Just about every review for the new Mortal Kombat film mentions more or less the same thing: the game. Whether it honors the game, changes things from the game, is faithful to the game, or is made for fans of the game. It always mentions the game. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It is based on a game after all, a very popular one, whose fans will make up the core audience of the film, but what about those who know almost nothing about Mortal Kombat? Will we enjoy the film? Will we even be able to understand it? Will it be as cheesy and fun as the 1995 original?
The answer to all those questions is yes, and depending on who you are, maybe a slightly less enthusiastic yes to that last part.
My only prior knowledge of Mortal Kombat comes from the original 1995 film and some quick internet research, so I know almost nothing about the source material. For someone like me, a Mortal Kombat outsider, this film is just a reboot so that’s what I’m judging it on.
From the very start, this movie has its flaws. In spite of a thrilling, well-choreographed and bloody beginning that instantly gets you hooked, Mortal Kombat kicks off a bit vanilla when it introduces its main hero, only it’s not someone you’ll recognize. Instead of Liu Kang and his luscious mullet leading the audience, this movie follows washed-up MMA fighter Cole Young.
Without any personality, the guy may be the protagonist but he’s treated like a stock character meaning he’s a boring “everyday character” that the audience is supposed to relate to, who was apparently created specifically for this movie. If Mortal Kombat has one major flaw that brings the energy down, it’s Cole. He’s the hero that you forget the moment the camera changes position, no matter how much effort actor Lewis Tan puts in the role. The film just doesn’t know how to use him properly. His only purpose is to introduce the plot and to add in a connection to another character later in the story.
Cole is dragged into the world of Mortal Kombat when he discovers that his strange dragon birthmark isn’t actually a birthmark at all but a sign that he’s been chosen to fight in a mighty tournament that determines the fate of the world. There are others like him, the champions of Earth, who are being hunted down by the deadly Sub-Zero/Bi-Han so that the riveling Outworld can ensure victory in the next tournament.
Just as Sub-Zero comes for Cole, he and his boring family who I honestly didn’t know where his wife and daughter until the film literally spelled it out, are saved by another champion named Jax and his partner Sonya Blade. While receiving their help, he meets Kano, a wild psychopathic mercenary who also happens to be another champion.
After a few bad encounters with the Outworld fighters, they go meet Lord Raiden, the protector of the Earthrealm, and some more champions, Liu Kang and Kung Lao (two guys that really should be given their own spin-off), and they begin their training montage leading up to the big boss battle at the end during which we never hear the epic “MORTAL KOMBAT” shout play over it and that’s just a shame. The song “Techo Syndrome” is there but the “MORTAL KOMBAT” shout isn’t really there until the end credits.
All in all, it’s a good movie. Wacky and fun, and just violent enough. Video game adaptations rarely ever make cinematic masterpieces, but Mortal Kombat has enough to make up for whatever faults it may have. Those saving points are Sub-Zero and Scorpion and any scene where they’re together, Liu Kang and Kung Lao, Kano, Sonya Blade, and the entire opening sequence that could have been part of its own separate movie.
I was never that crazy about the 1995 Mortal Kombat. I liked it plenty, but it wasn’t exactly a film I rushed out to add to my Tribble like multiplying DVD collection. Simon McQuoid, in his feature directorial debut, has a much more serious take on the story while giving it a darker tone that I rather enjoyed.
The fight scenes were spectacular, and some of the characters are charismatic enough to carry chunks of the film on their own, however, as a whole, it’s kind of a mess. It’s as if someone took a martial arts fantasy film and stitched in scenes and expositions from a video game. This makes sense given that it’s an adaptation, one that would be confusing without a few explanations, but when viewed objectively it comes off a bit awkward. Even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first Mortal Kombat, it explained the rules of the game without taking you out of the plot, which, unfortunately, this movie ended up doing. Also, a part of me is a bit put out that Liu Kang was bumped down to supporting character this time around.
Maybe for the sequel they can focus on one or two characters instead of so many that way they won’t have to cram so much into one story. The ending hints at the introduction of Johnny Cage, played by Linden Ashby in the original film, and Joe Taslim who plays Sub-Zero has said that he has a four-film contract if the franchise takes off. So a sequel is definitely a possibility.(3 / 5)