The Mortal Kombat movie reboot succeeds where the original movie failed in terms of the level of violence, but falters when it comes to its story.
Movies based on video games have always been hit or miss. Mostly misses actually. Historically, video games-based films are mostly seen and treated as low-quality movies with little to offer. The popular Mortal Kombat series was not spared from this, facing this problem in 1995 with the movie receiving mixed reputation. In fact, it has earned cult classic status and has made its place in the so-bad-it’s-good category of movies. The 1997 sequel, meanwhile, was panned across the board.
Now, we have a new Mortal Kombat movie which is seen as a reboot of sorts. Before the movie’s release, Mortal Kombat was showing signs of promise: filmmakers who understood the source material, a dedication to R-rated violence, and a cast who knew how to fight. The end result though may not meet the loftiest of standards. Mortal Kombat delivers on the action and violence, but it is hampered by a story that could use more time in the oven.
Kombat that would make any Mortal Kombat fan proud
Let’s start where Mortal Kombat excels in the best: the action and fight scenes. Every fight scene in this movie is choreographed perfectly. Every punch, kick, swipe, and fireball has a purpose. When you see hands being thrown, they are being thrown for real. The punches, kicks, and stabs are so crisp you can almost feel how much they hurt. It also greatly helps that the cast is stacked with actors who are trained in martial arts. It is commendable how the fight scenes of the characters match up with their fighting styles. This means that the characters aren’t just randomly fighting, they are fighting accurately to the style of their video game counterparts.
Video game accurate violence
One of the biggest criticisms of the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie is the lack of violence. This is something the modern reboot doesn’t lack. The violence in this movie is now on-par or near the violence depicted in the games. Guts will fly, arms will be broken, and blood will flow, just like how it should be. The fatalities in this movie can only be described as beautifully violent. Fans of the video games should be satisfied with the level of violence on display in the movie. Mortal Kombat is not for the faint of heart.
The opening scene perfectly shows the movie’s mix of action and violence. The opening scene introduces Sub -Zero (Joe Taslim), and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) through a mesmerizing choreographed fight scene that hits all the right notes. The final fight scene also proves to be a standout in the film. Both have that mix of action and signature Mortal Kombat violence.
What prevents this movie from being great though is its sub-par story and main character. The story is told through the eyes of Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a new character made for the movie, who is an MMA fighter. It becomes clear early on that Cole is there as the representation for people who are not familiar with the Mortal Kombat story. Because of that, the first half of the movie is exposition-heavy as Cole, and the audience is dumped with backstory on the Mortal Kombat universe. Cole himself also feels too generic with the usual backstory of a man who has a loving family and is destined for great things. His powers are interesting, but as a character, he’s bland.
Mortal Kombat’s storyline is both Avengers team up and world-building, which makes it hard for the audience to understand certain characters or motivations. This then makes the movie feel more like a prequel rather than the start of a possible franchise. What’s worse, popular characters from the video games who have a rich backstory like Mileena are treated like henchmen. She could have easily been replaced by one of the dozens of characters in the games who fit the henchmen role. There are also roles that are talked about as being important, but the movie does not show it so there isn’t any proof to back it up.
Not every character though is one-dimensional as Kano (Josh Lawson), Lui Kang (Ludi Lin), and Kung Lao (Max Huang) who not only have great costumes, but are also spot on with how their characters are portrayed in the games. There are also quite a few references sprinkled throughout the movie that will delight any Mortal Kombat fan.
Fun for fans, less so for others
If you are a Mortal Kombat fan, the movie is good. It hits all the right notes when it comes to the action and violence and it’s also nice to see some fan-favorite characters on-screen duking it out. If you have no knowledge of the Mortal Kombat series though, this movie probably won’t make you a fan. The movie is straight-up over-the-top and cheesy action that is more or less in line with the games. It does most things right to satisfy any Mortal Kombat fan, but not so much for everyone else. If ever there will be a sequel, a tight storyline and more character development would be greatly appreciated. The movie isn’t perfect, but it is fun if you set the proper expectations.