This was the movie that fans of the Mortal Kombat franchise wanted back in 1995. Was it extremely cheesy? Yes. Was the acting sub-par at best? Yes. Did the action and video game aspects deliver? Absolutely!
With a franchise like the uber gory Mortal Kombat, Warner Bros. and director Simon McQuoid had a daunting task ahead of them. The Mortal Kombat timeline that has been established in the video games is one of the most complex and confusing timelines out there and creating an interesting and compelling storyline while staying true to the subject matter is not easy.
Yet, 2021’s Mortal Kombat did just that. This movie may not be perfect, but it does an excellent job in bringing together the aspects of a kick-ass martial arts movie and the classic tropes of the beloved arcade classic.
The first seven minutes of Mortal Kombat (which was released earlier this week) simply delivered. The fateful encounter between Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) not only sets the tone for what is to come, but is also worth the price of admission alone. The visuals are spectacular, the action is brutal and gruesome and instantly showcases why this movie is worthy of the hard-R rating. This is what we were waiting for.
The decision of introducing arguably the two most iconic characters of the franchise was a genius move. Not only are we getting a quick origin story for Scorpion and his rivalry with Sub-Zero, but we are also given an insight into the human element that will play a major role in the movie as a whole. I mean, we can’t have all blood, guts, and gore here. There has to be something that anchors this film and the human element is just that.
Almost instantly after the opening scene, we are quickly introduced to a wide variety of classic Mortal Kombat characters as well as a new character. As a fan of the video games it was a lot of fun seeing the different characters popping up here and there. While there quite a variety of fighters introduced, the storyline was never lost or felt bogged down. In fact, I could have used the introduction of a few extra characters if I’m being selfish.
The Earth crew is led by newbie on the block Cole Young (Lewis Tan), and is flanked by Jax Briggs (Mechad Brooks), Sonya Blade (Jesica McNamee), Kano (Josh Lawson), Liu Kang (Lundi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and the thunder god himself, Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) as they face off against Shang Tsung’s (Chin Han) outworlders Mileena (Sisi Stringer), Kabal (Daniel Nelson) Nitara (Mel Jarnson), General Reiko (Nathan Jones), and Goro.
Josh Lawson’s Kano is an easy standout. He is legitimately hilarious and comes across as extremely comfortable in the role. The never-ending banter and sharp one-liners never stopped.
McQuoid spared no expense with CGI and special effects and it showed. The visuals in this film are breathtaking. Goro may not have had a whole lot of screen time, but he looked great. Liu Kang’s fire-bending and Kabal’s teleporting style of fighting felt right at home on the screen. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on how awesome all of Sub-Zero’s icy effects looked. I’m telling you, there were no real low points in the special effects department. This is another smart decision made by McQuoid. While the movie needed to have kick-ass martial arts sequences, it also needed to have equally as bad-ass special effects to make the fans happy.
While some characters may not have had the amount of screen-time to feel fully fledged out, you cannot complain about their designs. Each and every character looked fantastic. They all had specific callbacks to their original designs while also having some much-needed modernizing. We also saw some absolutely beautiful fighting environments that would feel right at home in any Mortal Kombat video game.
Like I mentioned earlier, the special effects of this movie were terrific and needed to be to carry the movie. However, the martial arts sequences also needed to deliver. McQuoid was able to not only direct intricately choreographed fighting sequences, but he was also able to balance them with the necessary supernatural elements like Kano’s laser beam and Raiden’s thunder powers. Everything about the many fight sequences was just beautiful.
Well, maybe beautiful isn’t the most appropriate word to use when describing this movie. Mortal Kombat is definitely deserves its hard-R rating. There is so much violence, gore, and language here. No fan of the video games can say that this film is unworthy of the title Mortal Kombat.
I personally loved this film. It had just the right number of callbacks to the video games mixed in to leave a smile on my face from the minute the movie started till the credits rolled at the end. I especially enjoyed the fatalities and sayings from the games being thrown in. They were flawless.
I do warn, however, those who may be on the fence in seeing this movie. It is rated-R for a reason. If you are unfamiliar with the characters, some of the reveals and key moments may not be as impactful. I watched this in theaters with a close friend who was knew ‘literally nothing’ about Mortal Kombat walking in. Even though he enjoyed the movie, he didn’t enjoy it as much as I did, which I feel may hold true for others as well.
This movie is obviously designed to be a launching pad for future installments. I cannot wait to see more fan-favorites like Shao Kahn, Barraka, Sindell and Johnny Cage show up as I am sure a sequel (or two. Or three.) is in our future. This movie did not ‘finish him’ which should make fans of the classics proud. We’re looking at you, Annihilation.
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