After losing nine straight times to Outworld in the Mortal Kombat tournament, Earthrealm is on the verge of being taken over. It is up to a group of human warriors to save the world.
Director: Simon McQuoid
Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Hiroyuki Sanada
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude references.
Fun Fact: Simon McQuoid’s film directorial debut.
First, I have to apologize for the much longer than anticipated hiatus that I was on. I just realized that it has almost been a year since my last review, and I did no expected to not be gone this long. I had quite a bit of things going on with moving, and back in January I became an uncle with the birth of my nephew Gregory Mark Hoag. I will tell you he is an awesome nephew and I have been trying to spend as much time with him when I can. So quite a bit has been going on as of late. Now that is out of the way lets get back to the reviews.
As a franchise, Mortal Kombat is one of the most well known and popular video game franchises that has ever been produced. Since it hit the arcades, we have seen it expand in a huge, expanded universe through more games, comics, animated series, a television series, and films. The first film came out in 1995 with the sequel to that film coming out in 1997. Think of that it has been almost a quarter of a century since the last film. Feel old yet?
With Annihilation being a disaster of epic proportions, a film franchise was considered dead and in developmental hell for the rest of time. Many different people tried to resurrect the franchise in different ways to no success until now. One major criticism that the first two movies had were that there were no fatalities and no blood like the games. When I saw that this was an R rated production it piked up my interest a bit seeing what they can do with it.
Right off the bat we get an awesome scene of setup between Sub-Zero and Scorpion, two of the most popular characters in the franchise. The cinematography is clean and well-focused that shows all the moments including the more brutal parts. In fact, all of the action scenes are filmed that way, clean and well-disciplined cinematography. This opening sequence got me pumped up to see a type of origin story between these two characters on screen. While that was fun, the move makes a pivot to something different that I did not really care for and that is the introduction of Cole, the new lead character played by Lewis Tan. Tan is not a bad actor but, the character is someone that I do not really care for because he does not feel like a true hero and rather weak. I get making a new character besides Liu Kang being a leader but, there are hundreds of characters in this franchise that you could have gone with. Cole gets a ton of screen time and the actual characters of the game kind of take a back seat to him.
While the scenes with Cole are not the best, the scenes that have Scorpion and Sub-Zero are what keep the film cooking. The only thing that bummed me out is that there is little time devoted to them. We have to sit through quite a bit to get to it but when we do get there it pays off and left me well satisfied.
This leads us to a mixed bag of performances with the characters that we do know. Josh Lawson had one of the best performances in this. Lawson portrays Kano and he delivers what Kano should be. He is sarcastic and untrustworthy, and Lawson really brings out that part of the character. Jessica McNamee portrays Sonya Blade and I liked her performance as well. Her and Lawson play off each other well in their scenes together. One gripe I have is Shang Tsung played by Chin Han. There is zero charisma in Tsung unlike the 1995 version where he literally eats up the screen time that he gets. Tsung in this version is just there and when he shows up, I did not really care what he had to say.
We also have some nice special effects peppered in through the film. Goro is in this film and for something made out of CGI it looks fantastic. I’m someone that sides more with practical effects but, this was something that worked well. With updated technology and the fans clamoring for fatalities we get quite a bit of them that are pulled off nicely as well. It is what we have been waiting for and the effects department pulled that off quite well.
Overall, the 2021 edition of Mortal Kombat did deliver in some ways. It has well filmed fight scenes and special effects to add to it. While I get the film is trying to go a different direction but focusing on the new character does not really work. It does not bring down the film but with a rich catalog of characters from the series they could have chosen anyone for that role. It redeems itself with the scenes between Sub-Zero and Scorpion because those were the best parts of the film. This version is a more serious version due to the R rating and I believe that is something that we needed from this franchise. We already have the fun version with the film from 1995 and the horrible version from 1997. To me that is a nice balance to all of that by giving something for everyone that is a Mortal Kombat fan.