In 1992, developers Ed Boon and John Tobias brought to the world the fighting game, Mortal Kombat, which focused on several characters of various intentions who enter a martial arts tournament with worldly consequences. The game would go on to create a massive franchise, creating memorable characters and lore, as well as bringing to pop culture the unique five-button control scheme and the iconic gory finishing moves called Fatalities. After two film adaptations in the late 90s’, we now get a new Mortal Kombat film. Does it capture the spirit of the game or fall into the dreaded video game adaption curse?
MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung (Chin Han) has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) at the direction of Jax (Mehcad Brooks), a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang), and rogue mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe.
There was a time when video game adaptations were considered the laughing stock of movie subgenres. Even the original 1995 movie is polarising at best, which is a notch above the infamously bad sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. But in recent years, as video games have become more cinematic with their storytelling, it has allowed filmmakers to create movies that were closer to the source material. In the case of Mortal Kombat 2021, the movie has definitely joined the ranks of fairly enjoyable adaptions like the 2018 Tomb Raider or Detective Pikachu. The lore of the series was brought to a grand and epic scale with a lot of setup for the future, as well as providing a spotlight for the fun, albeit crowded roster of characters. And while each character brought on some enjoyable dynamic, Josh Lawson as Kano being a particular highlight as he perfectly embraced the agro dirty bogan holidaying in Bali (with a laser eye!), Lewis Tan as the lead and his “family man” motivation was very stock and bland, often being cast aside the much more fun side characters.
As the games are known for their insane levels of gore, the newest movie certainly delivers with its fight scenes. First-time director Simon McQuoid really brought some confidence with the fight choreography (despite some jarring quick-cut editing) and everyone seemed to have a blast bringing the game to life. The Sub-Zero and Scorpion rivalry in particular was brought with so much epicness and passion brought by Joe Tasim and Hiroyuki Sanada, respectfully. Also blood. The R 18+ rating was very much earned as there is SO MUCH blood and body parts that fly all across the scene. Any fans of the game should get a real kick out of seeing the characters bring out the fatalities in all their cinematic glory while shouting all the famous catchphrases. Even all you spam fighters are thrown under the bus!
Overall, Mortal Kombat is a fun adaptation of the games that brings out all the punches and gore in a spectacular way, but the characters are left as fun, but crowded and lacking depth. Fans of the game franchise should be satisfied by the newest adaption, especially if your inner gore hound was disappointed by the original movies. As a South Australian production, it is absolutely worth supporting.