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Mortal Kombat movie review: The video games would be proud

The Mortal Kombat movie recently released in theaters and on HBO Max. It’s the latest film adaptation of the popular video-game fighter series. This is just the third live-action adaptation with the first releasing in 1995 and its sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in 1997.

The 90s movies are notoriously cheesy. That isn’t really a bad thing because this new film is just as cheesy at times. However, the 90s films are really just bad movies that even most Mortal Kombat fans aren’t a fan of. 


The Mortal Kombat movie vs. the games

Aside from an animated film, there hasn’t been another Mortal Kombat film until now. I talk about movies here, but I am also a huge video-game fan. And the Mortal Kombat series is one that I have been playing since I was a kid. I even had the terrible sub-zero spin-off game for the original Playstation. 

Thankfully Sub-Zero is way more enjoyable in this film. So as a fan, there wasn’t much that I needed to satisfy me here. I didn’t need the second coming of Citizen Kane or something mind-blowing storywise.

In fact, the Mortal Kombat games have been getting a lot of praise over the last few years for having pretty competent stories for fighting games, which for those in the know, in the video-game industry, fighting games are notorious for terrible stories.

via GIPHY

Using that same expectation on an adaptation of Mortal Kombat, I just wanted something that was competent and took me from A to B and this film did that.


What is there to like and dislike about this film?

An interesting risk this film takes that I don’t feel that it lands is the decision to center the film around a brand new character named Cole. I’m fine with creating a new character for the film. My issue is that the nature of his character does little to justify his inclusion.

Cole is far from interesting and he’s more or less a caricature of the struggling fighter stories we’ve seen in countless other films before. The film truly shines when the more well-known characters from the games are on screen.

I think most people won’t like Kano but I felt that he was perfect and spot on in relation to his video-game counterpart. Raiden is exactly the same, Sonya, Jax, the whole original Mortal Kombat roster are brought to life here. The standouts though were of course Scorpion and Sub-Zero.


Weighing the positives and negatives

The conflict between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is translated to screen masterfully.

The opening 15 minutes of the film reels you in by fully exploring in just a few minutes, the humanity of Scorpion which is impressive considering that in the games and later on in the film, he’s a demon ninja from hell.

The opening fight with him defending himself alone in the village was a fantastic opener and showed right away why this film earned its R-rating.

But I’ve always been more of a Sub-Zero fan and the film delivers on making him look as cool as he can, pun intended. His fights are visceral and brutal and a lot of the moves he does in the film are ripped straight from the video-games. He’s the most feared fighter in the film and that’s apparent as soon as he comes on screen for the first time against Scorpion.

There are a few downsides to this film and as an action movie fan and avid fan of the game franchise, they may seem a bit picky but they are issues nonetheless. 

First, the fights are not as well choreographed as they should be. The camera often cuts entirely too much in scenes to the point where you have no clue what is going on in a fight. This was an editing style for action movies that was insanely popular during the mid-2000’s to early 2010’s and I hoped it would stay there but here it is.


Temper your expectations for the Mortal Kombat movie

That compounded with the heavy emphasis on fatalities hurts the fighting aspects of the film. Fatalities are finishing moves on your opponent in the games.

It was a nice treat to see that translated on film to the point where characters even say the classic “fatality” line but the lead-up to these finishers are often weak and less bloody than the games are.

With an R-rating, they should have been able to add more intensity to these fights. The only ones that feel as intense as the games are the Sub-Zero and Scorpion fights. It would have been nice to see the whole film match the energy of those scenes.

The writing for how each character gets their powers or weapons they have in the games is incredibly lazy as well. It’s explained as a random magical power they receive after they’ve earned it through training or high stress situations.

Sounds cool until you see characters like Jax and Kano magically receive metal arms and a metal eye respectively. It’s a stark contrast from the games that give more logical explanations for why they have these abilities.

Aside from these downsides, Mortal Kombat is a great time especially if you are a fan of the video games. I would definitely recommend checking this out especially with other people because of how enjoyable the fights are. A film like this just needs to be 2 hours of pure fun and fights and this film delivers on that.


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