The 400-Word Review: Mortal Kombat
By Sean Collier
April 23, 2021
“Winning Mortal Kombat cannot be left to chance,” says Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), preparing his stable of fighters for a high-stakes tournament that will determine the fate of Earth — or something. “Mortal Kombat” contains enough lore to satiate fans of the decades-long video game series, but none of it really matters all that much. The good guys are going to fight the bad guys. That’s all you need to know.
(And not to differ with Lord Raiden, but I assure you: It can be left to chance. I won plenty of times by mashing buttons at random.)
Well into its third decade, the “Mortal Kombat” franchise is still primarily known for its hyper-violent, consistently popular video games. There have been plenty of crossovers, however, including two ’90s films, TV and web series and comic books. (Also, in 1995, a live stage show, which I am profoundly sorry to have missed.) The first film, 1995’s “Mortal Kombat” — nearly everything involved has the same name, I’m sorry — was a major hit, topping the box office for three weeks.
It was something of a tonal mess, however, as the combat — sorry, kombat — was not all that mortal. The original film bore a PG-13 rating, a far cry from source material so notoriously violent that it provoked congressional hearings. The main shift in this reboot, from first-time director Simon McQuoid, is in giving our fighters access to the gore they need. As has always been the case with the games, this new version is decidedly not for children — or anyone who prefers not to see the human body disassembled in new and novel ways.
There’s not much to say as far as the cast is concerned; relative unknowns take on the familiar characters from the games, with a fresh creation, Cole Young (Lewis Tan), serving as the de facto protagonist. Other than Josh Lawson’s gruff, crass Kano, no one really distinguishes themselves. The real heroes here are the visual effects department, who turn every fight into a vivid, fantastical bloodbath. Everything looks impressive. (Except Goro, who looks like the Scorpion King.)
It’s hardly a work of genius, and it could’ve used a lighter tone. But can you really hate a movie that features one of the good guys sneering, “I have risen from hell to kill you,” before hurling a razor-sharp, dagger-tipped chain at his foe? I certainly can’t.
My Rating: 6/10
“Mortal Kombat” is playing in streaming on HBO Max.