‘Mortal Kombat’ (2021) Review

To expand upon my quick thoughts in the video, Mortal Kombat (2021) is a martial arts fantasy film serving as a reboot to the Mortal Kombat film series based on the video game franchise of the same name created by Ed Boon and John Tobias. Directed by Simon McQuoid, in his directorial debut, the film stars Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, and Hiroyuki Sanada. This new iteration follows original character Cole Young as he is thrust into a battle between Outworld and Earthrealm warriors. The evil sorcerer Shang Tsung is attempting to kill off Earthrealm’s best combatants before the start of the next Mortal Kombat tournament to ensure victory for Outworld and his master Shao Kahn.

To start this film isn’t actually about Mortal Kombat and instead is about the lead up to it. Characters and backstories from the game are slightly altered with some changes working very well and others being idiotic. The best change is having Bi-Han/Sub-Zero freeze off Jax’s arms. The scene is shot very well and viewers can see the surprise in Jax’s eyes as his veins and arteries are bursting as the ice grows over his arms. Other characters and their relationships are quickly glossed over. If you never played the games, you might be a little confused at how some characters know each other. Even though the film takes its characters to a few different realms and locations on earth, everything looks the same. Raiden’s temple is in a desert. Outworld looks like a desert. This shows how constrained they were with the budget. Even the blood splatter, while fun to see, clearly looked digital. After seeing it a few times it takes you out of the film.

The main character Cole Young feels very unnecessary. When you have a variety of game characters to choose from why create an original character for the movie. His role is to fulfill a prophecy in which he unites the other characters to defeat Outworld, but this feat could have easily been completed by any of the other main characters. As a matter of fact, we have no idea where this prophecy came from and why Raiden doesn’t round up the fighters himself. He is shown to have recruited Liu Kang and Kung Lao to fight for Earthrealm.

The film also tries to explain the powers combatants have in the game by introducing the “arcana.” This is a special dragon mark that means you are chosen to fight for Earthrealm in the Mortal Kombat tournament. It’s not really explained where the marks come from, but they can be attained by killing someone who has a mark or inheriting it from an ancestor somehow. Cole’s mark has been on him since birth, inherited from the bloodline of Hanzo Hisashi, but since Hanzo was killed by Bi-Han/Sub-Zero, shouldn’t the latter have received Hanzo’s mark. Anyways, these marks allow the warriors to unlock powers such as Kano’s eye laser, Lui Kang’s fireballs, Kung Lao’s teleportation, and Sonya’s energy rings. At the same time, they can amplify existing things a person has such as turning Jax’s wimpy metal arms into stronger metal arms and Cole’s bracelet into literal plot armor. It would have been better to simply explain the abilities as cybernetic enhancements or magic. Also, it is not explained if Sub-Zero’s ice powers are from an arcana or not or if Hanzo had any special abilities prior to his death and descent into Netherrealm.

On the bright side, the film has two really good fight scenes between Scorpion and Sub-Zero at the beginning and end. Kano is hilarious and practically carries the film. There are a ton of easter eggs for the loyal fan to spot. And lastly, the fatalities and special moves look pretty cool and are done decently well even if only for fan service.

If they wanted to make a prequel set before the actual tournament, they could’ve made a Special Forces film, or a Shaolin Monks film, or a Shirai Ryu vs Lin Kuei film. Heck, even a solo Johnny Cage film would’ve been a better start. If you only care about watching people fight and seeing live-action fatalities, then this is the perfect film for you. I give Mortal Kombat (2021) a Solid 5/10. I feel like this franchise may be done for a while after this point. Although if it does well, I’m sure a sequel will be greenlit soon.

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