With the exception of a few, almost every video-game adapted movie has fallen flat on its face. Whether it be Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros or Angelina Jolie’s Tomb Raider, only the rate exceptions have managed to stand the test of time. In more recent years Tomb Raider (the reboot) and Detective Pikachu have done well, but it’s 1995’s Mortal Kombat that somehow retains its place at the top.
Mortal Kombat was a goofy, cheesy action flick that didn’t take itself too seriously. Tonally, it managed to nail the perfect balance between martial arts and video game adaptation.
Back in 2010, Mortal Kombat: Rebirth then did the rounds online. A 7 minute fan-made video, Rebirth perfectly captured the mood of what a more gritty Mortal Kombat film would be like. (You can actually check that out below!)
Fast forward to 2021 and a new Mortal Kombat remake is upon us… and boy is it a mess. It’s a fun, action-packed mess – but a mess all the same. Torn between delivering a more gritty and violent picture like Rebirth, and serving as an homage to the past, Mortal Kombat is less fatality and more annoying, spammy leg sweeps. Sure it gets the win but it does so in a way that’s less than satisfying.
What’s more satisfying however, is the fighting. The visual effects in particular are fantastic and the choreography for a lot of the conflicts feel like they’ve been ripped right from the game. There are fatalities, fun catchphrases, lots of Easter Eggs and some wonderfully savage moves. It’s all great, boisterous fun – which also sometimes feels at odds with the story being told here.
In essence, Mortal Kombat weaves two separate storylines into one. The glorious opening 10 minutes serve as a prologue of sorts, introducing us to both Sub Zero and Scorpion. This also gives us our first taste of action too. It’s a really strong way to start the movie but sadly a hook that’s never reeled in for the catch.
Instead, we switch perspectives and are introduced to washed-up MMA fighter, Cole Young. It turns out he has a destiny as the foretold Chosen One; the Earth Realm’s chosen fighter to compete in Mortal Kombat. Through a series of fetch quests, Cole eventually finds himself training alongside legendary warriors, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, Sonya Blade and Jax. All the while though, the murderous Sub-Zero is hot on their heels.
Freshening up this troupe is foul-mouthed Kano. His scene-stealing charisma gives the film a real comedic wit in what’s otherwise a very straight and mood picture. And that is ultimately the biggest issue with Mortal Kombat.
Given the premise and simplicity of the story, the 1995 version worked because it didn’t take itself too seriously. Here though, the film feels torn between playing it straight and delivering quips similar to those in the original movie. This jarring, discordant clash results in a mix of awkward and cringy moments.
Hearing Kung Lao smugly pronounce “flawless victory” after a vicious fight may sound like fun, but it feels awkwardly contrived with his character who plays it straight until that point. Perhaps the only exception comes from Kano, who absolutely steals the show.
It also doesn’t help that the ending baits for a sequel. The problem with that is it leaves this picture feeling unfinished. In essence, this plays out like an extended pilot episode of a season to come. To make matters worse, the movie waits until the final credits before even playing the iconic Mortal Kombat track from the original!
Fans of the game will undoubtedly love this movie though, especially give the number of Easter Eggs, fatalities and moves on display. Those unfamiliar with the games and on the hunt for a decent action flick are unlikely to find a lot to love here. The film is a tonal mess and it’s not helped by the fact the story its story is so formulaic.
While this isn’t a train wreck like Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was, it’s also not as good as the original. Instead, this 2021 remake of Mortal Kombat remains in the shadows of its predecessor. This is certainly not the fatality one may be expecting, and after a series of elaborate button presses, finishes the fight with a simple punch to the face. It gets the job done, but it does so in the least glamorous way possible.
Looking for more Mortal Kombat content? Check out our Ending Explained article for a more in-depth break-down of this movie! You can find that HERE!