Nobody walks into a Mortal Kombat movie expecting Citizen Kane. The strength that comes in this new iteration directed by newcomer Simon McQuoid lays in its most absurd moments. When Mortal Kombat leans into the fights, the blood, the ridiculous special effects, you can really see it shine.
Based on the well-known Mortal Kombat game franchise which has been going strong for almost thirty years, there was a lot to pull from when it came to creating this story. The general idea is that there are champions of Earthrealm who must face off against the fighters of the Netherrealm in a tournament called Mortal Kombat.
The film’s lead is Lewis Tan’s Cole Young, who is imbued with a brand-like birthmark that looks like the Mortal Kombat game logo. His from an ancient and prodigious bloodline that allows him to access “arcana” a form of magic that gives a champion their personalized form of magic. It’s a creative way of explaining why certain characters can summon giant fire dragons or shoot lasers out of their eyes, it works for what it is.
The weakness lies with most of the plot. It’s a lot for someone who knows nothing about the games and lore. The character motivations don’t really make sense, some characters simply seem to exist to be fighters in the big fight sequences. These slow moments where character work must be done are the toughest scenes to muscle through. You want the fighting, you want the spine pulling, you want the games.
But, thankfully, the film makes up for a lot of the faults in the plot by being very enjoyable in the final arc with multiple back-to-back fights. There’s a final fight involving most of the main characters at Cole’s fighting gym that really shows you the potential the film has.
When it comes to the cast, the benefit is that everyone leans into their role. Tan’s Cole is an original character, but he can hold his own alongside fan-favorite game characters. McQuoid’s vision is bland at times, it feels like he is largely relying on the fight sequences and special effects, but that could be due to a lack of experience.
At the end of the day, this is a movie that needs to be watched on the big screen with a group of friends, none of whom should take this too seriously. It’s not a difficult movie to pick apart, but it’s also not hard to enjoy. It teases the potential of future movies with its final moments and perhaps with a bit more tweaking in the sequel, Warner Bros might have a new franchise on their hands.
Mortal Kombat is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max Friday, April 23, 2021.