‘Mortal Kombat’: Not Flawless, But Worth Your Time

Mortal Kombat: Not Flawless, But Worth Your Time

Liam Hagan, Staff Writer

By Liam Hagan
The newest reimagining of “Mortal Kombat” has hit streaming services and theaters after years of murmuring and expectation. The film is directed by Simon McQuiod in his feature film directorial debut.
“Mortal Kombat” is a tricky property to bring to life in the cinema, which audiences are aware of since the 1995 iteration, which was welcomed by most fans of the video game but overall was regarded as decent at best.
The issue with developing a film around “Mortal Kombat” is that there are several different target audiences that you have to satisfy. First, you have to please the general audience, it’s safe to assume that these people are not familiar with the infamous video game. You have to walk the line of explaining why the events are happening and who each character is without making the audience feel as though you are talking down to them.
Then, you have the two different types of video game fans; The Story vs. How Gory. Meaning that some folks who have spent the last three decades with the famous characters and continuous plot, love the video game for the heart and soul with the blood and gore as a bonus.
And lastly there are the more surface level fans who play the video game to perform the violent fights and laugh with joy at the intense fatalities. But with all the reboots and remakes that Hollywood has been throwing money at, a new “Mortal Kombat” adaptation was inevitable.
The new film certainly is not a “flawless victory” but does have its wins. One of the victories comes from the casting of the characters. Nearly every actor cast into their famous roles has large shoes to fill due to the video game making these characters so evolved and grand.
Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero, Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade, Hiroyuki Sinada playing Scorpion, and Josh Lawson as the foul mouthed Aussie, Kano all are quite good. For a film with a hard R rating and an intense tone, Josh Lawson playing Kano brings great levity and vulgar humor to each scene he finds himself in. He and the two men playing Scorpion and Sub-Zero steal every part they are featured in.
Taslim and Sanada are both martial art experts and they do an excellent job at crafting a story and progressing the characters emotions through physical movement rather than rushed dialogue. This is essential to a successful film centered around combat, especially martial arts.
Overall, the stunt work and fight scenes are faithful to the video game style and very exciting.
Unfortunately, the editing on both a small scale and larger one detract from the film’s quality greatly. The fight sequences are chopped up far too much to be fully enjoyed. It’s enough to make the viewer scatterbrained while watching and pleading for fewer cuts and longer takes. This is even more of a sin when you consider how excellent the stunt crew and performers are in their martial art and fight performances.
On a larger scale, the film feels about 15 minutes too short. The story would have succeeded with just a few additional scenes that slow the story down and examine the characters interactions with each other.
Additionally for a film property so ingrained in its fights, the movie would have also been more exciting if there were more clashes included to satisfy that urge from the hardcore video game fans.
Another curious aspect of the film is the new addition of first-time character, Cole Young. The actor playing him, Lewis Tan gives a good performance, but the character serves as the lifeline to the viewer because he is not familiar with any of the background of “Mortal Kombat” and is experiencing everything taking place for the very first time.
The problem with the Cole Young character is that fans of the video game are probably wondering why this role could not be placed on fan favorite character Sonya Blade. As mentioned previously, she is given a strong performance by Jessica Mcnamme and is already very close to being the main protagonist if not for Cole Young.
Blade’s story in the film is that she does not have a Mortal Kombat marking on her body, which makes her an outsider to the community and she has to earn her way through the system and be accepted by the more experienced members of “Mortal Kombat.” This is very similar to Cole’s storyline and would have been more satisfying for familiar fans to see this role in Sonya Blade rather than a brand-new character.
Almot everyone who is even slightly familiar with the video game property will be asking is: Is it worth the R rating. The answer is positively yes. The inappropriate jokes and harsh language are one thing, but the fatalities are cringe inducing while still being epic and fascinating in the best of ways. The combination of strong effects and references to the video game make a great recipe for beautifully disturbing fatalities.
To sum up, “Mortal Kombat” is not an excellent film by any stretch but does rank among the strongest video game-to-film adaptations. It is an enjoyable time and well-paced although sometimes to its own fault and should satisfy both fans of the video game and new audiences looking for a fun film in this young year. You can check out “Mortal Kombat” on HBO MAX and feel like you did not waste an hour and fifty minutes of your life. But maybe skip the trip to the movie theater for this one. Unless you want to invite your friend to the theater and say to them: “Get over here!”