Mortal Kombat Barely Sticks the Landing, Stunning Action Sequences Make Up For Odd Character Choices
When the film’s first trailer debuted, 2021’s Mortal Kombat (2021) looked to be a contender for best video game movie of all time. While the movie largely failed to live up to that hype, it brought die-hard fans of the franchise plenty of moments worthy of its iconic source material.
When it comes to action, lore, and worldbuilding, all of which being elements key to any successful Mortal Kombat adaption, Mortal Kombat excels. Casting, acting, and character interactions also prove to be satisfying — for the most part. Where Mortal Kombat falls flat, unfortunately, is with the film’s main character.
Apart from that one, albeit key, aspect of the film, Mortal Kombat delivers spectacularly for both fans of the game franchise and action film fans in general who may not be familiar.
One of the main reasons for this is how well the action scenes are executed.
Mortal Kombat’s Fight Scenes Are Brutally Satisfying
If you’re going to adapt a fighting game into a movie, the movie’s fight scenes are going to have to be stellar. Make no mistake, when it comes to the fight scenes, Mortal Kombat more than delivers.
The martial arts choreography is fantastic, the visual effects are spectacular, and, most importantly, the action feels like it came straight out of the games. Many of the characters’ move sets are even seem pulled straight from the video games. Without a doubt, these fight scenes are at their best when it comes to brutal fatalities. In true Mortal Kombat fashion, they are creative, gory, and very closely border on disgusting, in the best possible way of course.
If there is any problem with the fight scenes, it is that there are far too few of them. There could have easily been twice as many. Given that the run time was a mere one hour and 50 minutes, it’s almost shocking more action was not included, especially given that the film’s main star, Lewis Tan, admitted that more fights — including his favorite — were cut from the film.
— Lewis Tan (@TheLewisTan) April 23, 2021
The Main Character Feels Forced
Lewis Tan portrays Cole Young in the movie, which is truly a shame. Although Tan has yet to reach superstardom in Hollywood, he has certainly proven to be a charismatic leading man brimming with potential. The reason his casting is a shame being that the character of Cole is completely bland. Many of his lines fall flat, it feels as though the filmmakers forced him into the story, and his special abilities are extremely odd, underwhelming, and feel out of place when compared to the other characters.
When the plot is centered on Cole Young, which is sadly a large portion of the story, it stalls. Audiences are left waiting to move on to more interesting characters such as Raiden and Liu Kang, or more charismatic characters like Kano and Sonya Blade.
NetherRealm Studios, the developers of the video game franchise, has done an exemplary job creating characters for their franchise, many of who have remained incredibly popular for decades. Rather than trying to fix a good thing, the filmmakers behind Mortal Kombat should have stuck closer to this tried and true formula.
Other Characters Excel
Other than Cole, the cast of characters in the movie is exceptional and dynamic.
While many of the characters are great, there are some notable standouts, chief among them being Kano, played by Josh Lawson. Lawson perfectly walks the line between asshole and wisecracker, making him an edgy foil for the other more serious characters in the film. Given the outlandish nature of the plot, his constant biting commentary, often making fun of the story’s ridiculousness, helps audiences to accept those more fantastical story beats. Essentially, Kano ingratiates audiences into the story better than Cole Young himself, the very character whose very purpose was to do just that.
The movie’s other two standout characters are the franchise’s crown jewels — Scorpion and Sub Zero. Unfortunately, they take a back seat for much of the film.
The Standouts Stay in the Background
The first ten minutes of Mortal Kombat might very well be the best ten minutes of the entire film. Setting up the conflict between Scorpion and Sub Zero, the opening carries far more emotional resonance than even the third act climax. That very climax pays off the opening setup in a big way. Between those two scenes, however, these two characters are used very sparingly.
By the time the film is over, one unfortunate fact becomes incredibly evident. The story would have been infinitely more compelling if it had featured Sub Zero and Scorpion throughout, rather than this new generic character. Hopefully, if there are future installments, both iconic fighters are elevated to the forefront of the plot.
This film reeks of film executive interference. Forcing a brand new character into an established, time-tested franchise with the misguided, uninformed desire to give audiences an avatar they can relate to. In order to make him more relatable, the script. actually makes him more boring. Given that a large percentage of screen time is devoted to developing this character when other more charismatic characters such as Sonya Blade, Kano, and Jax could have done so much more effectively.
Despite these flaws, Mortal Kombat delivers. By the end, the movie feels like an adequately entertaining prequel to what could very well turn out to be a truly iconic film series.
Hopefully, if enough viewers are able to overlook the film’s flaws, those sequels will be on the way in short order.