Mortal Kombat returns for a new generation but it’s far from a flawless victory
Based on one of the Bestselling game franchises of all time, Mortal Kombat is the latest big screen iteration of the classic series. The last on screen set of films began in 1995 and while fans enjoyed seeing the series brought to life, the films themselves were not great.
Almost 25yrs later, Warner Bros got the chance to relaunch the series for a new generation, making use of the latest technology, effects, and filming techniques. Much was made of Director Simon McQuoid’s love of the series and commitment to bringing a true version to the screen for fans. The initial trailer broke viewer records on YouTube so needless to say, anticipation was high, and everything was in place for this to blow us all away. So, it’s disappointing to say the final product was just ok.
Mortal Kombat 2021 Review
The story centers around Cole Young (Lewis Tan), an MMA fighter who has seen better days and is now happy taking punches for a paycheck. It’s revealed to him by Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya (Jessica McNamee) that his dragon birthmark is actually an invitation to a secret fighting tournament between earth and beings from different realms and victory at the tournament prevents an invasion. Taking that into account, is it ok to be upset and find it strange that a film about a fighting tournament had no actual fighting tournament? The decision to have Cole Young as the central character was also quite strange considering he was an original creation for this film and has not previously featured in the game series. There was no real investment in his plight and after watching it, I still don’t really know what his special fighting skill is. The pace of the film is also quite uneven, with the initial slow pace suddenly sped up to include numerous characters getting powers to prevent the pending invasion. The dialogue is basic, and the delivery is at times is wooden and unintentionally comical. But this is a film based on a fighting game, so we are not here for dialogue or award-winning performances, we are here for the Kombat.
The characters are a very mixed bag. Mortal Kombat has always been centered on the endless battle between Sun Zero and Scorpion. The film does a respectable job of portraying these enemies and their scenes together are some of the more enjoyable in the film. Their combat feels solid, and we are more invested as we partially understand their bitter rivarly. The rest of the characters feel like they were picked straight out of a ‘B’ movie. Not that they weren’t terrible, but I found myself thinking a few actors of a higher calibre could have lifted the material or at least hammed it up and given it some more personality. I actually would have brought back Christopher Lambert as Lord Raiden from the original series as opposed to the Raiden, we got who somehow lacked any real presence as a thunder god. Kano (Josh Lawson) was included to play the part of the annoying, slightly racist, murderous rogue. I shouldn’t but I did find his rawness entertaining at least
The Combat should have been the showcase of the film, it’s in the title but even that was just alright. Maybe we have been spoilt by years of action films choreographed by experts who not only bring their own unique style but also actors who can really sell it on screen. This left most of the fight scenes here looking decidedly average in comparison. Most of the effects are done well but put together somehow just didn’t hit as hard. Maybe better sound design could have improved the impact. Even the famous fatalities, once the pride of the series didn’t wow me. It was nice to see them included but somehow, we’ve seen them all before. The creators of the game learnt many years ago that the fatality only really paid off as the end point of a good scrap and outside of Scorpion and Subzero, we didn’t really get that. In the game, by the point you heard ‘Finish Him’, you know had earned it. Outside Scorpion and Sub Zero, the fatalities didn’t feel earned and almost disconnected from the characters performing them
Mortal Kombat was one of the films I was most looking forward to this year. It had a big opening in the US Cinema and performed well for Warner Bros at the cinema. Maybe the big screen would have made a difference and pushed my score up another point. It’s not terrible and it’s probably worth seeing so you are not totally lost when the inevitable sequel is released but right now, i’m underwhelmed.
See the Official Red Band Trailer here
Related Mortal Kombat was one of May’s Most Wanted Movies, see the others here
Mortal Kombat is available in the UK now as a Sky Cinema Premier rental