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Mortal Kombat review Glorious action and fatalities but shallow

mortal kombat 2021, mortal kombat movie

Mortal Kombat review Glorious action and fatalities but shallow

Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat review: shallow and but … fatalities, Glorious action

Fri, 23 Apr 2021 07:00:00 -0700

The movie reboot will satisfy fans looking for gory cinematic battles, not those hoping for a deep dive into the game series' rich history

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The movie reboot will satisfy fans looking for gory cinematic battles, not those hoping for a deep dive into the game series’ rich history.

Scorpion is one of the 2021 Mortal Kombat movie’s best elements.

Mortal Kombat is all about awesome fights, gory fatalities, a colorful cast of characters and rich lore. The game series has hit all of those elements beautifully for nearly three decades, but movie adaptations have ranged from deliciously cheesy to truly atrocious. So director Simon McQuoid’s 2021 movie reboot feels like a fresh start. 

The movie hit US theaters and HBO Max Friday. It’s already out in Australia, and will be available in the UK on Amazon Prime at a later date.

We kick off with an engaging 17th century prologue giving birth to a rivalry between iconic ninjas Scorpion and Sub-Zero (Hiroyuki Sanada and Joe Taslim). It’s an intense, emotional opening and sets up the adventure nicely — the movie is at its best when it leans into their conflict.

Jumping to modern times, we meet series newbie Cole Young (Lewis Tan). This luckless-but-likable MMA fighter just keeps losing, but his dragon-shaped birthmark and strange fiery hallucinations hint at a fate beyond getting beaten up in cage matches. I won’t spoil the details of his heritage, but game fans will likely figure it out pretty fast.

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Destiny comes calling for Cole as Sub-Zero hunts him like a chilly Terminator, forcing him to team up with klassic characters Sonya Blade, Jax and Kano (Jessica McNamee, Mehcad Brooks and Josh Lawson). In the grand tradition of the Mortal Kombat series, they must battle for Earthrealm as it faces the threat of invasion from another world.

The first hour of the movie is mostly setup, as the universe is established and our heroes figure out their destinies. The fights and choreography are excellent, but there are long stretches without any action and it starts to feel a little dull — fans want to these guys testing their might, not talking. 

Kano gets all the best lines.

Captive criminal Kano injects some fun with pop culture references and quips, but the one-liners come so thick and fast they start to grate. Lawson’s delivery can’t be faulted, it’s just a shame his co-stars didn’t get to stretch their comedic muscles alongside their actual muscles.

On the dark side, sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) and his goons are so underdeveloped they feel like a group of one-dimensional baddies — several of whom are dispatched before they can do much of anything.  Anyone who recalls Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s gleeful scenery chewing as Shang Tsung in the 1995 movie (a take so iconic they brought the actor back in Mortal Kombat 11) will be disappointed, but Chin Han does the best he can with an underwritten character.

All that said, you don’t come to Mortal Kombat expecting deep character studies or epic narratives, you’re here for the combat (sorry, kombat). The fighting really kicks off in the movie’s second half, and it instantly becomes much more engaging. 

We flip into a constant (konstant?) barrage of battling, with iconic special moves, fun matchups and delightfully gory fatalities that let the actors show off their action chops. Their physicality makes it utterly believable and each fight is a joy to watch. The film builds to a glorious final confrontation, with choreography and camerawork coming together beautifully — you’ll want to scream “Finish him!” as it draws to a close.

Sub-Zero gets some incredible moments.

It’s unlikely anyone will be seeing this movie without at least a grounding in Mortal Kombat history, but the video game has a fun backstory.  Original plans were to create a fighting game based on action star Jean-Claude Van Damme, aka The Muscles from Brussels, but JCVD said no thanks. His loss, and perhaps the game’s gain, as it gave the designers freedom to blend in elements of Chinese mythology for a fuller experience. The game earned notoriety for its graphic violence, especially its gruesome finishing moves, especially those in which a character’s spine is ripped out, and another in which a still-beating heart is torn out and held up.

The game saga is up to Mortal Kombat 11 now, and is still regularly banned in certain countries. But that hasn’t slowed down the Kombat. A new downloadable Kombat Pack for Mortal Kombat 11 came out in November, and Sylvester Stallone voices his iconic John Rambo character.

McQuoid’s movie is by far the best live-action cinematic Mortal Kombat adaptation we’ve ever seen. It doesn’t make enough use of its characters or tap into the lore nearly enough (hopefully a sequel will draw more from that incredible history) but it nails the fights and fatalities. Shao Kahn himself would be proud.

This reboot isn’t quite the flawless victory fans were hoping for, but it’s an encouraging way to kick off a new era of Mortal Kombat movies.

Mortal Kombat

Fri, 23 Apr 2021 07:00:00 -0700

Mortal Kombat was one of the godfathers of video game films way back in 1995

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Directed by Paul W

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Anderson (Resident Evil, Monster Hunter), the effort was 

Mortal Kombat was one of the godfathers of video game films way back in 1995. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Monster Hunter), the effort was a sanitized adaptation that featured none of the iconic blood and gore that made the game infamous. However, it did give us one of the best theme songs ever made that still gets the blood pumping to this very day. Then it all went downhill from there. Nevertheless, the video games themselves thrived. With a complex storyline that spans ten games, it was time for Warner Bros to dip its toe once again with a brand new Mortal Kombat adaptation. While the film does (finally) remain faithful to the bloody violence it’s known for—Mortal Kombat fails to deliver on everything else.

Mortal Kombat follows newcomer Cole Young (Lewis Tan) and the fighters of Earthrealm as they must fight for their realm in a tournament called Mortal Kombat. Should Earthrealm lose this tournament, then Earthrealm will fall to the evil clutches of Outworld and its sorcerer, Shang Tsung.

If your criteria for Mortal Kombat are excellent martial arts choreography and bloody fatalities, you will not be disappointed. Thanks to the martial arts talents of some of the actors, the fight choreography by Chan Griffin (Shazam!) is fluid and hard-hitting. Not to mention, Mortal Kombat displays the fatalities in all of their gory glory. Director Simon McQuoid stages Kombat‘s impressive action sequences with a lot of intensity and enthusiasm. His focus on capturing the atmosphere and callbacks to the game will get fans excited. They’ll enjoy the inclusions of numerous catchphrases, fight moves, and fatalities from the video game series as well.

While it’s true that all of this fan service will please fans, there are still some glaring flaws in the film. The bloated script is chock full of exposition that tries to explain the complex Kombat storyline to those unfamiliar with the games. The characters spend a lot of time explaining the intricacies of the tournament and its vast mythology. As a result, the film drags during the second act of the film. All of this exposition compresses the climactic fights in as little time as possible.

Numerous tonal issues also ultimately take away from the gravity of this 10th tournament between Outworld and Earthrealm. At times, Kombat doesn’t know if it wants to be gritty and grim or a cheesy B-movie. The tonal issues make the dramatic moments fall flat, and you never feel that the stakes are high. One more Earthrealm loss and Outworld will conquer the realm. Yet there is no sense of urgency or desperation on the part of the Earthrealm fighters. 

It also doesn’t help that the film is full of performances that don’t quite hit the mark. The cast tries their very best to do what they can with their one-dimensional characters. Unfortunately, their portrayals still end up being very wooden and sometimes very cringy. Thankfully, Josh Lawson knows his role is in the film and thoroughly runs away with it. Lawson’s quippy one-liners and foul mouth are what instills some much-needed hilarity into Mortal Kombat. Lawson steals every scene he’s in and creates a character you genuinely want to see more of on-screen. Also, Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada are pitch-perfect as Sub-Zero and Scorpion, respectively. It’s just a shame that we don’t see them on-screen together for most of the film.

With Mortal Kombat, we have a film made with the fans in mind—for better or worse. For over twenty-five years, Mortal Kombat fans have waited for a faithful cinematic adaptation complete with blood, guts, and of course, fatalities. However, it’s unfortunate that the filmmakers’ focus on the fan service has also made them neglect the basic foundations of a good movie. Instead of creating a balance, the filmmakers put their entire focus on the action and gore. Like Godzilla vs. Kong weeks prior, you know what kind of film you’re getting into, and it delivers on everything you expect from it. So for those of you who are looking for a bloody, gory, entertaining, turn-off-your-brain popcorn flick, you will not be disappointed with Mortal Kombat. 

Rating: 3/5 atoms

Mortal Kombat is now in theaters and streaming now on HBO Max.

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– April 23, 2021
mortal kombat 2021, mortal kombat movie