- Directed by Simon McQuoid
- April 8, 2021 (International) / April 23, 2021 (United States)
Earth’s champions are assembled to stand against the champions of Outworld in the tenth Mortal Kombat Tournament which will decide the fate of the world.
I went into this knowing very little about the game(s) upon which the film is based. I played the original (poorly) but never got too into the mythology. However it was really cool to watch other people play and do the finishing moves. Having said that even then I could see how it could be a great movie. What I do know is that fans take it just as seriously as any other fictional universe and this film appears to be very divisive among them.
I thought the action here was solid from beginning to end. The fight scenes were well choreographed and frenetic and exciting. They do a good job of inserting the fantasy elements into the battles. The battles are violent and gore filled without being ridiculously over the top in that area.
The story itself is pretty good. We do not get to the actual tournament which I admit is a bit of a disappointment. I like movies where the fate of the universe hangs in the balance and the basics of this film promise just that. This is just the lead up to that tournament. However launching right into everything would have not only left nothing for any sequels and would have rushed the story.
I saw the original Mortal Kombat film in theaters and it was cheesy but not of a high-quality. The people that mattered back then wanted something with very broad appeal that was easily marketable to kids. The film I dare say bordered on campy but what would you expect from Paul W.S. Anderson? When he is good he is pretty good but his bad can be like nails on chalkboard. Sometimes you get both from him in one movie.
This iteration of the Mortal Kombat concept on film is vastly more violent and gore filled than anything either animated or live action that came before (save for maybe the new animated feature). They do not shrink away from the blood or the gore. Heck we have one character get bisected! And you see brains! This is not for the kids.
The central character of this film is a new character called Cole Young (Lewis Tan) who is a descendent of Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) who in the opening of the film was killed by Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). Sub-Zero is out to kill every member of Hanzo’s ninja clan because of their special connection to the tournament. Scorpion’s story is more prominent in the film than the character actually is. Him actually showing up is a bit of a bookending thing.
Cole Young is perhaps the most divisive element among fans. The character of Cole Young is a down on his luck MMA fighter with a wife and child. He has fallen from his days of glory and is not the confident individual he once was. If anything fans of the games wanted Johnny Cage instead. I agree with them that the creation of a new character was unnecessary but I cannot fault the people here from holding back a little for the sequel. You need to keep the audience coming back for more.
I expected the new character of Cole to have a very lame power or a power that felt halfhearted in conception. It is just what you would expect from a character created for a film that does not appear in the source. His ability is cool-at least its presentation.
Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) is not initially a superpowered individual. Every Earth champion has a dragon mark on them. Sonya does not and is following Jax (Mehcad Brooks) who has one around in order to get her chance to get her very own. Jax took out a marked individual and their mark transferred to him. She was an improvement on the version from the recent animated release who had an obsession with nut checks. Not great acting but her character was not given much to do until the end.
Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) appears in the film and is essentially the character that brings the first three heroes up to speed on everything even though Cole Young is the implied answer to the prophecy. Max Huang is Kung Lao and is there to help train the others since there is less than a day left before they need to fight. The character of Kung Lao gets killed and Liu Kang is rather mournful. I got the feeling the implication was that they were lovers, but nothing is ever said definitively. Not sure how that matches with the current mythology of the games.
Kano (Josh Lawson) steals just about every scene he is in and he is in plenty. He is a baddie, but his a**hole nature makes him a likeable character. He has some of the best dialogue and the actor himself appears to be just having a good time in the role. This is a character and actor that must be brought back should a sequel happen.
Once we get past the setup for the character of Young the film really starts running. I do give that the narrative relies a little bit too much on the target audience’s familiarity with the videogame and does not do well enough with the legacy characters by explaining their backstory. We get just enough but not too much. They do not take into account film fans who have a passing familiarity (if any at all) with the games.
We get a few lines from the game folded into dialogue of the film. “Get over here” and “Flawless victory” are easily recognizable to casual fans. The tease for the inclusion of Johnny Cage in the next film was cool. It is a film poster for a movie called Citizen Cage (great pun!) that the camera lingers on.
The cast of characters is relatively small-at least on the side of the heroes. There are a few more villains than good guys. And I know in the original roster there was a good chunk of characters to choose from and I know that roster has expanded since. Goro was a very good inclusion. And he looks much better here than he did in his first live action appearance. Thank goodness for CGI.
Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) shows up enough to protect our core characters but honestly Christopher Lambert was better in the role. He looked like he was enjoying himself while Asano is just being too serious. Chin Han is good as the villainous Shang Tsung who bends and breaks the rules to claim the final victory.
Mortal Kombat is a good start to what will hopefully be a film trilogy or series. It is a satisfying film to which I say watch!