Mortal Kombat Review: When Fan Service Doesn’t Lead to a Flawless Victory

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat was one of the godfathers of video game films way back in 1995. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident EvilMonster Hunter), the effort was a sanitized adaptation that featured none of the iconic blood and gore that made the game infamous. However, it did give us one of the best theme songs ever made that still gets the blood pumping to this very day. Then it all went downhill from there. Nevertheless, the video games themselves thrived. With a complex storyline that spans ten games, it was time for Warner Bros to dip its toe once again with a brand new Mortal Kombat adaptation. While the film does (finally) remain faithful to the bloody violence it’s known for—Mortal Kombat fails to deliver on everything else.

Mortal Kombat follows newcomer Cole Young (Lewis Tan) and the fighters of Earthrealm as they must fight for their realm in a tournament called Mortal Kombat. Should Earthrealm lose this tournament, then Earthrealm will fall to the evil clutches of Outworld and its sorcerer, Shang Tsung.

If your criteria for Mortal Kombat are excellent martial arts choreography and bloody fatalities, you will not be disappointed. Thanks to the martial arts talents of some of the actors, the fight choreography by Chan Griffin (Shazam!) is fluid and hard-hitting. Not to mention, Mortal Kombat displays the fatalities in all of their gory glory. Director Simon McQuoid stages Kombat‘s impressive action sequences with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm. His focus on capturing the atmosphere and callbacks to the game will get fans excited. They’ll enjoy the inclusions of numerous catchphrases, fight moves, and fatalities from the video game series as well.

While it’s true that all of this fan service will please fans, there are still some glaring flaws in the film. The bloated script is chock full of exposition that tries to explain the complex Kombat storyline to those unfamiliar with the games. The characters spend a lot of time explaining the intricacies of the tournament and its vast mythology. As a result, the film drags during the second act of the film. All of this exposition compresses the climactic fights in as little time as possible.

Numerous tonal issues also ultimately take away from the gravity of this 10th tournament between Outworld and Earthrealm. At times, Kombat doesn’t know if it wants to be gritty and grim or a cheesy B-movie. The tonal issues make the dramatic moments fall flat, and you never feel that the stakes are high. One more Earthrealm loss and Outworld will conquer the realm. Yet there is no sense of urgency or desperation on the part of the Earthrealm fighters. 

Mortal Kombat - Tadanobu Asano and Chin Han

It also doesn’t help that the film is full of performances that don’t quite hit the mark. The cast tries their very best to do what they can with their one-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, their portrayals still end up being very wooden and sometimes very cringy. Thankfully, Josh Lawson knows his role is in the film and thoroughly runs away with it. Lawson’s quippy one-liners and foul mouth are what instills some much-needed hilarity into Mortal Kombat. Lawson steals every scene he’s in and creates a character you genuinely want to see more of on-screen. Also, Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada are pitch-perfect as Sub-Zero and Scorpion, respectively. It’s just a shame that we don’t see them on-screen together for most of the film.

With Mortal Kombat, we have a film made with the fans in mind—for better or worse. For over twenty-five years, Mortal Kombat fans have waited for a faithful cinematic adaptation complete with blood, guts, and of course, fatalities. However, it’s unfortunate that the filmmakers’ focus on the fan service has also made them neglect the basic foundations of a good movie. Instead of creating a balance, the filmmakers put their entire focus on the action and gore. Like Godzilla vs. Kong weeks prior, you know what kind of film you’re getting into, and it delivers on everything you expect from it. So for those of you who are looking for a bloody, gory, entertaining, turn-off-your-brain popcorn flick, you will not be disappointed with Mortal Kombat

Rating: 3/5 atoms

Mortal Kombat is now in theaters and streaming now on HBO Max.

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