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Mortal Kombat (2021)

MORTAL KOMBAT (2021) is a perfectly okay movie, especially given the past success rate of video game adaptations. It does a decent job of putting some of the Mortal Kombat characters into a passable modern movie. I found it reasonably entertaining, and had I expected it to be bad I might even have been pleasantly surprised. It also might’ve played better in a theater, if I could go to one.

Here’s the problem: I’m the type of guy who thinks you could make something truly kick ass out of any bullshit that involves colorful characters fighting each other. They’ve been talking about a new Mortal Kombat movie for more than 10 years, with James Wan announced as producer for six of those, and I think the ‘90s incarnations are fun (if ridiculous) movies that have plenty to build upon. So for years now I have been anticipating this movie that ended up being directed by Australian commercial director Simon McQuoid and written by Greg Russo (first credit) and Dave Callaham (DOOM, THE EXPENDABLES, WONDER WOMAN 1984), with a story credit for Oren Uziel (who had been developing it with Kevin Tancharoen after his unlicensed Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short and an episode of the official web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy). And I thought it might be something special. Maybe next time.

The movie explains things pretty well for those of us who don’t know much about kombat sports: For thousands of years or whatever the different “realms” have sent their greatest warriors to compete in a fighting tournament called Mortal Kombat. We, Earthrealm, have lost 9 times in a row. (Embarrassing.) According to the rules, if we lose this tenth one we’re done – invaded by evil ninja monsters or some shit. So the pressure is on to win the next Mortal Kombat tournament – an event which everyone talks about and prepares for throughout this movie, but – as you may have already heard – has not occurred when the film ends. It’s a bold storytelling decision – imagine how much more awesome ENTER THE DRAGON would be if it ended right after he got to the island!

The story is told through a newly invented character, Cole Young (Lewis Tan, “Shatterstar” in DEADPOOL 2). He’s a small time, not very good MMA fighter with a supportive wife (Laura Brent, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER) and daughter (Matilda Kimber). This guy Jax (Mehcad Brooks, Jimmy Olsen on the Supergirl tv show), who Cole has some unexplained past with, visits him in the locker room and comments on his birthmark that resembles the Mortal Kombat dragon logo. (As a side note, that would be cool if Batman and Dick Tracy also had birthmarks shaped like their famous movie posters.) The mark, of course, means he’s destined to fight in the tournament, which he does not know is a thing. Luckily Jax is there spying on him when the scary ice-power ninja Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim, THE RAID, THE NIGHT COMES FOR US) shows up to try to kill him before he can get to the tournament. (Which is unsportsmanlike.)

As far as the tradition of giving the most exciting martial arts leading men of Asian cinema limited roles as emotionless villains in Hollywood movies, Taslim’s part here ranks below Jet Li’s in LETHAL WEAPON 4, but above Byung-Hun Lee’s in TERMINATOR: GENISYS, Tony Jaa’s in FURIOUS SEVEN and his own in FURIOUS 6. He displays some of his fighting skills, and the character’s Mr. Freeze powers are handled well. I like that people feel the room getting cold before he arrives. His best gags were in the trailer, but freezing a gun as it fires or stabbing a man with his own blood – you gotta respect shit like that. I personally believe that the bulky armor they put on him hides his form and overcomplicates the simple ninja robes of yore, but you know how they fuckin are, these rebooters. Simplicity is their enemy. If something looks sleek and cool it means somebody fucked up and forgot to add all the texture and detail they paid for.

Though they’re trying to make it kinda grounded, they do have the good sense to occasionally cut to the fantasy painting landscape of Outworld, where the evil Shang Tsung (Chin Han, INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, GHOST IN THE SHELL, SKYSCRAPER) lords over everybody and sends various demonic minions after Earthrealm’s fighters (fuckin cheater). This Shang Tsung vaguely resembles Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who played the character in Paul World Star Anderson’s 1995 MORTAL KOMBAT film (reprised in 2011 for Mortal Kombat: Legacy), but his performance is bland in comparison. He seems like standard issue evil rather than absolutely delighted at the opportunity to be an evil motherfucker.

Back in our realm, Cole tracks down Jax’s partner Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee, THE MEG) at her trailer home. When Cole sees her framed expository photos of her and Jax in the military together he says “You’re military?” and instead of nodding or saying “yup” or like a normal person she says, “Special forces.” And the audience perks up. Oooooooh, special forces. That’s the extra-good ones. I’m glad she specified because now I really get an idea of what we’re dealing with here.

Sonya is a pretty standard issue Sarah Connor wannabe, but I respect the craziness of her revealing that she at that very moment has a prisoner tied to a chair in her crib. It’s Kano (Josh Lawson, ANCHORMAN 2), the Australian mercenary guy with the half robot face, except he doesn’t have it yet because you really gotta build to that. Modern audiences are so sophisticated they don’t accept a robot face unless you have a whole movie where there’s not a robot face and then hopefully you can earn their trust and then get the robot face. We’ll see.

In the ’95 film Kano was a villain who taunted Sonya a little and got killed early on. Here I was surprised to find him the highlight of the movie. Some of his quips are bargain basement, but Lawson gives a good fun-asshole performance as he reluctantly works with the good guys to protect their realm on account of Australia is part of it. Sonya has been studying ancient scrolls and newspaper articles or whatever and pieced together the history of Mortal Kombat, and Kano knows the location of a secret mountain temple where they need to go train with Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano, ICHI THE KILLER). Kano has the dragon mark, Sonya does not. She’s transparently jealous of him and it’s never quite clear why they let her hang around and train even though they keep telling her she’s not allowed in the tournament.

Liu Kang (Ludi Lin, POWER RANGERS) welcomes them to the temple and his cousin Kung Lao (Max Huang, CHINESE ZODIAC, POLICE STORY: LOCKDOWN) is sort of like the teacher’s assistant. I know him as the guy with the big hat that Mark Dacascos played (better) in Mortal Kombat: Legacy. Here the hat is metal and works as a boomerang, so that’s cool.

I like the premise of the “arcana” – in order to have a chance the fighters have to figure out how to tap into the one unique ability they possess. I want to say it’s their special move, but it’s really more like a super power. Obviously Sub Zero has his freezing, and Kano’s turns out to be shooting a laser out of one eye. Jax has his arms iced off and replaced by skinny little robot arms that he hates and then I guess his arcana is that they morph into buff robot arms more like the flesh ones he used to rock. I don’t get it but I like it.

The arcana idea allows for a little bit of training, but there could be more, and there could be an awesome montage song. Again, maybe next time.

In lieu of having any Mortal Kombat, they do get to have some unsanctioned fights in normal earth locations like, you know, a warehouse or a trailer (definitely inspired by the much better Beatrix vs. Elle fight in KILL BILL VOL. 2). I enjoyed the one with the giant four-armed monster Prince Goro, who this time is an animated character rather than the amazing but not mobile enough animatronic from the ’95 film. You also get to see toothy Mileena (Sisi Stringer, CHILDREN OF THE CORN [2020]) and some winged demon lady (Mel Jarnson). I also dig the goofiness of Kabal (Daniel Nelson, GODZILLA VS. KONG), who looks like a robot man but I guess it’s just a mask. He’s voiced by Damon Herriman (THE NIGHTINGALE, ONCE UPON A TIME …IN HOLLYWOOD, Dewey from Justified), who sounds to me like he’s doing a Joe Mantegna impression.

I was happy to see a giant dude with a giant hammer who, despite his Utupau-style makeup, was immediately identifiable as Nathan “I had a baby brother and he was perfect in every way” Jones (TOM-YUM-GOONG, FEARLESS, MUAY THAI GIANT, THE CONDEMNED, NEVER BACK DOWN: NO SURRENDER). And from the credits I noticed that his FURY ROAD cohort Angus “Organic Mechanic” Sampson is the voice of Goro.

So where does that leave us on everybody’s favorite Kombatant, Hanzo “Scorpion” Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada, MESSAGE FROM SPACE, THE WOLVERINE)? It’s weird. This movie opens with the same story seen in the animated MORTAL KOMBAT LEGENDS: SCORPION’S REVENGE and some episodes of Mortal Kombat: Legacy, with the yellow-robed ninja famous for saying “GET OVER HERE!” as a nice family man in 17th century Japan. After establishing that he has a wife and two kids who he loves very very much, and they make him so happy, and he really cannot emphasize enough how important they are to him, he goes to get some water and Sub-Zero shows up to terrorize and ice his family to death. He comes back, mourns for a second, fights some ninjas, is killed by Sub-Zero. That’s all we ask.

His journey ends up being important to the story, but it’s mostly off screen. We don’t get to see Hanzo going to Hell and figuring out how to come back as a cool hand-tentacled vengeance ninja. Instead, Cole has a couple Avid fart visions of him in fiery agony and then he shows up to fight his nemesis at the end. It’s that age old storytelling battle between “It would be cool if there was some context and characterization for the guy in the main fight at the end” and “Come on man, I don’t have time for this shit!”

The fight coordinator is Chan Griffin (ALIEN: COVENANT, SHAZAM!), second unit director/supervising stunt coordinator is Kyle Gardiner (AQUAMAN), cinematographer is Germain McMicking (Top of the Lake) and editors are Scott Gray (THE LUCKY ONE) and Dan Lebental (DEAD PRESIDENTS, IRON MAN, BAD BOYS FOR LIFE). Compared to what you get in your average Hollywood movie with some fighting, the fights are decent. You know, they’re pretty choppy and not all that enthralling, but they at least have some moves and memorable moments. (Best fatality: obviously Kung Lao using his hat as a tablesaw to bisect an opponent. And then doing a cocky hat spin and saying, “Flawless victory.”)

That said, I think it’s reasonable to expect MORTAL KOMBAT to be a better fight movie than this. Tan, Taslim and Huang are legit martial artists, the source material is a fucking fighting game, the lower budget web series had many good fights in it, and this is the primary area (besides special effects) where they had room to really improve on the ‘90s films. In the past few decades the sophistication of martial arts filmmaking has evolved massively not just in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan and straight-to-video movies made in Bulgaria, but even in Hollywood. Being funded by an American studio (but filmed in Australia) is not a very good excuse in a post-JOHN WICK world. It’s funny that a MORTAL KOMBAT movie could be so savagely shown up by another current action movie starring fucking Bob Odenkirk.

Not that you have to be 87Eleven good to be better than this. At one point Sonya did a slow motion flying kick or something that I liked, but it didn’t clearly show her making contact. And I swear for a second there I thought, “You know who would’ve done this well? Paul Anderson,” thinking of the fights in THE THREE MUSKETEERS and some of the RESIDENT EVILs before remembering oh yeah, of course. He already did MORTAL KOMBAT.

Now, I’ll try not to dwell too much on this, but I need to return to the subject of the film’s tournamentlessness. I just think there’s something comical about a movie that has onscreen text about an ancient tournament, and awkward/fun exposition about it as Sonya shows Cole her Obsessed Investigator 101 wall collage, and everybody training for it and fighting over who gets to compete in it, and then when the film ends it has not happened and it’s unclear whether it’s still supposed to or not. I think the idea is that fighting them before the tournament counts as winning the tournament – one weird trick to defend Earthrealm from Outworld – but I’m honestly not sure.

It seems to me like the filmatists are ashamed and afraid of some of the things that make Mortal Kombat fun. They get that people want gory fatalities and a tragic backstory for Scorpion, that’s good. But the whole premise of the game is these organized matches – why would we not want to see them? The ceremony, the drums and torches, the drama of competition. Some of the famous catch phrases that they know they have to use – “flawless victory” and “finish him” – don’t make as much sense out of that context, but they go ahead and say them anyway.

Fight tournament stories are the template for numerous action classics, but there’s not a definitive one of this era. Even if there was, this would stand out as the one where there’s monsters and laser eyes and shit. It just seems to me that a fighting tournament story is inherently more interesting than one about people talking about and preparing for a tournament they never get to.

(Wait – are they trying to do REDBELT? Because it worked better in REDBELT.)

(Wait – are they trying to do ROCKY V? Do people try to do ROCKY V?)

I would like to conclude by comparing and contrasting to the 1995 film. The new version is certainly less cheesy. The digital effects are infinitely better – or at least 26 years of technological advancements better. The leads who are not fighters are generally more convincing playing fighters. There is more Asian representation in the cast, including a Japanese actor as Raiden (rather than Christopher Lambert as the Japanese thunder god). I would say the fights in the new one are better (though the original’s were good for a Hollywood movie of the time). And with an R-rating they get to tip their hat to the extreme violence that made the game infamous in its day.

But it’s not as if it’s significantly more dramatic or clever. If the story and dialogue are more sophisticated, it’s not by much. Kano calling a shirtless guy “Magic Mike” may have gotten a cheap laugh out of me, but so did Johnny Cage punching Goro in the balls, and that required more craftsmanship (thank you Amalgamated Dynamics). The attempts to make it smarter by not being Mortal Kombat only show how dumb it is to not just do fuckin Mortal Kombat.

This is not a 1:1 comparison, but it’s a little like how I feel about the STAR WARS prequels vs. THE FORCE AWAKENS. The newer one is more competent in so many ways, and I understand why people like that better. But to me the old one, with all its flaws, is just more distinct, more pure, more interesting. You know, they got really capable new actors for Shang Tsung and Raiden, but C-HT and Lambert made their versions way more fun. And they got to do these rituals on a mystical island with weird statues and stylized red skies. That movie was just so dedicated to its ENTER-THE-DRAGON-meets-early-CG-age-Ray-Harryhausen-with-aggressive-electronic-dance-music vibe that it can’t help but have more personality than this middle-of-the-road movie that one of the producers says was built on the motto “What would Marvel do?”

I guess so far that line of thinking is working out better for them than it did for the Dark Universe and other doomed MCU knock offs. But I think while they were asking “How do we make a MORTAL KOMBAT for the Marvel age?” they should’ve been asking “How do we do a modern MORTAL KOMBAT that lives up to the old one?” Because I would argue that what made that very flawed movie hugely popular is that it was not like the other popular movies of the time. It looked and felt different from anything else out there. The in-your-face soundtrack and score got you hyped from the New Line Cinema logo on and had you giggling and pumping your fist on the way out. That movie invented the cliche of techno music in fight scenes, carried over into better movies like BLADE and THE MATRIX, and also worse ones.

Though I disagree, I think it’s reasonable to not want to replicate that ‘90s approach in the 2020s. But if you make that choice I think you gotta do something equally drastic and different. A generic normal person score (sorry Benjamin Wallfisch [BOBBY, HIDDEN FIGURES, BLADE RUNNER 2049]) can’t cut it.

In my review of the ’95 film I compared the soundtrack to Blaxploitation scores. I’m not saying it’s as good as Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Roy Ayers, etc., but they are similar in heart-pumping energy, in being so specific to their respective eras, and (in some cases) being equal parts goofy and awesome. I think the comparison is still relevant here because every time they do a modern followup to SHAFT or SUPER FLY or something they have this problem that they just don’t make music like that anymore and, try as they might, they can never come up with a substitute that’s not at least a little disappointing. They usually try, though!

(At least they swallowed their pride long enough to use the theme song on the credits. I think their new version is a little too mellow, but I’ll stop complaining now.)

So that’s why I’m feeling a little less “MOOOORTTTTALLL KOMMMBAAAAAT!” today and more just plain “Hmph. Mortal kombat, I guess.” But I hope some of you were more happy with it than I was.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 27th, 2021 at 12:24 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Videogame. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

30 Responses to “Mortal Kombat (2021)”

  1. I think I was 14 when the old Mortal Kombat came out, and Johnny Cage punching Goro in the balls was the absolute best thing I had ever seen in my life.

  2. Mortal Kombat has really been about the tournament since the 2011 reboot, which was kinda an alternative history of MK1-3. Since MK was bought by Warner Bros they seem to have focused more on science fiction and fantasy aspect and be more about time travel. How else can you revive all the dead characters (all the characters pretty much got killed in MK Armageddon and MK 9 (aka 2011) was all about Raiden going back into time to MK1-3 to change the events, and prevent Shao Khan to be so powerful that he could kill Raiden and everyone.

    I kinda enjoyed MK11’s history, but it’s messy, you can watch all the cut scenes cut together as almost 4-hour long film if you got the time. It really gives you an insight into what modern-day Mortal Kombat is really about (hint: it’s not the tournament):

    MORTAL KOMBAT 11 Story All Cutscenes Full Movie 2019 [1080p HD] MK11

    Mortal Kombat 11 Story All Cutscenes Full Movie 2019 MK11 includes all the endings from Mortal Kombat 11 and cinematic game movie of Mortal Kombat Story.#Pro...

    This is not to excuse the film, just the fact where the series has ended up. After 11 games it’s kinda hard to still do a torunament.

  3. I will say that I would love a sequel to MK 1995 with Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Robin Shou, and Christopher Lambert returning (you could CGI his head on a stunt double’s body) and having Cassie Cage and Jacqui Briggs as the main characters (also bring Michael Jai White and Mark Dacascosc from Legacy back).

  4. I watched MORTAL KOMBAT LEGACY before catching this, and I kept thinking, if you had swapped out that series’ cast into this movie, we could have had a damn near perfect MK installment. LEGACY’S dark, gritty approach was very hit or miss, but that cast! (MJW, Jeri Ryan, Mark Dacascos, Darren Shahlavi, Erik Jacobus, Brian Tee, Matt Mullins, Casper Van Dien,CHT!).

    MK 2021 stays truer to this Universe’s meld of fantasy and martial arts, has perfectly decent action and a couple of cool gory kills, but apart from the great Hiroyuki Sanada and the always awesome Joe Taslim, the remaining cast of vanilla bland milquetoasts did it no favors. Jax and Blade have zero charisma, Liu Kang’s dialogues consist of cheap Fortune Cookie wisdom, Kano’s constant wise-cracking gets annoying, Tadanobu Asano’s dickish potrayal of Raiden had me longing for Christopher Lambert’s weirdly inappropriate cackle and I realize it’s a tall order to fill the shoes of the great CHT, but they couldn’t do better than that dude from The Dark Knight? Props to Max Huang’s Kung Lao though, dude displays some presence, great fighting skills and gets the movie’s best kill and fan fav one liner.

    I reserve a particular irritation for adaptations of Established World’s with a gigantic roster of characters to choose from, but then still feels the need to invent a brand new and spectacularly dull one. Next time, bring The Cage!

  5. “What would Marvel do?”

    Well, the first thing they’d do is not ask that question. Then they’d dip into their decades-long love and admiration for their own material and ask themselves what would best serve their story and their characters, not what some competing corporate entity would do to maximize profits. But I understand that “Just do what you think would be awesome” is probably somewhat out of the realm of understanding of these people. They hired the screenwriter of THE EXPENDABLES and WONDER WOMAN 1984 for God’s sake. They are clearly crying out for help but no one hears them because this is Hollywood, where failing looks an awful lot like success if you do it big enough

    Still, I’ll see it. It’s shiny and gory and free and honestly those other MK movies were unwatchable so there’s nowhere for it to go but up.

  6. Sorry to say that I found this one close to unwatchable. If ever there was a more transparently mercenary franchise adaptation made by people with no personal interest in or understanding of the material but who were paid a huge pile of money by a big corporation to try and make the blandest version possible of something while still sparing no possible opportunity to superficially pander to what the studio imagines dumb fans like (catchphrases, references, reveals), I don’t know that I’ve seen it. Certainly, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a film with so much ultra-violence that felt so bloodless. There’s not one promising element here that pays off like it should, and the things that are less promising (especially the direly boring leads) manage to actually get worse.

    Some of the absolute worst “hey, this is R-rated, we should say fuck a lot so the kids know we’re cool” empty posturing by responsible, calculating corporate employees that I have ever seen, also. Like, physically painful to listen to.

  7. So cards on the table, do you prefer this to the 95 version?

    I think this is technically a more impressive film. I prefer the actress who plays Sonya here more than Bridgette Wilson. But like Vern says, i feel the 95 version is more interesting and fun.

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  8. Felix- If that’s directed to me, I’m sorry to say that I haven’t seen the ’95 one since I was a preteen, and can’t really opine on it. I imagine it probably looks a bit primitive and corny compared to the slick 2021 version, but I have a hard time believing it could be more dull and empty.

  9. I saw this in a theater. It did not help. Mr. Subtlety is right, this is a cynical cash-grab with a terminal case of prequel-itis. The fight scenes are passable at best and the legit martial arts talent in front of and behind the camera is completely squandered. The best thing I can say is that the CG gore is mildly entertaining. I have no real attachment to the 1995 version, so this isn’t a case of nostalgia goggles. The 2021 version is bad on it’s own merits.

  10. I didn’t like it. I expected it to look cheap, I expected miscasting and bad direction (Mileena and Kano were ok though so was Kung Lao at least there was personality as generic as said personality may have been) but I at least expected more from the fight scenes. Such a letdown.

    I laughed out loud when the one fight with real emotion behind it kept getting sidetracked by The Guy punching blocks of ice. Goro the champion of Mortal Kombat for 500 yrs in every other piece of media gets spanles by a guy who couldn’t take Mileena on its own. I just felt kinda sad watching this shit. The internet can keep this one as far as I’m concerned.

  11. Also I don’t get the endless comparisons between this and the one from ’95. There were different goals and approaches. Look at them under those merits. It’s like comparing Schumacher Batman to what Matt Reeves is doing cause “well it’s Batman”.

    That original movie was made when MK was 2 games deep with the 3rd in development and had the game’s creators directly involved. It was the best that could be done with it at that time and not only pretty faithful to it all but also added to the future of the games overall.

    This movie came out 20 plus yrs into the franchise’s evolution across 11 games & all sorts of ancillary shit. It decided to do its own thing at least but it’s own thing was ironically nowhere as interesting as the classic MK story. Sometimes it’s good to keep it simple stupid. Imagine a Bloodsport movie with no kumite.

  12. Is BLOOD AND BONE not this era’s definitive tournament movie?

  13. Fred – maybe so. I think of it more as an underground fighting circuit movie. So IP MAN 2 might be the definitive one. At any rate, few would have been watching MORTAL KOMBAT thinking “Well, this is just a rehash of BLOOD & BONE.” I’m just trying to say that it’s a tried and true format but not one that’s been done to death in the modern age.

  14. I am partial to DOA: Dead or Alive as well.

  15. Am I the only one who is a bit worried that now, that popculture IP mash-up movies are normal, they will do it like in the games* and start adding Robocop or Freddy Kruger to the sequels?

    *Disclaimer: I don’t have any beef with them doing that in the games. It’s a fun idea to have Goro fight Jason or whatever.

  16. Even considering such a nightmarish scenario is reason enough for any thinking person who sees movies, stories, and just art in general as more than an assortment of pogs to be collected and combined in assorted ways should make it a point to not only boycott the eldritch horror that is the new SPACE JAM, but also to prevent (bodily if need be) any of our loved ones or even casual associates from supporting it. Warner Bros is a legendary studio with a storied history that still puts out great movies to this day, but I feel that even if they went out of business because SPACE JAM: THE THING THAT SHOULD NOT BE was such a massive flop, it would still be a small price to pay to stop this mercenary cannibalizing of our collective consciousness in its tracks.

  17. It would also stop them from making more fucking Batman movies. I hope it doesn’t come to that but we can’t help you, Warner Bros, until you admit that you have a problem.

  18. What’s making me the most disappointed is all my friends and randos on Twitter who don’t really watch action movies that much are creaming their jeans over the action scenes for reasons that make me want to cry. They’re are almost highly unwatchable with more cuts than an episode of Monday Night RAW. Sure the fatalities are fun but wouldn’t they be even more fun if you could see waht the fuck was going on prior to them?

  19. Yeah, this is not good, you guys. I didn’t hate it, but there’s not a lot of there there. I saw it last night and expect to completely forget it by the weekend. I went into it completely blind, which included the casting. When I saw Taslim, I was all, oh, okay. Then Tan came on and I was all, alright, these are legit martial artists. Then, sad trombone from there on out. There were moments of interest/goodness, like the hat table saw, the fiery dragon, but it’s sad that most of them are signature finishing moves that came late. I kept asking my friend, who’s played the game, is this from the game? It’s a problem when that’s the biggest point of interest.

    When Kano came out with his swaggering asshole funnyman I gave him a side eye. Then I thought he might actually work out as an interesting, funny addition. But he got old real quick. Too much, dude. Too much. Speaking of dialogue, the rest of it was atrocious. When the heroes were defeated and ended up in the cloud realm and Cole gave the troops a rousing “speech” which consisted of ONE (1) line and it was ridiculously stupid like, “We can’t give up!” or “We gotta fight!” (I don’t actually remember the line) my friend started laughing and I said, “What?! That’s it? That’s all it took?!”

    I did like the final fight between Cole, Scorpion, and Sub-Zero, but too little too late.

  20. This movie was not offensively bad, like Mortal Kombat Annihilation (even as a kid I thought that was the worst movie ever made), but it also wasn’t fun, like Mortal Kombat ’95. Admittedly, I haven’t seen either of those since the ’90s. I know this was in development forever, but it felt like they shot the first draft of the script. On sets left over from other movies.

    Hiroyuki Sanada was good, by far the best at selling the material. We needed more of him. I thought they cast a 60 year old man as Scorpion and introduced a “new” character with his descendant Cole to lead to some kind of legacy storyline where Cole becomes the “new” Scorpion at the end. But, uh, guess not.

    The sequel better have Noob Saibot.

  21. “On sets left over from other movies.” Bill, not just that but the CG on Goro’s face looked like they used the leftover drawings of the Hulk from Marvel.

  22. I too realized how shitty ANNIHILATION was immediately and I was 14 at the time. I jusy stayed for the rest because it was the local neighborhood theater and a lot of people I knew where at that show. We just ended up lighting up joints and enjoying the techno music stunt show.

    It ended up being a really memorable moviegoing experience. It definitely wasn’t like ’95 which was earnestly charming thanks to the stuntwork and fidelity to the game canon of the time. That’s still Anderson’s only rewatchable movie. Sonya vs Kano, Scorpion vs Cage and Liu Kane vs Reptile still entertain the shit out of me. Can’t say the same for any fight in the new one unfortunately. Plus C-HT as Shang Tsung is some of the most perfect casting of all time. Informed everything done with the character since for good reason. New one was a straight up bum by comparison.

  23. I was kind of wondering why the handful of gleefully ultra-violent fatalities the movie provides don’t seem to hit nearly as hard as they ought to considering how outré they objectively are. But then I realized: they have no weight because they feel… like a video game. You watch some videos of fatalities from the new Mortal Kombat games and you’ll discover they’re virtually identical; video game graphics have advanced so much that they’re very close to indistinguishable from the technically-photorealistic-but-somehow-kinda-cartoony-and-weightless CGI which defines the modern Hollywood blockbuster. We used to make movies about of video games because movies could show us things that games simply couldn’t. Today, that’s simply not true. It makes it a lot harder to get excited about a crappy movie that strings together some dire exposition just to get to the big money shot. Today, the game version can offer drama at least as compelling as the bullshit they trot out here, and a can do it with lot more whammy. So what’s the point of a movie which just does the same thing as the games do, about as well as they do, but a lot less?

    Frankly, movies have been coasting on “wow! a live version of that thing I recognize from a video game!” for a little too long, and I think this movie should be a wake-up call that this isn’t really a unique selling point any more. If movies are gonna keep adapting video games, they better start thinking a lot harder about what the unique advantages of cinema might be, because “expensive graphics” is no longer one of them.

  24. Good point, Subtlety. Let’s hope the sequel is one of those movies where the main goal of the press tour is to say how all the effects are practical and we used X gallons of blood.

    Actually, Fede Alvarez should direct it.

  25. I wanna give guys working in the Indies making action movies a shot at one of these action find like a Liam O’Donnel or a John Hyams

  26. “I was kind of wondering why the handful of gleefully ultra-violent fatalities the movie provides don’t seem to hit nearly as hard as they ought to considering how outré they objectively are”

    Because all the gore and ultra-violence is centered only around the finishing moves. The fights themselves are Power-Rangers lite. As opposed to masters like Gareth Evans who stage fights where every punch and kick feel like they’ve dislocated a bone, ruptured a spleen and triggered massive internal hemorrhaging.

  27. Henry Swanson's my name

    April 29th, 2021 at 2:46 am

    When I saw the Johhny Cage poster at the end all I could think was I really hope he will be played by Scott Adkins.

  28. Yes had the exact same thought – get Scott Adkins signed up to play Johnny Cage for the sequel and tweak the character so that he’s an aging DTV action star. He’d be perfect.

  29. Maybe it’s because I don’t have any attachment to this mythology or characters (I haven’t played an MK game nor seen an MK movie since college), or maybe it’s because I don’t care if there’s a tournament or not (a tournament is merely a plot device to allow for multiple one-on-one fights, so if the movie manages to have multiple one-on-one fights anyway then I don’t see what the difference is) but I thought this one was fine. While the acting, scripting, and characterizations tended to be sub-par, the fights were better than average for this kind of thing, and the few moments of over-the-top gore were suitably disgusting. For a movie I never asked for and didn’t have to pay any money or get up off the couch to see, it was more than adequate. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to ask for more than that from a movie based on a game where ninjas stab cyborgs in the head and turn them into babies and shit.

  30. Finally saw this on ye olde Blu-Ray in the backwards non-HBO Max having country of England. I’m team kinda dug it. I like but don’t love the 1995 film. Or maybe it’s more that I love it more than I like it. The point is that there was room in my life for another KOMBAT and I found this worth accommodating. I agree with Mr. Majestyk that this has most of the merits of a tournament movie (at least one that would be made by a major US studio with a brand name title) even if there isn’t strictly a tournament in there; if anything I think that stops it from tracking too similar to the Wii Sports Anderson version. That said I could have done with a new version of the old “Shang Tsung turns into everyone” schtick at the end. It does feel like they’re holding back a bit at the end, the finale doesn’t quite feel like a finale. That aside it did feel to me like a film in its own right rather than the mere start of a Kombatverse that I feared. I’m something of a fan of the the games but don’t believe I’ve played anything past Part SHAOLIN MONKS, and this does make me interested in checking out one of the later games; good job corporate synergy!

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