Growing up, I was never a hardcore Mortal Kombat fan. I was aware of the games and the films, but never got too invested in the franchise. One thing that sticks out in my memory is how brutal the game was when I did play it. Between the finishing moves and fatalities, I could see the potential in a live-action reboot with the technology we currently have. So, when it was announced that Aquaman director James Wan would be developing a reboot of the Mortal Kombat franchise, I was ecstatic.
James Wan brought on Simon McQuoid to direct the Mortal Kombat reboot with Greg Russo penning the script and things looked up from there. Fan interest was definitely peaked when the casting process started as they wondered who would play Sub-Zero and Scorpion, two of the franchise’s most iconic characters. When it was revealed that Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ludi Lin, Lewis Tan, Mechad Brooks, Josh Lawson, Chin Han, Jessica McNamee, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Elissa Caldwell and Tadanobu Asano would join the cast of the film anticipation went to the roof. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused Mortal Kombat to be delayed from its January 2021 date and the film is now being released on April 23rd simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. I recently got to see the live-action Mortal Kombat reboot and I… didn’t hate it?
Simon McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat is a ton of fun for sure, but there are a lot of problems with the film, including a shoddy script. The film heavily leans into the superhero genre and gives me a Marvel Studios vibe just without the superior quality. From the moment things kick off, Mortal Kombat puts all of its cards on the table. The insane action in the first 13 minutes of the film was so good that it leads you to believe the rest of the movie will be just like that. Believe me when I say you have been led astray. Not to completely rag on Mortal Kombat because what it succeeds at is the action, and the film has some of the best action sequences I’ve seen on the big screen in a very long time.
Mortal Kombat reintroduces us to these iconic video game characters on the big screen. When the film begins, it shows a battle from a long time ago between Bi-Han (Joe Taslim) and Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) in which the latter loses and gets sent to hell, starting us off on our journey. The film introduces us to the fact that our realm is in an inter-dimensional war with other realms and that fighters have been chosen, with a birthmark of the Mortal Kombat logo, to compete in a tournament to save their respective realms. The fight sequences and the rest of the action are awesome throughout the film, but the performances are where the film stands out.
The exclusion of Johnny Cage and the introduction of Lewis Tan’s Cole Young felt pointless as the latter was a pretty unneeded addition. From the moment we meet him, Cole holds the entire film on his shoulders with charm and angst, but it doesn’t help that his character is completely unnecessary. He’s the hero of the film due to a prophecy about his lineage that ties to Hanzo Hasashi, a character better known to fans as Scorpion. Sanada is amazing as both Hanzo Hasashi and the-weapon-from-hell Scorpion. His performance is heartbreaking and the scenes he shares with Joe Taslim are my favorite moments in the film. Taslim’s villainous Bi-Han, a.k.a. Sub-Zero, is brutal and determined to rid the world of the bloodline of the Hanzo Clan. Taslim is intimidating and downright terrifying in the role.
Mortal Kombat is filled with incredible performances from the entire cast but other than the big three the standouts are definitely Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks and Ludi Lin who play Sonya Blade, Kano, Jax and Liu Kang respectively. McNamee’s Sonya Blade and Lawson’s Kano are definitely tied to each other in the film and the animosity between them sets up some interesting things that should excite any Mortal Kombat fan. Lawson is a bit of the comedic relief and nails most of it. Brooks’ Jax goes through a lot on the film, as he loses his arms and get a mechanical upgrade. The emotional trauma was portrayed fantastically by Brooks and his character arc was brilliant. Liu Kang was my favorite character to play as in the video games so it was really important to me that they got him right and they did. Lin was great in the role. While the film features some good performances, it doesn’t outweigh the bad. Mortal Kombat isn’t good, but it isn’t bad either.
Mortal Kombat is action-packed and a ton of fun. While I do believe it’s a flawed film, I didn’t hate it. However, I also didn’t love it. Lewis Tan’s Cole Young was definitely the standout for me even though I believe his character wasn’t needed in the film’s plot. All of the fatalities were perfectly gory and so much fun to watch. I’m really interested in seeing what happens next. You’re gonna want to pay attention to the end.
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