Kombatants, step forward!
Mortal Kombat has returned to cinemas, rejoining the battle for “will it be a good video game movie?”. I suppose we should start at the definition of good:
good / adjective
1. to be desired or approved of; “it’s good that he’s back to his old self”
2. having the required qualities; of a high standard. “a good restaurant”
In that context, we could simply pick out a best fit for “good”, which I think in this case is approval.
MORTAL KOMBAT (2021). I APPROVE OF YOU.
Starting with an epic 7 minute action sequence in the past, which sets up the story of revenge between everyone’s favourite ninja, Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), it then jumps over to sweet exposition. I said to the friend I went with that I’d scream if they did that, but the film gets off with a technicality due to it taking place after the action sequence. Flashing forward to Shang Tsung, played by everyone’s favourite accountant (“One big pot”), Chin Han; They play up the camp and cheese as they set in course a series of events where Mortal Kombat starts to happen before it happens.
ENTER COLE YOUNG.
Our avatar for the film played by Lewis Tan, and a wholly new character to the franchise, does MMA in a down bad way. Camping it up by establishing tropes like “he’s a family man!”, “he has a mystical birthmark!” and “he was a good fighter!” tells us everything we need to know about him. THEN SUB-ZERO ATTACKS. As wonderous FX fills the screen, it screamed to me that “WOW! Maybe 1995’s Mortal Kombat just needed better graphics!”. While this may be the case, this film does excel at the 2 things Mortal Kombat needed which the former lacked, and that is;
Stupid amounts of gory action.
Damn beautiful FX.
Fittingly because of this, the film also suffers whenever action isn’t on-screen, as it attempts to sensibly explain how everything in Mortal Kombat works. Typically left to Jessica McNamee‘s Sonya Blade to explain, she’s conveniently been tracking records about the event. She also introduces the character that is likely to end up as everyone’s favourite, Kano. Yes, the mercenary dickhead Kano, will be your favourite, as he’s expertly played by Josh Lawson who leans right into full Australian Bogan territory. So much so, that he made this reviewer wonder if they’d turned into an old person, as a 15 minute section riddled with F-bombs quickly drove me as mental as only this character could.
Ludi Lin and Max Huang feature as the Shaolin Monks, Liu Kang and Kung Lao, who like the games, follow the sassy Lord Raiden, played by Tadanobu Asano. Mehcad Brooks rounds out our heroes, as they go from Jimmy Olsen to DADDY JAX BRIGGS, metal arms and all.
The action is fantastic, with standouts in Taslim, Sanada and Tan; Their work in the field indicative of how well their fights are portrayed. In the same breath though, it makes some of the other fights telegraphed moments easy to see, breaking the tension of battle as strikes swipe through the air as easily as a Tinder match. But these minor frustrations serve only as an entrée, to how incredibly the inevitable Scorpion versus Sub-Zero main meal plays out. The fight feels like the coordinators said to Sanada and Taslim to “just go for it”, and boy do they!
It’s almost like it’s made for the fans.
With a tonne of Easter Eggs and dialogue from the franchise cropping up at every opportunity, Mortal Kombat (2021) is a GOOD video game film. It has its flaws! But the fun, and clear admiration for the games and the fans of it, more than makes up for this. I believe it also passes the Bechdel test!
So like I tweeted; MORTAL KOMBAT WAS SUPER FUN. GO SEE IT. Because if Mortal Kombat (1995) can get a sequel, then this one ABSOLUTELY deserves one.
Oh, and the music is totally in it.
Big dumb fun locked behind an R-Rating as Mortal Kombat should be, it delivers on the visceral experience popularised by the franchise.
While it isn't a FLAWLESS VICTORY, a win is a win; So I hope they get to move on to the next round very soon!