For what it’s worth, you don’t go to see a film like Mortal Kombat for the story or the dense plot and character development that’s laid out. It’s not winning the major Oscar awards either – don’t get your hopes up. Instead, what would draw you in, if you played the games or not is the brilliant action, blood, guts and fatalities that await the unsuspecting fighters in the tournament of the century. In that regard, Mortal Kombat is a great time, now more than ever that theaters are opening back up across the globe.
Mortal Kombat is made to be experienced in a theater on the biggest screen possible (IMAX or Dolby). For many, it’s a welcome back to the theater after a long sabbatical but for some, it’s the next film up after the monstrous Godzilla vs. Kong strictly from an entertainment standpoint – this is pure blockbusting popcorn fare. If you go in with those expectations than there won’t be a shred of disappointment – it’s easy to watch the carnage ensue despite how poor everything that matters are.
Video game adaptations are tricky to adapt to screen. Since majority of the ones that are getting adapted have cinematic elements it’s easier to just play the game and watch the movie aspect of the game play out. What other stories can be told? It may appear as a money grab (It probably is if the video game being adapted is widely popular) but the creators and studios that develop the games have a specific vision for their property that never translates well into a screenplay. As an audience, we have to accept that video game adapted movies will never be good but when the next property comes up (Uncharted, maybe?), the hope and belief that it will be the one to end the string of failures is always present. Nobody wants these movies fail – from the top of the studio to the game developer to the loyal die-hard fans and casual film goers.
“I am no longer Bi-Han. I am Sub-Zero.”
One of the strongest aspects of Mortal Kombat is how well it resembles the game franchise. Astatically, the character design is shot for shot realistic to the game and the same can be said about the fighting techniques from each individual character. Bring on the carnage, the brutal action and the fatalities. I’m here for the blood, the endless amounts of gore, characters getting holes blown through them and sliced in half. In that aspect Mortal Kombat is a great film and easily enjoyable. Add to that the special effects and gallons of blood spilt by every character. the opening scene alone spills more blood than most horror films, which isn’t saying much since the game is filled with the outlandish controlled violence and carnage and at times it looks fake. compared to the series, the verisimilitude is uncanny where most may not even care about the fighting, they’re only going for the finishers and fatalities. at least Joker made the fake blood look real the way it flowed from a gruesome murder.
Where it fails is everywhere else. Mortal Kombat’s story is set up in the tragic and brutally blood-filled opening scene that is packed to the brim with lore from the games. And if you’ve never played the games the conflict between Bi-Han (Joe Taslim) and Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) may seem unnecessary (though the names Sub-Zero and Scorpion are generally known) but in actuality its crucial to the events that take place in the present when Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a new original character created for the film is introduced. Beyond the opening scene, the story flatlines and is essentially non-existent going forward.
Action sequences work their best when complementing a story, enriching it with tense and brutal bone crunching moments and scenes. Mortal Kombat uses action sequences to supplement the lack of a story in which its heavily relied on. Depending on how you interpret things, its either a good thing or a bad thing. In this case, I’d lean more on the good case side since the game series is more action than story.
“It seems that throughout history, different cultures all over the world, they reference a great tournament. But my research shows that there’s realms and species that we didn’t even know existed. That dragon marking, it signifies that you’ve been chosen to fight for Earth. It’s an invitation to fight for something known as Mortal Kombat.”
In lieu of the story and thinly written plot, Mortal Kombat focuses on the unique cast of characters. It’s a solid character group filled with fan favorites in Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Kano (Josh Lawson), Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang). Almost all characters are designed well and believably realistic to the universe, but the clear standout is Kano, even over Sub-Zero and Scorpion. Josh Lawson steals every single scene he’s in (which isn’t saying much since he’s in majority of the film) but it’s the wit, charisma and the confidence that he brings makes every other character including Cole (the main one) forgettable. Some characters like Mileena (Sisi Stringer) and Goro (voiced by Angus Sampson) are there simply to be “jobbers” their sole purpose is to get their asses kicked to make the main characters look good. You can’t expect much development from a movie titled Mortal Kombat.
All in all, Mortal Kombat is a hell of a good time at the movies. If you curb your expectations at the door than the enjoyment possibilities are endless. The real question is where should this be seen – on HBO Max or in theaters? 100% in theaters. The film industry is in recovery and could use all the boosts possible. If Godzilla vs. Kong proved anything, it’s that people love the movie going experience and desperately want it back.
So, tell me, have you seen Mortal Kombat and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think.
Mortal Kombat is written by Greg Russo & Dave Callaham off the story by Oren Uziel & Greg Russo, directed by Simon McQuoid is Rated R and has a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. Mortal Kombat was released on April 8, 2021 internationally and on April 23, 2021 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 50 minutes. Mortal Kombat can be seen in theaters and streamed on HBO Max for 30 days. 2 out of 5.