Mortal Kombat hits hard with its epic fight scenes but loses steam with its plot. Developing a film based on a video game from the ’90s can be tricky, especially if it’s beloved and remembered by many who harken to the heyday of 2D video games. Despite its critics, Mortal Kombat championed as number one in this weekend’s box office, pulling in $23.5 million from the film’s debut in theaters as well as streaming on HBO Max.
In the opening scene, we are met with two classic warriors, Hanzo Hasashi and Sub-Zero. Sub-Zero murders Hanzo’s wife and son and soon defeats Hanzo leaving him to submerge into the earth and travel to hell where he then becomes Scorpion. Reiden, the thunder God appears among the embers of Hanzo’s remains to gather the daughter Hanzo left behind continuing the bloodline and the mark of the dragon which is introduced as Cole Young several hundred years later. Cole will go on to fight in a tournament in opposition to the Netherrealm called, you guessed it, Mortal Kombat.
Cole leads the film with minor character development, mostly based on his pursuit to discover his arcana or magical power. Given the number of characters we are introduced to, it is difficult to establish much of an individual storyline to satisfy an analytical audience. Cole remains the same man in the end as he was in the beginning but with shirtlike armor and arm blades.
Visually the film delivered, especially in regards to the costumes. Director Simon McQuoid makes his feature debut with Mortal Kombat and spoke with screenrant about the costume aspect of the film. “I was just pushing the costume designer every day that we need more layers and we need more texture,” said McQuiod.
Although it is not devoid of a plot and the actors gave incredible performances, we must remember that the film is obviously a tribute to the game. If you are into gore and classic Mortal Kombat choreography, then it’ll satisfy all of your inner 90’s kid fantasies of its iconic characters. The audience is given little drops from the video game, such as the coveted “Fatality” that we all wanted to impose on our opponents. The splatters of blood were grandiose and inflicted in true Mortal Kombat style depending on the victor. One particular defeat was Kung Lao’s bladed hat turning into a table saw, cutting his opponent in half from head to toe.
The film’s actors definitely delivered in terms of the fight scenes. Joe Taslim who plays the film’s main antagonist Sub-Zero is a trained martial artist and said he works on endurance training and weights, rather than muscle gains. In an interview for Men’s Health he said, “As an action actor, as a martial artist, I cannot be too bulky.” Taslim’s focus on movement reads well on camera, considering we only see his eyes for the majority of the film. The emphasis on his body language and skills as a martial artist conveys a chilling villain.
The storyline was engaging enough that the lack of individual plots for any given character wasn’t blindingly obvious. There was still a sense of appreciation for the strong performances given by each warrior and the choreography was reminiscent of the video game without appearing ridiculous.
The 2021 Mortal Kombat isn’t for the faint of heart or the serious filmgoer. If you are into epic battle scenes, legendary characters, and minor plot lines then it shouldn’t disappoint.
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