Deadly Spoilers ahead.
I was incredibly excited about the new Mortal Kombat movie. I broke down the trailer and ranked the main games all in anticipation for it. I was looking forward to seeing what a modern adaptation of the series would be.
The storyline of the first game is pretty straightforward. Bad guys in the evil Outworld want to take over Earth but need to win a tournament 10 times to do so as mandated by Elder Gods. So they host the tournament, and Earth picks some mighty heroes with unique abilities to fight for Earth. Simple. Yeah, so consider my surprise when they straight up drop that. No tournament. None. Zero tournaments. Shang Tsung makes sure to tell you straight up: it ain’t happening. You all keep fighting too much, so he’s turning the car around.
Instead, he wants to send assassins after the chosen champions of Earthrealm, who all have a chosen dragon birthmark. This way, there is no tournament. However, if there’s no tournament, how will they win enough times to invade Earth? You see what I’m saying, changing such a simple plot creates so many plot holes.
The movie starts with a Scorpion origin that is a lot better than the rest of the film.
Hiroyuki Sanada is great as Hanzo Hasashi and is the best actor in the movie. It’s a shame he is literally only in the beginning and then at the end for a scene.
Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero is another excellent casting choice as his martial art ability, and overall presence really shines in the film’s action scenes. The action in this film is pretty good, with some decent CGI but one too many cutaways between blows which is a shame because Taslim doesn’t need that sort of editing crutch. However, It’s nothing as criminal as Taken 3. Sub-zero murders Hanzo’s entire clan except for a lone baby girl who survives. Hint: That’s super important later on. Hanzo dies and is taken by hellfire, leading to his resurrection as Scorpion.
The more significant issue here is the main protagonist and new addition, Cole Young, played by Lewis Tan. Cole is an incredibly bland protagonist with no real identity. He’s the audience stand-in because the incredible simple plot of Mortal Kombat really needs explaining. His whole story arc is that he is a washed-up MMA champion taking on random fights for chump change. His wife and daughter support this self-destructive lifestyle of constantly losing and getting whooped all the time. His family is just used to further push the story as he eventually meets Sonya and Jax, who literally save them from being iced by Sub-Zero.
Sub-Zero is really threatening, and his CGI ice power looks really good. He tears off Jax’s arms in this scene, and it’s brutal. The gore is not downplayed at all. It turns out, Cole has had a chosen dragon mark since birth. Sonya’s totally jealous because you need to defeat a chosen to become a chosen, but Cole has the mysterious luck of being born chosen. Next hint. You see where this is going?
To keep things fresh, they really tried to change up the lore of the series. Characters no longer had these special abilities based on their background. Now, they could harness their powers using arcana, and it would come out during times of stress.
For example, Kano, who is probably the best character in the movie, doesn’t have his mecha eye. Instead, that’s his magic power now. I’m not sure why they took this angle, but it’s totally unnecessary. With characters like Reptile and Goro also in the film, you don’t really need to explain how people get their powers.
However, the film devotes plenty of time to have Raiden and his pupils, Liu Kang and Kung Lao showing the newly chosen champions how to harness their latent abilities. Cole sucks at it, and they tell him to leave.
Meanwhile, they completely ignore Sonya, who doesn’t have a mark at all. Sonya’s situation here could have been the better plot for the lead protagonist. She should have been. So after, Raiden expresses the truth of Cole’s ancestry. Scorpion is his great ancestor.
By the way, Raiden is a confusing character whose reasons for actions and inaction contradict themselves with every other line. And speaking of dialogue, the movie is incredibly cheesy, with characters literally saying. “Fatality.” or “Flawless victory.”
The meta dialogue doesn’t really work and seems entirely out of place as the only one it fit for was Kano, who does seem like the type of guy who would say, “Kano wins,” after a fight. Someone, please give Josh Lawson a back rub because he really carried this film. He’s the only interesting character in the movie.
The movie ends with a super climactic battle between Earth realm warriors and Outer Realm warriors. Cole eventually figures out his secret power, which is literally plot armor. He gets magic armor, and that makes him super strong. Strong enough to defeat Goro, the nine-time champion of the previous tournaments. Sigh. It just could have been Liu Kang.
The final battle against Sub-Zero is Cole magically summoning his great-grandpa Scorpion back from hell, who manages to take his vengeance while Cole tries to save his family trapped in ice instead of helping. The battle between the two ninjas is brutally fantastic, and keeping Cole away from it as much as possible was a good thing.
Overall, what could you really expect from a Mortal Kombat movie? It has good character designs, sound settings, some decent casting, and solid CGI. It’s cheesy, and it also tries to take itself seriously at the same time, which really affects the overall tone of the film. The fights are decent, the acting is cheesy, and it’s super gory, which sounds exactly like the classic Mortal Kombat games.
The biggest problem with this film is that it’s just sequel baiting. They leave off with Cole going to Hollywood to find Johnny Cage. Hopefully, the tournament will happen in the next movie, but I’m not as excited as I could be. The movie has some really avoidable flaws. If you really want a great Mortal Kombat movie, you could watch the animated film Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge.
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