‘Mortal Kombat’ Disappoints On Multiple Fronts

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Mortal Kombat, a reboot of the original 1995 film of the same name, was released on streaming services like HBO Max on April 23rd and is currently being shown in theatres. It’s inspired by the video game and is the third Mortal Kombat film. After the failure of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, it sat in ‘development hell’ for almost two decades, until Warner Bros bought it. It was directed by Simon McQuoid and is based on a screenplay written by Greg Russo. It was filed in Adelaide, Australia, along with other locations in South Australia. Although the film has received mixed reviews (55% on Rotten Tomatoes and 43% on Metacritic), it proved to be a streaming hit and had the most successful launch in HBO Max’s history. 

The film follows struggling MMA fighter Cole Young who is being hunted by the fearsome Sub-Zero, who has ice powers. Cole has a mysterious dragon birthmark that he has never been able to explain and he quickly realizes that this is the reason he is being hunted when he meets Jax and Sonya Blade, who catch him up on their theory of the existence of “Mortal Kombat.” They explain that he is one of the Chosen Warriors of Mortal Kombat, which is why he has the dragon mark. Kano, a man with the mark that Sonya has been interrogating, takes them to Raiden’s Temple. They learn that Earthrealm has lost the last nine rounds of Mortal Kombat to Outworld and that if they lose again, they will be conquered. It is now their responsibility as the Chosen Warriors to train and prepare for this battle and to save Earth. 

Mortal Kombat feels like an extremely long, drawn-out pilot episode. The plot is very slow and once everything has finally been set up… nothing happens and the film ends. It doesn’t actually depict the event of ‘Mortal Kombat’. It doesn’t even depict any actual training for this event, despite it taking place “before the next full moon.” It never goes anywhere and there is no noticeable or clear plot. For the entire film, the audience remains confused; pretty much nothing is explained, things are just constantly happening. It’s a seemingly endless montage of fight scenes. 

HBO Max pitches Mortal Kombat as Asian representation and it’s the first thing that pops up in their section for AAPI history month. Cole seems to be intended to be the main character and yet, the movie is really more about Sonya and Kano. In a movie that prides itself on Asian representation, why do the Asian characters have so little screen time? Sonya and Kano don’t have their powers by birthright and for most of the movie Sonya doesn’t have powers at all, she is just a random person who has been researching it in her bunker. 

The acting is bad, the costumes are bad, the CGI is bad. The prologue is the best part of the movie, it’s well-choreographed and exciting, unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there. Although the CGI is bad, it has a certain charm because it’s done in a way that looks a lot like the animation in the actual video game. It captures the video game-style violence of the game very well, a lot of the moves in the film look a lot like those in the video game, with lots of unrealistic goriness. The CGI certainly isn’t good and none of it looks real, but it’s neat to see it match the way it looks in the game. 

Another of the film’s problems is how excruciatingly long it is, dragging on for two long hours, which wouldn’t be that bad if it had any sort of well-paced plot or a real plot at all. As stated in the RogerEbert.com review of the film, “It should really be illegal to make a video game film that’s almost as long as “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Instead, the film gets stuck after its prologue scene and the introduction of its characters, and sadly it is never able to pick up momentum again after this. 

In conclusion, Mortal Kombat is not at all a good movie and it is not well made. It is entertaining at times, occasionally drawing the audience back in with its intense and bloody fight scenes, but it’s unable to provide a fulfilling ending and it gets stuck often. The only people I can see really enjoying this movie are serious fans of the video game, but I think that even they would feel disappointed to a certain extent. Perhaps in another two decades, Mortal Kombat will be re-rebooted and finally given a worthwhile and well-made movie.