Mortal Kombat is the video game adaptation about an impending tournament that will decide the fate of the world: the Earthrealm is in danger of being invaded by Outworld unless they can win the next deathmatch. As such, each side is assembling their own warriors to prepare for the championship. In the middle of the conflict is Cole Young (Lewis Tan), who learns he possesses a birthright to compete, making him extremely valuable to both parties—the Earth champions who want him as an ally, and the Outworld fighters who want him dead.
What works in Mortal Kombat is the commitment to the source material in terms of tone and execution (pun intended). First-time director Simon McQuoid recognizes that this film should give audiences exactly what they expect: an ultra-violent spectacle full of iconic characters. Everyone, from the writers to the performers, have clearly agreed that Mortal Kombat should be dumb fun and this strategy works very effectively. The catchphrases, the costumes, the fatalities—it’s all there for nostalgic recognition and enjoyment. And finally, the choreography is spot-on as it impressively recreates famous fighting moves from the video game while somehow finding a way to blend them convincingly into the highly engaging action sequences.
Audiences unfamiliar with the Mortal Kombat franchise, don’t relish grotesque beatings, or who care about things like coherent editing may not enjoy this film as much as others. On the last point, Mortal Kombat’s narrative jumps around in such a jarring way, it raises the suspicion that a longer cut of the movie originally existed but was heavily stripped down to focus on the action. This would be acceptable, but clearly Mortal Kombat wants to be the start of a longer story given that the majority of the runtime feels like setup for a future epic.
Mortal Kombat really believes it itself and that is a strong asset. In a way, the movie compels and wills the audience to enjoy the ride and it mostly succeeds, delivering on exactly the promises it proposes. Oddly, fleshing out the story more would probably strengthen it, but maybe that can (hopefully) be rectified in the sequels.
Recommended if you enjoyed: Godzilla v Kong, John Wick, Atomic Blonde
FINAL GRADE: B
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