I may have said this before, but I have always been a Mortal Kombat guy. I like Tekken, I was always frustrated when playing against people who knew more than me on any incarnation of Street Fighter, but Mortal Kombat was MY fighting videogame. It had the special moves, had plenty of blood and gore, and had great characters. And, against all odds, it was turned into one of the better movie adaptations.
A lot of people were excited when they heard that it was being rebooted in film form (or whatever phrase fits best for this incarnation), but I wasn’t too bothered. I already had a fun Mortal Kombat movie. The second one wasn’t great, but I also had some animated adventures, and the game series has endured throughout the past few decades in a way that I think may have surprised many.
A feature debut from director Simon McQuoid, as well as a debut for writer Greg Russo (although his co-writer, Dave Callaham, has plenty of credits under his belt), Mortal Kombat is a slice of action that feels very much like a film placed in the hands of a very capable stunt team, and that’s no bad thing. In fact, I wish there had been time made for even more fight sequences. Why let plot get in the way of a good Mortal Kombat movie?
Speaking of the plot. It’s time for the big battle that will decide the fate of Earth, of course. Some people who have been chosen to fight are unaware of the full situation, despite being marked with the symbol that tags them as a participant in the tournament, and Cole Young (Lewis Tan) only starts to become aware of his fate when he and his family are threatened by Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). Coke encounters Jax (Mehcad Brooks), who sends him to connect with Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). Sonya might be able to help, but she also has her hands full with Kano (Josh Lawson), a man she is keeping on a short leash while using him to get to the tournament. Other familiar faces who appear here are Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang), Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), and Shang Tsung (Chin Han). You also get screentime for Goro, Reptile, Nitara, Mileena, Kabal, and quite a few other moral fighters, and Hiroyuki Sanada gets to portray the legend we all loved to play . . . Scorpion.
This is a perfectly enjoyable film, with some decent fights that occasionally include a decent bit of blood and nastiness. I just don’t know why so many people raved about it though. It’s slightly overlong (clocking in at 110 minutes), some of the editing could have been improved to give the fights more fluidity, and to showcase the talented physical performers, and, as so many others have mentioned, it is a Mortal Kombat movie without the actual Mortal Kombat tournament at the heart of it. That is the aim, yes, but Shang Tsung wants to break the rules, which means being able to fight in a variety of locations that aren’t within the standard tournament environments. On the one hand, I can understand why this choice was made. On the other hand, Mortal Kombat should feel like Mortal Kombat. This doesn’t. It feels like what it is - a way to use the characters and fight moves in a rather standard action movie storyline.
Technically competent throughout, and the score does well enough, overall, to make you forget just how much you are missing the bombastic theme song from the first movie, there’s nothing particularly wrong here. The cast fit their roles well, and I believe every one of them could beat me up in a matter of seconds, and the special effects enhancing their capabilities are spot on. It just doesn’t have quite the right tone and narrative thrust to feel like the definitive Mortal Kombat movie. Maybe they will do even better with the next outing.
I will revisit this, it’s got enough good action and is entertaining throughout, but I will undoubtedly revisit the 1995 movie more. It is less polished, but just a bit more fun. And, despite inputting a code to get the maximum amount of blood ‘n’ guts, playing Mortal Kombat was always fun.
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