
As mentioned previously, the main reason you’ll be watching Mortal Kombat is the awe-some characters, but more importantly, that sweet, sweet R-rated gore. While not frequent, when it happens, it’s quite the immense spectacle, putting the 1990’s PG version to shame! Aside from the gore, I dig how visually pleasing this film really is as well. Plenty of sets look great, the photography is striking at times and the fights are choreographed extremely well. Plus, fans will notice actual combos from the games making their way into fight scenes, a nice touch if I do say so myself. And of course, we do get some amazing fatalities that are executed just perfectly.
Very punch feels impactful, every spill of blood is and dismemberment will make you go “Ohhhhh damn!” and generally speaking, the settings and look for each character is pretty good.
Is this the perfect video game movie then?
Well, in terms of a video game adaption it is very strong, but there are some things which let it down.
My only negative points would be towards the jarring editing at times, feeling like some scenes end too quickly. One of the oddest things I noticed was the pacing towards the end, where the start of the third act is missing. You know the part I mean, after were our heroes get beaten down by the bad guys, only to take some time to find themselves and band together to fight another day and become victorious at the end. Usually, about 10 minutes or so of soul searching and asking questions, before deciding to go back fight the bad guys (pretty much in any movie, like Black Panther, Lord of the Rings, and so on). Nah, Mortal Kombat just flies by with this and just condenses this dramatic turning point into a few seconds.
Something that felt off but also, I was a little thankful for the film just pushing to the end fight within a minute or so. Cutting out what is a trope and one that’s a little irritating nowadays.
But as said, for a film that’s nearly two hours, there is a feeling much has been cut or edited down. Not to forget my personal pet peeve where music is overused in key scenes. Watching an emotional exchange between two characters only for it to be overshadowed by a generic and grating musical score just grinded my nerves at times.
Also, I wished some of the last kills were better. One of the last fights takes place at The Pit and those who know The Pit will know the environmental fatality very well (it involves spikes!). And it does not happen in the film. While the finisher that does occur is still cool, it should have been the stage fatality (in my opinion). But the big let-down comes from one of Mortal Kombat’s best-loved characters entering the film at the end, kicking ass and everything, only to finish their time in the spotlight with a pretty standard kill on the film’s leading antagonist.
The end fight itself is great, but the very end is a let-down. Considering this particular character (who might have guessed already) has some of the best fatalities in the whole franchise.
What Mortal Kombat lacks in a few key areas is made up of everything else which is solid. While the story is nothing amazing and some beats in the filmmaking are questionable, the fighting, Mortal Kombat fan service, performances, and visuals are truly awesome. This puts my faith back into the game to film adaptions and the upcoming ones, such as Resident Evil and the next Mortal Kombat films will surely work off the improving formulas these recent adaptions have created.
Mortal Kombat is now available to rent via all popular digital retailers.