Updated: Sep 21, 2021
When it comes to fighting games, two series have defined the video game genre. The first is none other than Street Fighter while the other is the gruesome yet extravagant Mortal Kombat. Since 1992 Mortal Kombat has captured the enjoyment of many gamers, and the series has branch into other mediums such as comics and movies. Originally Mortal Kombat came to the silver screen in 1995 and then returned with a sequel in 1997 (though that one is better left forgotten). It has been quite some time sense the combatants have battled on the silver screen, but the time has finally come for Mortal Kombat to begin yet again in a brand-new movie.
Directed by Simon McQuiod, Mortal Kombat reboots the film franchise with acclaimed filmmaker James Wan serving as a producer. While video games in general have a hard time translating on the big screen, Mortal Kombat looked promising with the trailer showcasing the series’ notable concepts as well as some crazy action. So, I ventured to see this reboot for myself and while it may not have been a flawless victory Mortal Kombat was very much a thrilling adaptation.
The story centers on Cole (Lewis Tan) whose life is forever changed after being attack by the mysterious Sub-Zero (Joe Talsim). It turns out Cole is a chosen fighter to protect Earthrealm from the imposing Outworld whose forces are being led by Shang Tseung (Chin Han). Along with fighters like Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Cole must find his hidden power and prepare for the upcoming tournament known as Mortal Kombat. The plot of Mortal Kombat felt like a fresh start. Along with capturing the general concept of the series, the plot does something different by setting up the impending tournament oppose to making it the center plot point. Yet the story was not without its faults. The plot had a tendency to rush in places and it had a difficult time honing concepts such as kana: the spiritual force that gives the characters their powers. This power source was an interesting idea to say the least, but it was too broad in its concept and felt as though it was just a convenient way to explain things. While elements conflicted with each other, the fact remained that the story was an enjoyable ride and its simplicity it was enough to make this combated tale an acceptable experience.
Mortal Kombat is filled with a variety of characters that can easily make up a cinematic cast; and that was evident in this new film. Every character in this cast had their moment to shine though some stood out more than others. In the case of the protagonist, Cole was better than expected. The character’s role was to be a guide for the audience, and that can be hindrance to the rest of the cast. Fortunately, that was not the case as Cole did not overshadow cast’s relevance; although some of his development was a bit generic. When it came to rest of the cast, the likes of Liu Kang and Sonya had subtle progression that was appropriate for the movie at hand. Other characters like Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Kano (Josh Lawson) and Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) provided the right amount of support to the cast while being able to stand out on their own. Kano, in particular, was prevalent in this role as he practically stole the show every time he was on screen. Last and certainly not least were the series’ poster boys Sub-Zero and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) Despite having minimal screen time, particularly Scorpion, both ninjas had an endearing presence that was effective for the movie and respectable to both characters' lore. From efficient characterization to enjoyable performances, the cast was far more impressive than I anticipated to point where this group of fighters could very well be one of the strongest ensembles put together for a video game movie.
When it came references to the games, the movie featured plenty of easter eggs. The various nods to franchise felt like an admirable tribute to the series as a whole. When it came to aspects like visuals, the movie was fairly sound. Along with the thematic scenery, the movie’s effects had a sense of authenticity to them. The ice effects for Sub-Zero were particularly impressive as they had a practical sense to them and were executed in a creative fashion. The score by Benjamin Wallfisch was a worthy composition for franchise. Along with featuring sounds fitting of a video game, the score also implemented the iconic theme from the 1995 film; and that certainly did not hurt the film’s presentation. Yet of all the movie’s highlights none was more prominent than the action. The fight sequences were well crafted and fitting of the martial arts genre; while the gore was as outlandish as the craziest of action films. To put it simply: the action was everything to expect from Mortal Kombat.
In many ways Mortal Kombat lives up to its name. While elements such as the story could have been stronger, others like the cast were more than enough to give this adaptation merit. Along with its basic storytelling and characterization, the movie featured a gruesome spectacle as elements like effects and action created an exhilarating atmosphere to this gritty blockbuster. Out of all these factors perhaps the most notable is the potential this movie shows as it can easily be the ground work of a much greater story. However, if that is not the case, then Mortal Kombat simply shows its might by being both a faithful adaptation and an exciting blockbuster too brutal to look away from.