review by Bobby Blakey
I remember playing the original Mortal Kombat arcade game and being blown away by the level of violence I had never seen before in a game like that. When it finally made the transition to the big screen with the 1995 film of the same name. I love this film and even got to do a martial arts demo promotion at our local theater for it. In 1997 it released a less than stellar sequel, then rebooted it with a gritty online series in 2011and a badass animated feature in 2020. Now we arwe finally getting a new version of the life action property, but could it bring all the action, gore and fun that fans want or will it fail to score a fatality?
Mortal Kombat follows MMA fighter Cole Young, who is accustomed to taking a beating for money, that is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt him down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana—the immense power from within his soul—in time to save not only his family but to stop Outworld once and for all?
When it was announced they were rebooting the franchise once again, but this time as an R rated film with James Wan producing I was in. The new film features a great cast and some amazing martial artists including Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Matilda Kimber, and Laura Brent with Simon McQuid making his feature directorial debut. The trailers looked pretty badass and looked like it was going to offer up everything you could want in a Mortal Kombat film and while there are some issues it succeeds more than it struggles.
The film wastes no time in getting to the action with the already released opening sequence that is great. From there it kicks into the main part of the story that is pretty simple and not looking to be complicated, but instead just set up this world and obviously the fights. While there is a decent amount of action throughout it does have a lot of down time in the first half which I didn’t mind too much. I enjoyed getting to spend some time with the characters despite them never getting all that much depth. I was a bit worried about the addition of the new character Cole since Liu Kang has always been the go to as the lead of the story, but he does serve that purpose of being the new outsider like some viewers and works better than I had thought. I am also a big fan of Lewis Tan so it helps to make it work for me.
All the characters are brought to successful life with Josh Lawson’s Kano stealing every scene and bringing the sarcasm and laughs. Ludi Lin and Max Huang are so good as Liu Kang and Kung Lau respectfully. Of them all though its Joe Taslim’s Sub-Zero and Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion that are not only awesome but deserve their own movie. The film does struggle on the overall character front on being able to give you anything to really care about them. This is an issue in most films, but here didn’t bother me much since I am here for Mortal Kombat and not Mortal Feelings. There is an issue as well of character pretty quickly just accepting things and turning on each other with not much effort or resistance. This seems to be a byproduct and just trying to get to that next fight as quick as possible.
Let’s be honest though, anyone seeing this film for anything more than the action is lying to themselves. Sure we need a story and some back story for the characters, but we want to see them kicking ass and ripping out spines more than anything else. While the best moments are in the last act there are some decent fights along the way. For those hoping for those gruesome fatalities have no fear there are some here and a ton of fun to watch. Not all the fights are as epic as I had hoped, but I still walked away satisfied especially with the final fights and the angle they went with.
It’s interesting that despite being a Mortal Kombat film we never actually get to the tournament which is clearly what they are building towards in more films should we get them. While not perfect I still got what I wanted out of the film and will no doubt be watching it again.
Prepare for the tournament and check out Mortal Kombat in theaters and HBO Max now from Warner Bros.