Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

Let’s talk about Mortal Kombat.

For a long time, video game movies were the absolute worst. Video game fans may have hated the movie tie-ins that used to be crapped out onto consoles, but what they gave back in return was far worse. Yes, the Iron Man video game worked as well as Fiat from the 1970s, but people should have been arrested over the creation of the Double Dragon movie. Things have got better in recent years though, with Detective Pikachu and Sonic the Hedgehog being very likable movies. Even the not so well regarded video game movies like Warcraft and Angry Birds either have fans or are inoffensive enough not to register.

But for a while, there was only one movie which showed video game movies could anything other than the diarrhoea from a diseased bison. That was Mortal Kombat, originally released in 1995. Based on the video game so violent it helped to create the age rating system for computer games, it did the job it was meant to do. No, it wasn’t a classic that was going to win Oscars and be acclaimed by critics for years to come. But it was entertaining and gave the people want they wanted, big bloody fights with the characters they loved from the game. Now that the Mortal Kombat series has re-established itself with a set of great games, it is now time for a reboot of the film franchise.

Cole is a past it MMA fighter that is keeping on going in order to provide for his family. He goes onto discover that a dragon birth mark is actually him being marked to take part in the Mortal Kombat tournament against people from the Outworld. Cole must team up with other heroes from Earth to take on those from the Outworld as if they lose this tournament, the other realm will invade and enslave Earth.

After a brief part in Japan where you aren’t quite sure if you are watching a Mortal Kombat movie or not, the fight scenes where lots of blood starts getting spilled will relax you in case you’re anxious you went into the wrong scene, the movie gets going with our main character Cole. And you can really tell that no one cared about the scenes where there was no blood or fighting. The script is on an amateur level where everyone gets out their exposition as quickly and clunkily as possible so they can move onto the next scene. Thankfully there are only a few attempts to try and get you to connect the characters on an emotional level because it would fail, as they have the depth of a paddling pool in a drought.

And it’s because of this the acting is poor. I don’t really know any of these guys, well I saw Mehcad Brooks be bland in Supergirl and that’s it, and so it’s impossible to write them off as bad actors on the basis of this one movie. But their performances here are incredibly wooden and just really tough to get through. Lewis Tan as the lead Cole is the worst as well, with his scenes often being at the level of your local amateur playhouse than a big budget blockbuster. The only guy who gets out of this film in terms of their acting performance with credit is Josh Lawson as Kano. He gets all the best lines and delivers them in the most Australian way possible, which is a way of saying he says fuck a lot. He is though very entertaining and makes the scenes which do not contain fighting easy to sit through.

And yes, it’s probably unfair to talk about the script and acting for two paragraphs because that’s not what you are here for. You are here for fighting. And thankfully, that is very good. It is exactly what you would want from a Mortal Kombat movie. You get the characters from the games using the move set that is usually deployed by holding A and flicking the analogue stick up. You may not get a tournament, but you get lots of different match ups between classic characters as the plot works out as many ways as possible to get fights in, whether they are brutal to the death affairs or the more friendly training matches. And yes, you get fatalities and they are the fatalities from the games. You will not be disappointed on that front. My only complaint is that some of the editing in the fight scenes can be quite poor as it does sometimes miss some of the moves, though this seems to be down to the cuts made to try and get a reasonable age rating in the US.

I can’t say I’m a big Mortal Kombat fan, I had Mortal Kombat 3 on the Game Boy and that’s it, but I know enough about the series to know that fans will really enjoy the love put into this by the creators. Classic lines are pulled right from the games, including finishing fights by saying Flawless Victory and such. They even joke about the name being spelled wrong and in one fight we see that really annoying thing when someone move spams in order to win. It made you rage hard when you were a kid but now you’re an adult, you’ll get to laugh. And probably have some rage you’ve been holding onto against your younger brother from the time he did it to you.

What the film reminds me of are the animes that first came to the west. Every character has their personality traits and aims imprinted on their forward and speak in constant exposition. They also do it in a stilted way, because that was when 4Kids Dubs were your only option. But just as you planned to ignore it, you then got a load of cool action scenes which are enough to dazzle you into enjoying it. This is no insult, those animes hold a special place in people’s heart and I think despite it’s flaws, lots of people of going to love this film because it has had a lot of love put into it.

Mortal Kombat feels like it maximises itself. Yes in theory, it could be a lot better by having a script with some more depth and by giving the actors another few takes to put some emotion and energy into their lines. The source material on hand is going to lead to a true classic anytime soon, but it can lead to a bloody, gory and fun film which is exactly what this. It gives you exactly what you want and not much more. And can you really complain at that?

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A Guy Who Talks About Movies

Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.