The real fatality is that this isn’t a better movie.
“Mortal Kombat” is the newest live action adaptation of the fighting game franchise. It is directed by Simon McQuoid and written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham. It is playing in theaters and on HBO Max for a limited time.
The movie follows Cole Young, an MMA fighter who comes from a long lineage of warriors. He discovers an ancient tournament called Mortal Kombat between Earthrealm and Outworld. As a chosen warrior, Cole must train to unlock his hidden potential to stop Outworld from killing Earthrealm’s warriors before the tournament.
“Mortal Kombat” is a movie without much style or substance. The fighting (which is honestly the main point) is great, but everything else is severely lacking.
To start, the acting is fine. No one in the film is bad, but nobody really stands out either. The main cast consists of Lewis Tan as Cole Young, Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson as Kano, Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden, Mehcad Brooks as Jax and Ludi Lin as Liu Kang.
Out of those cast members, Josh Lawson is both the best and worst as Kano. He can be fun to watch, as he gives the only over-the-top performance in the movie. However, he is equally annoying as he constantly throws out insults, jokes and references.
Not mentioned in that list are the main villains. The primary villains are Shang Tsung played by Chin Han and Sub-Zero played by Joe Taslim. They do a good job at playing the antagonists of the movie. However, they don’t leave a lasting impression along with the rest of the cast.
But the main point of this film is the fighting, and it delivers quite well. The Mortal Kombat games are well known because of their gory, bloody and extremely graphic violence. This movie doesn’t hold many punches in depicting that violence.
Along with that, the fight scenes are well filmed. Characters are usually always on screen and the movie doesn’t edit too quickly or move around too much to confuse the audience. It always shows the whole fight and makes it clear what is going on on-screen. With the violence, this is easily the best aspect of this movie.
But that’s really where the praise ends.
The editing is good, especially in not cutting around too much. But there isn’t much else to say on it.
The cinematography is fine. Unfortunately, the movie looks flat with its lighting and shot composition. There isn’t much style put on display, especially for the fight scenes. It does the job, but it could have been much better.
In contrast, the special effects are great in parts and really bland in other sections. For example, Sub-Zero’s ice powers look fantastic. However, anytime someone uses fire powers it looks fake. This isn’t to say that the special effects artists didn’t try; it’s unclear what went wrong here. But it looks very cheesy, and not in a good way.
The soundtrack is okay, which sucks because the franchise is known for its soundtrack (even if it’s just for the main theme). The music in the film is mostly techno, along with a few other instrumental every now and then. Except for the few usages of the main theme, the music is forgettable at best.
Finally, the structure, writing and story leave much to be desired. Out of those three, the structure of the film is the best aspect. It moves well from point A to point B. Along with that, the general flow of information and level of progression is clear and concise.
Speaking of information, the writing in this film is serviceable at best. The movie really doesn’t like to explain much of anything. For example, the explanation for Mortal Kombat probably lasts around two minutes. This can work sometimes, but it generally leaves room for too many unanswered questions. Along with this, there is some cringe-inducing references, both for the games and for other media. It doesn’t help that the characters aren’t given any depth whatsoever.
Story wise, this film is extremely basic. Because the movie is focused more on the fights, it’s okay. It gives the proper context and motivation so that it can showcase the fights. But it is barebones, only doing the minimum required to tell a coherent story.
At the end of the day, “Mortal Kombat” delivers on one aspect and one aspect alone: the fights. If that is all you want, then this movie is for you. But if you are looking for anything of substance, then watch something else.
Generally, the movie is serviceable. It does just enough in most aspects to deliver a final film that does the job (mostly in providing fight scenes). But the film lacks both style and substance. It looks and sounds like Mortal Kombat, but there’s nothing inside the armor.
In terms of fighting, this film is unmatched. In terms of everything else, it’s far from flawless.