MORTAL KOMBAT Review
In the back catalogue of video game movies, 1995’s Mortal Kombat is held up as one of the better ones; a cheesy but close adaptation of the long running fighting game franchise. It is held back by the limits of visual effects at the time and quaint fight scenes by today’s standards. Thankfully, these are rectified for the new franchise reboot with the end result being some bloody gruesome fun.
Mortal Kombat (2021) sees Cole Young, a washed-up MMA fighter, learn he is one of “Earthworld’s Champion” in a fighting tournament between multiple universes called Mortal Kombat. Along with fellow ‘Champions’, Jax, Kano, Liu Kang, Kung Lao and Sonya Blade, they must stop the ruler of Outworld from winning Mortal Kombat, and destroying Earth.
So yeah, Mortal Kombat is dumb as hell. So thankfully, Simon McQuoid, the film’s director, is aware of the stories silliness and leans into it. Is Mortal Kombat an incredible action film akin to a Mad Max: Fury Road? No, but it doesn’t need to be. Does it have cheesy one liners and references to the game, with gruesome and exciting action sequences surrounding it? Absolutely!
The film’s opening 20 minutes play it too safe, not commiting to the high concept story elements and starting too melodramatic, before the star of the show bursts on screen and steals the whole movie.
Kano, played by Australia’s own Josh Lawson, is an alcoholic, degenerate Australian…well, he’s an Australian. Due to the fact that the he is played by an Australian and the film is directed by an Australian, it isn’t a cliched and cringey Aussie stereotype. Kano helps lampshade the film’s ridiculousness and brings a chaotic energy film desperately needs to carry audiences through to the second half.
After some exposition dumping on Cole Young, a new character for the film (and the audience’s surrogate), the Champions arrive at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God (don’t ask). This is when the film goes hard on the action and the fan service. In a uncynical way, the movie incorporates game catchphrases, the iconic Fatalities and even finds a believable way to include the game’s core mechanics of fighters appearing in random fighting arenas or stages.
For fans, this should be solid entertainment, but general audiences may be left wondering who certain characters when they appear on screen with no introduction until 10 minutes after their appearance. The rules of the world are vague, and certain events happen with no explanation as to how, specifically a character’s return in the final act. Try not to think about it, and its pure entertainment, but give it even a cursory thought and the plot crumbles to pieces.
Unlike certain vehicular based franchises, Mortal Kombat is genuine dumb fun. It doesn’t halt the action to deliver a half-assed message about family and try to act serious. It is the perfect blockbuster film; over the top, well-choregraphed action scenes; fun characters and a nonsensical plot. A near flawless victory for the video game movie form.