- Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim
- Written by
- Greg Russo and Dave Callahan
- Directed by
- Simon McQuoid
- Run Time
- 1h 50min
- Release Date
- April 23rd, 2021
It would be easy to say that adapting a video game into a movie has not always delivered the best results. For every Sonic The Hedgehog there are ten Alone in the Dark and other painful attempts. We have now reached the point where properties that have already had a crack at the big screen are getting a second chance, and like Tomb Raider you hope it turns for the best. In 1995 Paul W.S. Anderson took a little game called Mortal Kombat and delivered a highly entertaining movie, with sequels that we just pretend didn’t happen. A lot has happened in the nearly thirty years since and Mortal Kombat seems prime for a reboot.
If you are not familiar with the video game, I don’t know why you are reading this, but I will fill you in. Since ancient times the Earthrealm and the Outerworld have had a tournament with its champions to determine a winner. This is a fight to the death, with each sides participants having a “gift” that they use in their fights. Things have been going well for the Outerworld, which is led by a sorcerer named Shang Tsung (Chin Han) and if they win one more tournament they will assume control of the Earthrealm. I know this sounds like a lot where on the surface, when the game is just about two colorful characters just punching each other, but everyone needs a back story. For this one, Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is our main hero, a UFC fighter whose better days are behind him. While the first film gave us all the heavy hitters up front, this version comes out with some different characters, in which over the years the game has dropped many new ones. Behind the camera this time is Simon McQuoid and while it looks a lot better, it doesn’t for me reach the bar of the 1995 version in quality. For one the characters really take a back seat, as you really don’t care who wins the fights, but just that they are fighting. Add to that writers Greg Russo, Dave Callaham, and Oren Uziel are less about adding things that push the narrative forward and more about getting to the punchy punchy parts as quickly as possible. We hear for the first half of the movie about this great tournament, but we never get to it and instead settle it all in the “streets.”
It really looks like this is just the appetizer, as you can see that the intent is to deliver sequels and not just a one and done. I remember sitting in a theater watching the 1995 version and being blown away by a surprise that the crowd and I with really got behind. In this version there are plenty of easter eggs, but as for surprises there is nothing that made me feel that way. While there are some great fight scequences, the film doesn’t take advantage of its cast and have action that doesn’t let actors like Joe Taslim and Max Huang shine. The quick cuts and too tight on the fisticuffs takeaway from the feel you should get. When you combine that and the narrative choices, for me the good doesn’t outweigh the bad by much. I still had some fun with the battles and also the smart choice of keeping the main theme, an updated version to boot, in the movie I am willing to recommend this barley. I hope they learn from their mistakes for the next one as this one is far from a flawless victory.