Mortal Kombat easily enters the video game movie arena and emerges as a grand champion.
Granted, the ‘take a step and you might miss it’ bar for video game movies isn’t that high, but don’t hold that against Mortal Kombat. This would be a rock solid adaptation of the source material even if the genre was full of quality hits.
It doesn’t take long to get that the film was clearly made by a team eager to do right by the fanbase. Mortal Kombat already had a decent for the time 1995 live-action film, but the willingness to go all out with a Rated R production makes this a significant upgrade.
Director Simon McQuoid has a lone video short to his resume before Mortal Kombat seemingly making for an odd choice to helm the popular franchise for a new generation. Good thing Warner Bros. was willing to take a chance on a new filmmaker as McQuoid definitely understands the tone of Mortal Kombat and the necessary balance of setting the story and crazy, over the top fighting sequences.
As far as video games go, the Mortal Kombat series has one of the strongest mythologies with a well-crafted continuity. Saying the script sounds like the video game would be an insult in about 99% of films, but in this case that’s a positive.
The one catch is the studio-mandated main character Cole Young, played by Lewis Tan (Deadpool II). Cole is a somewhat washed-up MMA barely scraping by when he’s recruited to join Jax (Mechad Brooks, Supergirl) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee, The Meg) to save Earth Realm from an invasion.
Screenwriter Greg Russo, who worked on scripts with both Oren Uziel (The Cloverfield Paradox) and Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984), have a challenge in working in a new character when there’s plenty of viable options from the series.
As a workaround, Sonya, Jax and Cole eventually meet up with Liu Kang (Ludi Lin, Power Rangers) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) — the warrior allies of Raiden (Asano Tadanobu, the Thor franchise). Mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson, Superstore) probably gets a bit too much screen time and comedic dialogue as the unwanted tagalong in a role that probably would have been a better fit for franchise favorite Johnny Cage.
It’s going to take a massive alliance to withstand the challenge from Shang Tsung (Chin Han, The Dark Knight) and his formidable array of fighters including the cold-hearted assassin Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim, The Raid: Redemption). Sub-Zero is still relishing the defeat of his longtime rival, Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada, The Wolverine).
While the cast is filled with familiar actors no one is such a big name that they overshadow the rest of the ensemble, which is key for the sake of subsequent installments.
It was impressive seeing the thoughtfulness of the Easter Eggs, which didn’t feel like random background elements only hardcore fans would get. These also weren’t the pandering Easter Eggs in some desperate attempt to convince the audience the filmmakers are familiar with the source material. Their inclusion is intentional and teases at some possibilities in future installments.
- Giveaway: Voyagers
- Trigger Point (2021) review
- Sony strikes deal to bring old and new Spider-Man films to Disney+
- Star Wars The Black Series Moff Gideon figure review
The script also includes a clever way to incorporate the fighters’ special abilities, which are played out here more like superhero super powers. Hey, superhero movies are the blockbuster currency of the day and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Cappi Ireland’s costumes evoke the feel of the classic video game visuals and translate them well to the big screen. Maybe some of the colors could have been richer and brighter to help the characters stand out, but nothing looks bad.
While there’s some clunky moments with the script, for the most part, they’re more than serviceable bridges between the fight scenes. Typically, we might just get four or five decent fights even in a fighting movie, but the filmmakers understand Mortal Kombat is all about the combat and it delivers in brilliantly bloody fashion.
On this front McQuoid more than earns his paycheck with some game combos implemented, fun nods to fans with a dig on spam moves, the use of game terminology and shocking fatalities. This is where the film happily earns its R rating.
Given the setup, the spot-on casting and R-rating, I had pretty high hopes for Mortal Kombat and the final result didn’t disappoint. Mortal Kombat fans should love this while newcomers looking for some good action will likely find this well worth watching.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.