Last weekend, I splurged a little and bought myself a ticket to see the new Mortal Kombat film. Film is giving it a bit much, to be honest. I saw the new Mortal Kombat movie. Here is my review:
Silly nonsense that was nonetheless very entertaining. I do not regret the splurge.
Look, this movie isn’t great. It’s barely good. I’d so so far as to say that it’s bad. However, it’s precisely because it’s bad that it’s good. Hear me out.
One of the best things about Mortal Kombat is that it leans heavily on its own silliness. It doesn’t shy away from the ridiculousness of the video game premise: that there are multiple realms, and every realm sends forth champions to fight in a high-stakes tournament. As part of the rules, if one realms loses enough times, another realm has permission to annex it. The film opens with Earthrealm (us) on the verge of invasion from Outworld. If we but lose one more tournament, it’s over for us.
Who decides these rules? And why does losing a tournament permit full-scale hostile invasion? Who knows? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we’re not doing so hot in the multi-verse.
I also love that a lot of the movie is dedicated to the ferocious cycle of vengeance between Bi Han (who becomes Sub Zero) and Hanzo Hasashi (who becomes Scorpion).
The movie also doesn’t shy away from the gore that the video game revels in. Granted, it’s actually a lot less shocking in the film, largely because I think there’s only so much one could get away with in film. You can get away with a lot more in video games, I think.
Mortal Kombat does venture away from the vide games enough, though. Despite having all the characters we’re familiar with, the movie centres on a newbie character, created just for the movie — Cole. Cole is a descendant of Hanzo Hasashi, whose bloodline was supposed to have been obliterated by Bi Han (and might have been had Raiden not carried away Hanzo’s daughter after her father’s untimely demise).
You see there is a prophecy (groan) that Eathrealm will be saved by the rise of Hanzo’s bloodline.
It’s a dumb trope, and so prevalent in fiction that it feels kinda like lazy writing, to be honest. But in a movie like this, I suppose it’s to be expected.
Anyway, Sonya Blade and Jax, who were special forces together, are working together to find all the champions of Earthrealm — indicated by a dragon seared into their skin. Cole, a washed-up MMA fighter, happens to be one of them. Shang Tsung, leader of Outworld, has decided that he’s not going to bother to wait for the tournament, and sends his minions to kill all the champions of Earthrealm ahead of the tournament. Sub Zero is one such minion, and he goes after Cole, kicking off the movie.
I’m not going to give too much away here, but it somehow works.
Part of it was the nods to the video game — particularly a scene between Liu Kang and Kano which makes fun of button spammers like myself, who tended to win fights by rapid repetition of the one move we knew for sure how to do.
But it was the fight choreography that really made this move work. There were some fantastic fights. I’ll say no more on it, but I’m very impressed with the fight choreography.
The characters were now quite so outstanding. Cole is, unfortunately, quite ‘meh’ as a character — a down-on-his-luck MMA fighter whose family is his strength. Fairly generic as heroes go. Still, he serves his purpose, and actually, the actor is pretty good, even if his character is rather bland, who is quite literally protected by plot armor. Highlight of his screen time, however, is when he points out that Mortal Kombat is spelled incorrectly. Despite his generic ‘good guy’ kind of character, it fits well the with generic kind of story Mortal Kombat is.
Sonya Blade is also, unfortunately, a fairly generic character, which disappointed me. It made me happy though that it honestly looked like she could fight, unlike other iterations of her character in films. She wasn’t muscular, but she definitely was fit. It was a vast improvement that Sonya Blade appeared so capable a fighter, and intelligent; she wasn’t just a pretty prop piece as she has been in other versions. I’m also pretty chuffed that they didn’t go with the kiss of death as her power. I have vague memories of that being her thing in early versions of the video game. Glad that’s gone. Jax, also uninteresting as far as heroic characters go.
Liu Kang was not much better, being the embodiment of vaguely Eastern mysticism (insert eye-roll emoji here). He is very funny though, and the actor leans into it, making it tolerable. His cousin Kung Lao is entirely unmemorable, except for his hat, which is both a clever and hilariously bad weapon.
A standout, for this Aussie, was Kano.
Josh Lawson, bless him, leaned hard into his Aussiness. Everything from the sarcasm, the cursing, and the posturing were so Australian I laughed at nearly every scene. He was quintessentially Aussie and it was brilliant. He turned what could have been a so-so character into something great, and stole every damned scene he was in.
Kano was easily the best part of the movie, and I recommend watching it just for him.
Mortal Kombat 2021 was head and shoulders well above the other attempts at turning this video game into a movie, aided by the fact that they all decided to lean into the ridiculousness of the basic premise. One of my biggest peeves about some video game adaptations is that they so often try too much for realism, abandoning any speculative fiction elements in order to do so (looking at you, Tomb Raider. Still salty about it). Mortal Kombat stayed true.
Listen, it wasn’t a good movie. But it was still highly entertaining. And I really needed the brainless distraction of it. Would I recommend? Sure! If you need a dumb movie with some brilliant fight choreography
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her most recent titles include ‘Daughters of Britain’ and ‘Skylark.’