‘Mortal Kombat’ is the newest video game adaptation to the big screen directed by Simon McQuoid and follows MMA fighter Cole Young (played by Lewis Tan) who is thrust into the world of Mortal Kombat, where a team of champions are chosen by a dragon marking in order to fight to protect Earth and the universe itself.
First off the fighting is the best part of the movie as it should be. I loved watching all the blood and gore in R-rated glory as opposed to the previous two films. The rating fits well with this property and they were able to make good use of it. There are fatalities and some nods to classic moves that game fans will appreciate. The visual effects are also an enormous step-up from the original first two Mortal Kombat films. They actually have a budget and use it for minimal backdrops but to their advantage. some characters that were completely CGI were also well rendered.
Cole Young is a new character, writer Greg Russo had mentioned that was added before he came on to the project and was mandated by the studio. His character is meant to introduce the audience to the world of Mortal Kombat and once Russo was brought in, was given more ties to the Mortal Kombat lore. The performance by Lewis Tan is fine, however, the character I feel was completely unneeded in this film already bloated with rich characters to explore. The other characters are introduced in a very formulaic way. The character appears out of nowhere, quick fight. Then introduces themselves (or introduced by another character) with few lines of backstory and exposition to get us to the next character introduction.
The strongest emotional threads in the film come from the beginning with Scorpion and Subzero, and in its conclusion. I loved seeing these two iconic characters really duke it out and they have great moments individually. Subzero is absolutely terrifying.
There are a lot of characters to introduce it’s done in such a repetitive way that it eventually doesn’t really make you feel any differently than the last character that was introduced. There are also short and sweet cameos for video game fans but I worry the general audience will feel like this was too many characters to explain. If the film had more than 2 hrs to introduce them it would have been for the better.
Another thing that the film could’ve lightened up with was the tone. I understand this film has been in development for over 5 years now, and a lot can change in audience expectations in that time. Gone are the days when we needed to look at a property that was already over the top and try to ground it in realism. Fans and audiences want the same thing, fun in the theaters with accurate depictions of their favorite characters. ‘Mortal Kombat’ has humor (mainly in the form of offensive stupid one-offs from Kano) but the tone takes itself too seriously and could do with leaning into the absurdness of the game more.
Overall, Mortal Kombat is much more improved from the previous two attempts and may have a more interesting story than some of the Mortal Kombat video games. But with a franchise so rich in characters and history, I worry some fans will feel it satisfied, while others feel it wasn’t enough. I liked it for what it was, and hope that if the sequels are greenlit that they move in a more fun and true to the video games tone of insanity. ‘Mortal Kombat’ is fairly entertaining film, but by no meant a flawless victory.