Friday, April 23

Mortal Kombat Review

Mortal Kombat

Dir: Simon McQuoid

Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ludi Lin, and Chin Han


Once upon a time, there were these places called "arcades". You could play on stand-up consoles with built-in joysticks and buttons; gamers would place their quarters in a row on the screen waiting for their chance to play the winner of the latest fighting game to enter the arcade. 


In 1992 a new game entered the arcade, a violent fighting game with digitized blood and an array of amusing combatants called Mortal Kombat. It would revolutionize the fighting game possibilities for its unique fight style and, most controversially, its ability to do customized "fatalities" on defeated characters. 


Mortal Kombat spawned 18 different games, two motion pictures made in the 1990s, and a few animated and television spinoffs. Director Simon McQuoid takes the task of revamping this iconic popular culture mainstay with a film version that barely offers a narrative to be invested in and is more concerned about cool fights, bloody fatalities, and simplistic fan service. 


For centuries a battle has taken place to determine the fate of Earth, a deadly confrontation between Earthrealm's finest protectors and an area known as Outworld's most lethal invaders. Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is an MMA fighter for hire and, unknowingly, a descendant of a great ninja named Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada). Cole and his family are pursued by a powerful assassin named Sub-Zero, a nemesis who can conjure ice. Born with a strange dragon marking on his chest, Cole seeks out Sonja Blade (Jessica McNamee), who has answers about his heritage and the upcoming battle against Outworld's Emperor Shang Tsung (Chin Han).


Mortal Kombat starts as a deceptive origin story, initially backdropped with a theme of family and tradition that transitions into violence and vengeance. The beautiful forestry landscape and deliberate pathos of the introduction will make you think you are watching a Zhang Yimou historical epic or a Zatoichi blind swordsman film. However, this all disappears for a story that is primarily concerned with sensation over substance, the thrill of button mashing an arcade game for three minutes, and hearing things like "flawless victory" or "Kano wins." 


Still, for fans of the video game, the joy of seeing the background stories, specifically for two of the most beloved characters from the game, is such a welcome surprise. This specific background story helps establish the journey of discovery for the new to the mythology lead character Cole. 


Actor Lewis Tan has a pleasant screen presence. His character Cole is a reluctant hero, forced into action because of a family lineage and heritage. Cole's story is as much narrative and character development as Mortal Kombat provides to any of the lead characters marching towards the great tournament for Earthrealm. 


A few characters arrive to add amusement to the journey. Josh Lawson plays the hot-headed, laser-eyed bad guy Kano with pure glee, his one-liners and snarky remarks are the only bits of humor in this serious adaptation. Jessica McNamee and Mehcad Brooks join the hero squad playing the military team of Sonja Blade and Jax, who are slowly uncovering the mystery of the long-standing Kombat. They aren't given much to develop. Many of the supporting characters show up with a name introduction and immediately jump into a fighting stance. Still, their personalities are provided the care game fans will appreciate. The characters are fashioned in service to the gameplay experience, from signature moves to fatalities pulled from all the different games. It helps keep the film focused on fun and fast-moving action but creates a dull satisfaction for the story that runs out of steam well before the film's climax.


Mortal Kombat is more watchable than the 1995 version of the film ever was, providing game fans with the kind of fun experienced while trying to remember the button combinations for fatalities for this game. While the story is serviceable in the most fundamental ways and the characters compose as much depth as the original 2-dimensional game composition, many are simply coming for the spectacle and nostalgia of seeing this iconic game brought to movie life again. Mortal Kombat achieves this simple feat. 


Monte's Rating

3.00 out of 5.00

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