Mortal Kombat is one of the best video game movies ever made. There aren't many that are good at all. That said, things have been looking up a little bit lately. Sonic the Hedgehog and Monster Hunter were decently entertaining. Now we get this new film, which is certainly quite different than the other two, in that it's deservedly rated R. By staying true to the game's violent nature and still putting some care into the factors that any movie needs, Mortal Kombat ends up being 110 minutes of fast-faced, blood-soaked fun.
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a middling MMA fighter with a strange mark on his chest. He receives a visit from a stranger, Jax (Mehcad Brooks), who informs him it's a sign that he's been “chosen” to fight on Earth's behalf. There is another dimension, known as Outworld, whose team of elite fighters is prepared to destroy our planet. Cole has to locate the other chosen people so they can collectively fight back. One of them is Kano (Josh Lawson), an arrogant Australian tough guy. And although she doesn't have the mark, Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) also comes along for the ride.
The group makes its way to the hidden palace of Elder God Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), where they train under warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang). In order for them to defeat the Outworlders, each will have to discover and harness their own particular superpower. The villainous Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) is able to freeze anything with his hands, meaning those powers will be absolutely necessary.
Like the game that inspired it, Mortal Kombat is all about insanely violent no-holds-barred fighting. Aside from being well-choreographed, the fight scenes are inventive in showing how people meet their gruesome demises. In one scene, Sub-Zero slashes a guy, freezes his blood into the shape of a dagger, and slashes him again. That's one of the milder scenes. Yeah, it's kind of sick, but the violence is so over-the-top in its style that it never becomes stomach-churning. Besides, this is precisely what the game's fans come to the film looking for. They won't be disappointed by the trademark “fatalities.”
Beyond that, Mortal Kombat has an unexpected sense of humor. Much of the dialogue is quite witty, with characters poking fun at each other or commenting ironically on the deadly situations in which they find themselves. Especially funny is Kano, who hilariously insults everyone around him. Of course, the film has fun repeatedly giving him various forms of comeuppance. Nicely played by Lawson, Kano is a great example of how the movie puts effort into making us care about the people onscreen.
Director Simon McQuoid makes his feature debut, demonstrating a flair for composing interesting shots and staging mayhem, particularly in the finale, which takes place inside a frozen gym, with heroes and villains shattering ice-covered objects as they battle. Unlike some fight-heavy movies, Mortal Kombat isn't edited half to death. Following the progression of the melees is easy, so getting wrapped up in them becomes easy, as well. You never have to waste time trying to figure out what you're looking at.
No one will ever mistake Mortal Kombat for high art. It is what it is – an adaptation of a video game about specially-powered combatants duking it out to the death. That said, you can feel how the filmmakers wanted to elevate that idea as much as they could. And they did. Far too many video game movies have been content to lazily replicate their source material on a bigger screen. This one actually cares.
out of four
Mortal Kombat is rated R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude references. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.