I was never a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Don’t get me wrong: I still loved the games because they’re super fun to play but I just could never get into the core mechanics and gameplay. But that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying the first live-action Mortal Kombat film. That movie was a blast, with a wonderful tongue-and-cheek cheesiness that just worked. Despite the first film being light on the gore, something that pretty much made Mortal Kombat an overnight sensation, the film still managed to capture the spirit of the game.
Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for the new Mortal Kombat reboot.
Before I do say more about my thoughts on the new live-action Mortal Kombat film, I just like to inform all of you that this will be a SPOILER FREE review. I won’t be discussing any major plot developments and I’ll stay away from anything that may be considered big surprises.
This new Mortal Kombat focuses on a totally new character named, Cole Young, a washed-up MMA fighter. He gets wrapped up in a mystical tournament between the Earthrealm and Outworld. This leads Cole to meet up with Raiden and the other Earthrealm fighters as they have to band together against Shang Tsung and his army of fighters, which includes the ninja assassin, Sub-Zero.
Right off the bat, I will say one of the biggest issues I have with the new Mortal Kombat movie is Cole. He already has some points against him as he was never in the games and was created specifically for this film. But that wouldn’t have mattered all that much if he was actually an interesting character. Cole is very, very bland and I get he’s supposed to be the one asking questions so people will explain things to him so the viewers, especially the ones unfamiliar with the Mortal Kombat games, can listen to these exposition dumps and learn about the world. That doesn’t excuse him for coming off as incredibly one-note and boring. And, nope, none of the theories that Cole is supposed to be this or that character never pans out.
In fact, save for a few characters, the rest of the Mortal Kombat cast come off as very forgettable. It certainly doesn’t help that a lot of them, while they might be really good martial artists, aren’t really good actors. They usually come off as very wooded and I didn’t really believe their performances for the most part, which in turn didn’t make me care if they were going to survive all of the chaos.
The exceptions to the rule are definitely the people who played Scorpion, Sub-Zero and, surprisingly, Kano. Now, I say I was shocked to see Kano as one of the standout characters because, well, he’s definitely the one with the most personality. He’s basically the funny, comedic relief of the film and, honestly, it shouldn’t work as he seems so out of place. But it does! It’s because he gets to be funny and not take things so seriously that makes him stand out from all the dour personalities in the film.
I also have to give special mention to Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim, who play Scorpion and Sub-Zero, respectively. Hiroyuki Sanada really gave the tragedy of Scorpion’s origin a lot of weight. Considering he doesn’t really say much and most of it is conveyed through actual acting, that’s really saying something! Joe Tasli, even though you don’t really get to see his entire face through most of Mortal Kombat’s 110-minute runtime, his very stoic performance and, well, ice-cold demeanor really fit the Sub-Zero character. Oh, and it certainly helps that they have the best fight scenes in the entire film.
Speaking of the fights, there’s actually not as much actual martial arts battles as I expected. There were little bursts of action here and there but most of the legitimate hand-to-hand kombat (sorry, had to spell it with a “k”) only happens during like the last third of the film. The fights themselves are pretty good but kind of underwhelming when you compare them to the Scorpion and Sub-Zero battles.
As far as I could tell, a lot of the fight scenes, at least the ones involving the human fighters, don’t use all that much CGI. This is good because the special effects are very hit or miss. Some of them are really convincing but a lot of the non-human characters fall in the realm of the uncanny valley. It also didn’t help that most of the sets and locations they visit are very uninspired and, well, it doesn’t feel magical at all.
I guess the biggest question for a lot of Mortal Kombat fans is if the movie has the Fatalities. I’m happy to report that they do, which did bring a tiny tear to my eye. The ones in the newer video games are definitely much more gruesome than the ones we got in the live-action film. Honestly, I think that’s for the best. The movie is already rated-R but it might have been given a much higher age-restriction if they actually copied some of the Fatalities exactly!
My biggest gripe with the new live-action Mortal Kombat movie is, well, the plot. There should be a beautiful simplicity to the story but, for some weird reason, they have to insert some magical macguffins, nonsensical rules they have to follow to the letter and an abundance of exposition to explain the said magical maguffins and the nonsensical rules. The movie itself can’t even keep up with all the stuff they’re adding because some of the very things they set up are discarded shortly after! And while I already griped about Cole and how boring he is, I do have to do it again because his addition makes the entire thing feel like someone’s fanfiction and he just had to put himself into the story… even when there’s already a superb cast of canon characters that would fit the part!
Now, the weird thing is, I can’t really say I disliked this new Mortal Kombat film. It’s strangely not as, well, memorable as the original and cheese 1995 movie and it definitely has a lot of issues. However, I still enjoyed it as I did see the film trying to feel like a Mortal Kombat movie. It misses the mark but at least it tried! However, this does mean that the only reason why I’m giving the movie a pass is because I do like the video game franchise. If I wasn’t familiar with it, I’m pretty sure I would like the fights and be utterly surprised by some of the Fatalities but I don’t I’d enjoy the story and the wooden acting.
Basically, if you’re at least familiar with the Mortal Kombat games, go give the reboot a chance. If you’re not, I say steer clear from it.
Have you seen the new Mortal Kombat film reboot? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!