Movie Title: Mortal Kombat
Genre: Martial Arts, Fantasy, Action
Writer: Greg Russo, Dave Callaham
Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Daniel Nelson, Damon Herriman, Angus Sampson, Nathan Jones, Mel Jarnson
Review: Hunted by the fearsome warrior Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds sanctuary at the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). Training with experienced fighters Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and the rogue mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), Cole prepares to stand with Earth's greatest champions to take on the enemies from Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe.
The 2021 cinematic rendition of the famed video game franchise, Mortal Kombat can be summed up like this: Silly, yet entertaining as hell. For those who don't know, Mortal Kombat has been done before. In the 1995 version of Mortal Kombat, we got more of the same silliness and entertainment value without the modern day special effects and production value. I actually enjoyed the film with the caveat that it is a very niche movie that really only endears itself to fans of the video game franchise. Then, two years later, we were treated to the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which I implore you to only watch if you want to laugh for all the wrong reasons. That movie is like a fiery car wreck that you can't quite look away from. But today, we're here to talk about the new and improved (at least in my opinion) film that builds off its predecessors, stays true to video game lore, and delivers a film loaded with entertainment value.
For starters, this film kicks off with the infamous feud between warriors Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Sub-Zero. These two are arguably the most iconic and recognizable characters in Mortal Kombat mythology, and their history of violence and retribution runs deep. Once the high-flying battle between these two foes sets the tone for the movie, we are off and running, as the film sets up the tournament. Anyone who has played Mortal Kombat knows that the entire plot centers around a fighting tournament between Earthrealm (humans) and Outworld (...not...humans?). The basis for this all stems from several human warriors of Earthrealm who all have been marked to compete in Mortal Kombat. Essentially, if Outworld wins the tournament, they take over Earthrealm. And that would be bad. Could you imagine if the mayor of your city or town was a mutant named Goro (Angus Sampson) with four arms? Four! Or if the punishment for a speeding ticket was having your soul stolen by a shape-shifting maniac named Shang Tsung (Chin Han)? It would be complete and utter madness! But I digress.
The main character in this film is Cole Young, who has the mark, and now must train with Lord Raiden to save Earthrealm. The silly part is that Cole is basically a washed up, failed MMA fighter. Not exactly the kind of guy I want going toe-to-toe with that four-armed behemoth that I was talking about earlier. Either way, Cole has a secret, which is entirely too predictable, and once you figure out what that is, all hell breaks loose. The real star of this film is Josh Lawson as Kano. His character is a rude, abrasive mercenary from Australia who delivers a myriad of one-liners. The witty quips are hilarious, but it's apparent that this is really all his character is here for. He seemingly has something sarcastic to say every single time he opens his mouth. The special effects are fantastic, and I really enjoyed all of the fight scenes; and there is no shortage of them. There is gratuitous gore as one would expect from a video game that celebrates fatalities where victors mutilate their opponents after defeating them. I feel like the '90s versions were super cheesy and skimped out on some of the violence. And while the cheese in this one still reigns supreme, the violence and entertainment value more than make up for it.
This film did a good job of staying true to the story established by the video games as well as setting the table for what will probably become a new franchise of Mortal Kombat films. I'm personally excited to see what they come up with next, and I highly recommend this screwball martial arts movie that oozes entertainment and high-flying stunts!
Fun Fact: Hiroyuki Sanada tried to prepare for his role as Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion by playing Mortal Kombat video games. He joked that he lost every time, but kept playing to learn the stories, background, and characters. Despite not being very good at the game, he found the whole experience to be a lot of fun.