RELEASED: May 6th 2021
DISTRIBUTED BY: Warner Bros. Pictures
DIRECTED BY: Simon McQuoid
WRITTEN BY: Greg Russo, David Callaham & Oren Uziel
PRODUCED BY: James Wan, Todd Garner, Simon McQuoid & E. Bennett Walsh
MUSIC BY: Benjamin Wallfisch
STARRING: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Joshua Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Tadanobu Asano, Chin Han, Joe Taslim & Hiroyuki Sanada
REVIEW: Several weeks after its release everywhere else, Mortal Kombat finally comes to the UK, but was it worth the wait?
Mortal Kombat follows washed up MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), as he learns he has been chosen to participate in a great tournament that will decide the fate of the world.
Alongside fellow ‘Earthrealm’ fighters Sonya Blade, Jax, Kano, Liu Kang and Kung Lao, Cole must survive an onslaught of attacks from Sub-Zero and the kombatants of ‘Outworld’, who wish to wipe out their opposition before the tournament can even begin.
I have to say, while I was skeptical of the idea of a Mortal Kombat movie that doesn’t actually feature the titular Mortal Kombat tournament, the direction this film takes is actually a pretty clever move when it comes to setting up a franchise. By starting the story prior to the tournament, the creatives have free reign to set up the world and develop the characters as they build up to the main event, presumably in the second movie.
Unfortunately, they don’t really do that. In fact, they kind of do the opposite of that.
While the film starts off incredibly strong by diving into the rivalry between franchise icons Scorpion and Sub-Zero (played to perfection by Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim) it loses steam as it jumps forward to the modern day and begins to focus on our protagonist, Cole Young.
An original character created for the movie, Cole Young is a studio mandated inclusion that robs the film of a lot of its potential. By focusing so much on Cole, the film neglects the other, far more interesting characters in its roster. Several of the villains, for instance, die without uttering more than a couple of lines, and very few of them actually get the chance to do anything of note.
This is made worse by the fact that the trade-off isn’t even worth it, as Cole as a character is a pointless inclusion. He doesn’t grow throughout the film, nor does he even serve as useful audience surrogate – he instantly accepts the call to adventure, never questions the fantastical elements that he encounters, and never changes his tactics or learn from his mistakes. Worse still, he’s rewarded for his lack of substance with a power-up that makes him virtually unstoppable, and is given the leadership role, despite being clearly the least qualified (he’s commanding two special forces fighters and fighting monks trained from birth to stop the very threat they face? How does that work exactly?)
This problem is compounded by the fact that characters like Sonya (Jessica McNamee), Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), who are supposed to be guiding and accompanying Cole on this journey all show more potential as leads than Lewis Tan’s character. Even the foul mouthed Australian Kano (Josh Lawson) acts as a better audience surrogate, and is often the one carrying the film the most when Taslim and Sanada are not around.
Lawson as Kano provides some bright spots amidst the tedium that is Cole Young’s story, and out of everyone probably makes the most out of the sub-par script.
Of course, people generally aren’t watching Mortal Kombat for the writing, so much as they are tuning in to see brutal fights and gory fatalities. And in that regard, the film does deliver. The initial fight between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is excellent, as is their rematch that rounds out the film (when Cole isn’t trying to get involved, that is).
Other fights aren’t quite as thrilling, but they still do the franchise justice, giving fans a few fun nods along the way.
Alongside the choreography, the costumes are also incredibly well done for the most part, and while there’s a lot of room for improvement, they’re well on their way to getting the look of Mortal Kombat down.
If there are future installments, I’d hope that they blend the work done on the costumes and fight sequences with better character development, and a strong focus on features from the game, rather than shoe-horned inclusions.
All-in-all, Mortal Kombat starts strong and ends strong, but struggles a lot in between. For that, I give it…
Thanks for reading! Who’s your favourite Kombatant, and did the film do them justice? Let me know in the comments below!
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