The new Mortal Kombat is finally out! The 2021 feature by director Simon McQuiod. With a screenplay and story by Greg Russo, Dave Callaham, and Oren Uziel. With a stacked cast and promises of over-the-top action, fans were eager to see if it was worth the wait. Read along through this (mostly) spoiler-free review to see if you should check it out this weekend.
For those who are unfamiliar, Mortal Kombat began as a video game franchise. With its first Arcade game releasing in 1992. Created by John Tobias and Ed Boon, the Mortal Kombat franchise remains a titan among fighting games to this day. With its latest game, Mortal Kombat 11, coming out in 2019. The franchise is famous for its attempts to blend realism and fantasy through its controversial “Fatalities”. Violent finishing moves are displays to show your superiority over your opponent at the end of a match.
Over the years, Mortal Kombat has branched out. Beyond fighting games, from adventure games, trading cards, comic books, television, and probably most notably film.
Back in 1995, the first film based on Mortal Kombat hit the silver screen. Starring Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The action film was a modest hit and an unexpected success as a film based on a video game franchise. While Mortal Kombat 95′ is was a hit, its sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, became far more infamous. Due to numerous problems behind the scenes, many of the cast and crew of the original film never came back. The result was a tremendous flop that effectively killed any chance for future films for more than a decade.
In the latest feature, Lewis Tan (Wu Assassins, Into The Badlands, Deadpool 2) takes the lead as newcomer Cole Young. A down on his luck MMA fighter who lives for his wife and daughter. Throughout the story, Cole serves as an audience insert which also has a surprise connection to a classic Mortal Kombat character.
The rest of the roster is full of the most recognizable heroes and villains fans would expect. On the side of Earthrealm are Jax Briggs(Mehcad Brooks), Sonya Blade(Jess McNamee), Kano (Josh Lawson), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). Who must train to defeat Shang Tsung (Chin Han) and his forces of evil.
Mortal Kombat (2021) manages to be a fun romp, not taking itself too seriously. With some pretty decent self-referential humour and numerous colourful insults tossed between combatants. The dialogue might be a bit too cheesy for some, but it leans into it sincerely. This can sometimes clash with more severe drama throughout the plot, which most of it happens to be built around.
Its sense of humour is something the film has in common with its 1995 counterpart. However, the jokes in the 2021 film are laden with a lot more expletives, thanks to its R rating. Unlike its 95′ counterpart, the film takes a slower approach to its action. With the bulk of its fight scenes taking place in the beginning and near the end of the film. Rather than filling in the center. That being said, the fight scenes themselves are pretty entertaining.
My personal favourites being the opening fight and short series of fights leading into the final showdown. Mortal Kombat delivers on its promise of violent action on par with the games it is based on. The many brutal fatalities are put to good use to cap off the conflicts within the film. However, McQuiod’s style of direction can sometimes distract from the choreography of otherwise great action scenes. Mortal Kombat being his first prominent feature, is still a fun watch. But, it definitely shows through the action and dialogue.
As far as performances go, despite fairly being entertaining I do feel that the villains were pretty underutilized. Admittedly another thing it ends up having in common with the 95′ adaptation. Joe Taslim’s antagonistic role as Bi-Han, aka Subzero, manages to make some impact. But seems more effective in his introduction when Taslim is unmasked. Bi-Han is certainly intimidating but is made all the more so by Joe’s ability to openly emote.
Some standout performances were definitely Lawson’s Kano. Who openly emotes and manages to be a catalyst for most of the humour. The entire leading cast gets to have their moments. With Ludi Lin and Mehcad Brooks managing to be the stars of the show for me. Lin definitely needs a role as a leading man, and Mehcad shows that he’s a master of one-liner delivery.
Overall I had a solid experience with the film. While my personal nostalgia factor for the original will always keep it at number one in my heart. I still had good, campy fun with this new take. For me, the measure of video-game movies’ success is if they make me want to go and play the actual game. While I wouldn’t put it above more well known recent action films, Mortal Kombat was a welcome spring action flick. And will probably make for a great group watch with friends who are fans and casual viewers alike.
Mortal Kombat is currently in Theaters and on HBO Max till May 23rd.