Action Adventure

Review: ‘Mortal Kombat’ is a Win for Hardcore Fans of the Video Game Franchise, but It’s No Flawless Victory

April 23, 2021Ben MK

After nearly three decades and over a dozen installments, Mortal Kombat has been one of video gaming's most successful and longest running series. Unfortunately, when it comes to its two mid-nineties film adaptations, the reception from theatrical audiences hasn't been nearly as enthusiastic. Now the iconic — and famously brutal — fighting franchise is back to test its might with moviegoers yet again. But does this reboot have what it takes to claim the title of pandemic box office champion?

The story begins in 17th century Japan, where we meet Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Bi-Han (Joe Taslim), two bitter enemies with a blood feud so intense that not even the death of Hanzo and his wife and son at Bi-Han's hands can put a stop to it. Fast forward to the present day, and Bi-Han has become Sub-Zero, an agent of tyrannical Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chi Han). Along with fellow mercenaries Reiko (Nathan Jones), Mileena (Sisi Stringer) and Kabal (Daniel Nelson), Sub-Zero is sent to Earth on a mission — eliminate all of the planet's chosen warriors before they can get in the way of Shang Tsung's plan to win a tenth straight Mortal Kombat tournament. What they don't count on, however, is a former MMA fighter named Cole Young (Lewis Tan), whose lineage may hold the key to saving our world.

With the help of Elder God Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Shaolin warrior Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and his fighting companion Kung Lao (Max Huang), Cole and his fellow potential champions from the realm of Earth — Special Forces veterans Jax Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) and notorious arms dealer Kano (Josh Lawson) — set out to train for the impending battle that will decide the very fate of our species. Yet, despite all their preparation, it will all be for nothing if they fail to unlock their Arcana, the unique inner power that will make them worthy adversaries for the ruthless warriors from Outworld — and the only thing that will allow them to stop Shang Tsung and his emperor, the merciless Shao Khan, from enslaving humanity.

Directed by Simon McQuoid and written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham, what follows certainly pulls no punches when it comes to translating the video games' signature gore. From Kano using his bare hands to rip the heart of out a reptilian assailant to Kung Lao slicing an opponent clean in half with his razor-edged hat, Mortal Kombat's graphic, over-the-top violence is sure to put a smile on the face of even the most hardcore fan. It's the movie's somewhat plodding middle section, though, that proves to be its weakest element — an understandably necessary evil considering how the film is tasked with interpreting the games' rich and admittedly convoluted backstory while establishing a viable foundation for future sequels.

The result is by no means a flawless victory, but it's also far from a total disappointment, for what Mortal Kombat lacks in pulse-pounding excitement it more than makes up for with its steadfast dedication to world-building and actual character development. After all, if gamers these days can endure sitting through hours of cut scenes to fight their way through Mortal Kombat 11's story mode, then what's another hour or so worth of plot if it means moviegoers will finally get a film franchise worthy of the games' legacy?

Mortal Kombat releases April 23rd, 2021 from Warner Bros. Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude references. Its runtime is 1 hr. 50 min.

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