New Line Cinema
Written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham
Directed by Simon McQuoid
Starring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Mehcad Brooks, Joe Taslim, and Hiroyuki Sanada
An explosive cinematic adventure pits Earth’s greatest champions against enemies from Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.
Mortal Kombat is the latest cinematic iteration based off its long running, legendary namesake video game. The movie starts off in 1670s Japan, when family man and warrior Hanzo Hasashi has a deadly confrontation with the Chinese martial artist Bi-Han.
For unknown reasons, Bi-Han has set out on a mission of destruction. After Bi-Han implements his plans, Hanzo disappears and his youngest child is rescued by the god Raiden.
After the opening credits, the scene changes to the present day. And the story line is given. Earthrealm will fall to Outworld if it loses the next tournament. Then a prophecy involving the progeny of Hanzo is explained.
Next, an MMA fighter, Cole Young is introduced, as is his family. When Jax, a familiar character from the video game finds him, the viewer is left to wonder how Cole fits into this world and what his purpose will be. It is quickly discovered that he has the same mark as both Jax and the late Hanzo.
Soon, Cole is drawn into the world of Mortal Kombat. He must not only learn the ways of the tournament, and fight deadly enemies, he must go on a journey to discover not only his heritage, but unlock his inner power, or arcana, which is a gift from the special marking.
The first seven minutes of this film was released to the public by New Line Cinema prior to its full release. I am a Mortal Kombat fan that grew up playing the video game both at home and in the arcade. And while I think the cut scenes therein tell an interesting story, I wasn’t looking forward to another live action movie. That all changed when I saw the super trailer. The promising narrative and exciting action scenes had me hooked. And for the first 35 to 40 minutes, I was completely invested in the tale. Unfortunately, after that, the plot dissolved into a maddening array of nonsense.
Early on in the movie, an important main character states the rules of engagement between the fighters of Earthrealm and Outworld, and when they can meet. It is based on the video games’ cannon and should set the pace and tone of the rest of the movie. Spoiler: It does not. In fact it does the exact opposite. The movie ignores its own rules and allows for a free for all objective that makes no sense inside its own world.
However, in the midst of this devolved storyline, two fan favorites emerge and become competitors. A fight worthy of the video game commences. And when it ends, a conclusion of sorts is gained for the events occurring in the movie’s beginning. The story then does its best to wrap up. In the end, the premise of a second movie is begun, and a tease is given for a fan favorite that did not appear in the movie.
This movie has a lot of action. And fans of Mortal Kombat will see some of their favorite character’s signature moves. But, the CGI is mediocre at best, and it can really take you out of the moment.
What bothers me the most, is that this movie has tons of potential. It feels as though the movie was either poorly edited, or the powers that be made significant changes to the story as it was being filmed. In a perfect world, a director’s cut will be released that resolves the weak points that plague the story. But until then, it’s best to take it as it is; An action film that does fan service to a classic video game.