Mortal Kombat (2021) – Movie Review

Mortal Kombat is a 2021 American martial arts fantasy film based on the video game franchise of the same name and a reboot of the Mortal Kombat film series. The film stars Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mechad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, and Hiroyuki Sanada. It is directed by Simon McQuoid (in his feature directorial debut), from a screenplay by Greg Russo and David Callaham and a story of Russo and Oren Uziel. When hearing the words finish him and Fatality, most people will automatically think of the gruesome video games of the Mortal Kombat franchise. After the great success of the video games, the characters are now conquering the movie world once again! And I must sincerely say that the movie is surprisingly entertaining. My thanks to Warner Home Video and Day One MPM for partnering and sending me an online review copy.

Making-of Mortal Kombat (2021)

The film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was released in 1997 and was the sequel to the original 1995 Mortal Kombat film. Because Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was critically and commercially unsuccessful, the third Mortal Kombat ended up in development hell for a period of nearly two decades. After Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema acquired the franchise from Midway Games, development of a new film began. Originally the plan was for Kevin Tancharoen to direct the film, but in November 2016 Simon McQuoid was hired to direct.

Mortal Kombat (2021) was released in the United States on April 23. The film was released simultaneously in theaters and on the streaming service HBO Max. The film received mixed reviews from reviewers. There was high praise for the faithful nature towards the video games, but otherwise many critics found the film to be only weak. The film grossed $79 million worldwide. In addition, the film also became a streaming hit for HBO Max. In fact, it became the most successful movie launch for the streaming service to date.

The cast of the film includes Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mechad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada. Mortal Kombat follows MMA fighter Cole Young as he is pursued by Outworld’s best fighter Sub-Zero. During his search for his origins, Cole joins a group of chosen one’s trying to defend Earthrealm in a battle against Outworld. Will Cole manage to find his arcana – the immense power hidden in his soul – in time to save the world?

You can watch the official Red Band Trailer on Youtube!

100% Entertaining

Let me make it clear right away that I did not grow up with the Mortal Kombat games and franchise. I’ve played several games from the franchise a few times over at a friend’s house. But beyond that I’ve never delved into the franchise or its associated lore. I never expected to enjoy a Mortal Kombat so much. Mostly because the synopsis is so crazy, and I expected the action scenes to be just lazily filmed. After watching this movie, I can say that I am positively surprised by how entertaining this movie is. Now I also want to state clearly; I don’t think Mortal Kombat (2021) is a good movie. It’s full of clichés, rushed storylines and one-dimensional characters.

However, after watching this movie I feel like delving more into the games, the franchise and the previous movies. So this remake (in my honest opinion) definitely scored some good points. For example, the choreography and camera work of the action scenes are simply great. The soundtrack mainly ruins the first action scene by being too loud, but at the end of the movie composer Benjamin Wallfisch manages to turn it around by using the original theme from the games. Not all the visual effects look equally good. However, the way the powers of the various Mortal Kombat characters are visualized is top-notch! The story may be entertaining. But it’s also fundamentally very shallow.

Mortal Kombat (2021)
Source: Warner Home Video & Day One MPM.

Mortal Kombat is also 100% Shallow

The fact that some characters can still move so much after they are supposed to be dead is bizarrely unrealistic even by the standards of video game movies. Much of the film consists of training scenes or scenes in which they talk about training. The fact that much of the film takes place in one location also feels very limited. Besides, this location is  the most basic place to film a story. I get that in the lore the story might take place in once location with a lot of rocks. But in this movie it doesn’t provide many unique locations. Mortal Kombat is now only at its best when it goes straight to the brutal action scenes that the franchise is known for.

Also, the characters are as one-dimensional as it gets. We got to know very little about these characters except that they have to fight for the Earth. What drives them to do this? I don’t have the slightest idea. Other than Cole, no other hero has an elaborate reason to fight for the Earth. The only reason Cole wants to fight for Earthrealm is his family. This is a fundamentally common motivation. And on top of that, the motivation is not entirely fleshed out. This is because the film moves through the story like a speeding train.

There are barely any moments to take in what exactly everyone’s role is in this story. Many villains aren’t even properly introduced. The viewer is expected to then immediately know who this is. So it is abundantly clear that the film is made primarily for the fans of the franchise. The problem with this is that fan service does not automatically create good movies.

Mortal Kombat (2021)
Source: Warner Home Video & Day One MPM.

Summary

In the end, I still enjoyed Mortal Kombat. It’s definitely a guilty pleasure for me because of the brutal action scenes and choreography of the fights. It’s a nice introduction to the world of this franchise. Despite the fact that I enjoyed myself, I’m certainly not going to lie. In my mind, this is the definition of a bad movie. It may be a good adaptation of the franchise according to (some) fans and critics, but it’s still a lousy film. The story is so unoriginal that it feels like a little kid wrote the story. The cast plays the characters with passion, and they are certainly convincing as well. But the characters themselves are super one-dimensional and without any depth. In addition, the pace of the movie is too fast. Still, I’m looking forward to a possible sequel, because the film was very entertaining. 

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