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Mortal Kombat

***
2021

‘…it’s undemanding, expensive-looking fluff that has nothing to say about our current predicament other than eliciting gasps at the multiple good kills featured here…’

Let’s get ready to rumble, with rebooted video game adaptation that brings back….well, to be honest, I’ve no idea if this brings back the original feel of Mortal Kombat, because my memories of playing the game have faded like the-day-before-yesterday’s dream. A beat-‘em up in the vein of Street Fighter, players used to pick a fighter from an array of funny-looking characters (Johnny Cage, Sub-Zero) all with a signature move, and then fight to the death in a tournament of body-slams, grunting, fire-balls and ice-swords.

That Simon McQuoid’s movie version, abruptly on streaming in the UK less than two weeks after Warners said they had no plans to release it, features no Johnny Cage and never ventures as far as the tournament suggests that this ain’t yo mamma’s Mortal Kombat, if yo mamma ever had such a thing. With James Wan exec-producing, the model seems the Fast and Furious or even the Avengers franchise; it take a good forty minutes to gather our athletes, and then a good twenty minutes of training before the bad guys show up. In the meantime we meet MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) and watch him get sucked into the deeply uninteresting struggle between Earthrealm and Outworld.

Young is the main character, but there’s a gallery of others, including Sonya Blade (Jesica McNamee), harmless, armless Jaxx (Mehcad Brooks), and Josh Lawson as the perennially angry Kano, who drops irreverent self-referential pop-culture bombs with practically every line. There’s some waffle about prophecies and dragon mark tattoos, some vaguely defined bad guys, and a chief villain in the form of Sub Zero (Joe Taslim), who is established as a threat of a key heroic blood-line in a lengthy 17th century Japan-set opening.

McQuoid does seem to have a hot take – a hard R version, with heavy duty swearing, a lot of humour, and a lot of extreme fantasy violence. Things are bright enough while we establish multiple characters but are as slow as a week in the jail by the time we get to the temple of Lord Raiden (Tabanobo Sato) for a long training montage and a bit of squabbling and betrayal. Mortal Kombat resolves itself with a full programme of fights, none of which are important enough to cut away from to show another fight happening simultaneously. While none of this re-invents cinema as art, Mortal Kombat’s 2021 incarnation is considerably more fun than might have been expected, with a brisk, packed narrative and lots of fan service. In a blockbuster-starved dystopia circa 2021, Mortal Kombat deserves an unlikely streaming success; it’s undemanding, expensive-looking fluff that has nothing to say about our current predicament other than eliciting gasps at the multiple good kills featured here.

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    • I can’t say ‘this one has Melanie Novak written all over it’ so you can feel free to make other arrangements…

  1. Luckily I have no knowledge whatsoever of the game but I avoided the last outing and I suspect will have the willpower to do the same here. Most movies based on games are just that with little characterisation or real drama and I’m not sure piling up the bodies counts as that.

  2. Cool review you managed to diss it and laud it simultaneously. I don’t think it’s my cuppa, I’ve not seen or played the game. In fact the only game I’ve ever done was COD and no need to make a movie of that as they’ve all been done before the game was invented. I did like the original Lara Croft movies, and bought the game, but I got stuck swimming about in the sea in the first 10 minutes and gave up in the end.

  3. I don’t get why people put video games into movies. I don’t really mind if it’s the other way round, but it always ends up terribly. I only one I ever enjoyed was the Angry Birds one, which, whatever you say, is hilarious. The rest of them are simply awful. So, no, Mortal Kombat can stay damn away.

    • Angry Birds Movie not as good as Angry Birds 2, a heretical opinion, I realise, but them’s the FACTS.

      It’s hard work learning all the controls, so I like to see other people play, seems to be plenty of that action on YouTube.

      I won’t put your name on the team-sheet for the next big tournament, then.

  4. No tournament? What heresy is this?!?

    I remember watching the two previous MK movies and very guiltily enjoying them 🙂 But I think there was a tournament in that one, so at least I felt like I was watching an adaptation of the games.

    • No tournament. Talking about having one, yes, but no arena, no big fight. We talk about going off to look for Johnny Cage in Hollywood at the end, but don’t see him. There’s LOTS of fighting, but not in a tournament setting. Yup, surprised me too…

  5. What was funny-looking about Johnny Cage in the original? He was a cool movie-star dude.
    I’m glad you liked this so much. I was worried that the brutality wasn’t going to work because the CGI blood in the trailers looked kind of lame. But on your glowing recommendation I will seek it out.
    BTW, what did you spend a week in jail for?

    • I think it was the brutal kill of a Canadian critic, but a week was more than enough reward for the public service of doing society a favour.

      Johnny Cage looks like a complete walloper. I like the big guy with the four arms, he rings a bell as the one I’d pick to play. I’m more of a Shufflepuck cafe guy, Biff and Eneg were my guys!

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