Mortal Kombat (2021)
Directed by: Simon McQuoid
Written by: Dave Callaham, Gregg Russo, Oren Uziel
Starring: Chin Han, Hiroyuki Sanada, Jessica McNamee, Joe Taslim, Josh Lawson, Laura Brent, Lewis Tan, Matilda Kimber, Mehcad Brooks, Sisi Stringer
Out of all the movies on this busy year’s slate, Mortal Kombat is up there with my most anticipated. Despite the decent attempts at movies and TV shows previously, there’s always been one element missing from these, which was and still is the main appeal of the source material – GORE! Finally, we have a big screen interpretation in keeping with the videogames’ ultra violent tone. Surely that should be reason enough to be excited? From the opening the film states its intent. A confrontation hundreds of years prior to the rest of the story, between Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) & Scorpion, (Hiroyuki Sanada) really sets the mood, and lets us know what we’re getting ourselves into. It’s a fantastic scene that makes you wish we got to see a bit more of these two duking it out, but when we get there again, it’s a real treat. Almost all of the roster from the very first game are present, save for the narcissistic Johnny Cage. Although we do get a nod to the Hollywood star with a brief glimpse of a film poster as we are are being introduced to the protagonist, Cole (Lewis Tan). He’s a struggling MMA fighter, born with the mark of the chosen champions of Earthrealm, and soon discovers he has a higher calling. It’s not long before he meets up with some familiar faces and the wheels are set in motion to defend Earthrealm from the baddies of Outworld, led by the sinister Shang Tsung (Chin Han).
Despite some (really) clunky dialogue, it’s a great time. The majority of the characters are serious, shouldering the weight of their situation, stoic and sincere. Kano (Josh Lawson) on the other hand is the cynical voice of the viewer, ripping the piss out of how serious and silly it all gets. As far as comic reliefs go, he may not be the most appropriate, but it gives the film the amusing self awareness it needs. Elsewhere, we are treated to some of the best on screen fights this side of the 90’s. There’s no shortage of action. It’s constantly entertaining seeing some great match ups, and we’re also treated to the occasional Fatal Blow and Fatality moves. The only thing really letting the side down is a certain CGI baddie, that looks like they’ve just reused assets of the MCU’s Hulk character model. The facial resemblance is almost uncanny at times, to the point where I almost preferred Paul W.S. Anderson’s version. Shang Tsung took some adjusting to as well. For years, and even in Mortal Kombat 11, the most recent (and possibly best) instalment of the long running game series, the character has been played by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. An actor that has defined the role since the previously mentioned PWSA movie. Although Chin Han makes a good enough job of it, it’s difficult to forget the sneering, OTT performance from the 1995 cult classic.
But those are just a couple of minor gripes. The whole package is a great time, with that rare Hollywood feat of the third act being just as strong as the others. We even get treated to some arrangements and remixes of the iconic and extremely of its time theme tune of the original movies. Mortal Kombat has not only proved it’s possible for a videogame adaptation to be good, but it’s also a great action/martial arts film. The kind that would have been massive back in the 90’s. Mortal Kombat is just the kind of thing you want from a popcorn blockbuster, really delivering the goods.