Feature Length Films

Mr. Khan’s Review on Mortal Kombat (2021)

A review on Hollywood feature length film, Mortal Kombat (2021). The film is based on a famous 90s video fighting game with the same name and is directed by the debutant Simon McQuoid. The film is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and is available in selected cinemas and HBO Max streaming service.

+ Crew

  • Directed by Simon McQuoid
  • Cinematography by Germain McMicking
  • Edited by Dan Lebental and Scott Gray
  • Screenplay by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham
  • Music by Benjamin Wallfisch
  • Produced by James Wan, Todd Garner, Simon McQuoid and E. Bennett Walsh

+ Note

After the disastrous Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997), the third film in the franchise was left in hiatus for decades before being finally decided to be rebooted for the younger audience. But due to the violent nature of the source material, several significant changes were to be made namely the hard ‘R’ rating. Unlike the first Mortal Kombat film, this allowed the creative team to freely depict the horrendous yet glorious fatalities directly from the video games. The film was also going to explore certain personal rivalries namely the Scorpion/ Sub-Zero story arc. Another major change that the reboot intended was to introduce a completely new character to the franchise by the name of Cole Young, serving as the main protagonist of the film.

On its opening weekend, Mortal Kombat grossed a worldwide total of $57.5 million, easily recovering its $ 55 million budget. The critical and commercial response has been mixed. Some praise it for being faithful to the source material while others felt it failed to live up as a coherent, entertaining film. Nevertheless, plans on releasing future sequels are now in the cards for the Mortal Kombat franchise.

+ Main Cast

  1. Lewis Tan as Cole Young
  2. Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade
  3. Josh Lawson as Kano
  4. Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden
  5. Mehcad Brooks as Jax
  6. Ludi Lin as Liu Kang
  7. Chin Han as Shang Tsung
  8. Joe Taslim as Bi-Han / Sub-Zero
  9. Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion
  10. Max Huang as Kung Lao
  11. Sisi Stringer as Mileena

+ Plot

Mortal Kombat is a tournament held amongst mortals and beyond in order to maintain balance among the many realms of the universe. Due to his dragon birthmark, Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is a wanted man as he might be the gateway for Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Lord of Thunder and protector of Earth Realm, to save the planet from the wrath of Shang Tsung (Chin Han). Can Cole and the chosen fighters of Earth Realm protect and defeat the Outworld forces once and for all?

+ High Points

i – The opening scene of the film is just simply fantastic. Not only is it brilliantly shot and executed but it sets up the Scorpion/ Sub-Zero rivalry perfectly and in the process, inviting new fans into the world of Mortal Kombat. And a lot of credit goes to Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada for their outstanding performances. The gore, the violence, the dialogue, the art direction, all in service of the neverending rivalry between two of the most iconic video game characters ever. As a long time fan of the franchise, I could not have asked for a better opening scene to the film.

ii – Some of the characters are brilliantly brought on to the big screen; namely, Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Kabal and of course, everyone’s loveable a**hole, Kano. Whenever he was on screen, Kano’s charisma and personality just took over the whole scene. Josh Lawson did a wonderful job bringing the comedic, nihilistic yet self-serving Aussie onto the big screen. 

iii – Surprisingly, the humor was exactly what it needed to be; fun, dark but never overstaying its welcome. It’s not a coincidence that most of the humor came from Kano but even side characters such as Kung Lao had some great comedic timing to their performances. The film only takes itself seriously when it needs to be. The rest of it is quite self-aware in the absurdity of the plot. 

iv – Some say fan service is just a facade to hide lack of original ideas. But if done correctly, can prove to be quite rewarding for the long time fans of the franchise. Mortal Kombat definitely falls into the latter of the two. There are some sprinkles of “Finish HIM!” or “Flawless Victory” and barrage of the most violent fatalities lifted directly from the games (my favorite always being Kung Lao’s ‘Hat trick’ of course). The film is obviously very aware of what the fans anticipate from the film and to that respect, it delivers in spades.

v – I am happy to proclaim that the R rating was truly justified. With excessive gore, foul language and unapologetic violence, this is how a Mortal Kombat film should be. 

vi – Before going into the film, I was afraid of the Art direction and Costume Design just being ‘cosplay’ material but to the film’s credit, the costume department did a fantastic job with each and every character in the film.

vii – Just like the opening of the film, the end climatic fight scene is also brilliantly handled. The fight choreography was captivating and gets your blood pumping till the last drop of blood. 

+ Low Points

i – With all that’s good on surface level, Mortal Kombat suffers from major plot issues and character development. While an argument could be made that Mortal Kombat was never about the story per se but every good film or literature resonates much more if the audience can relate to the characters on screen. For a film called ‘Mortal Kombat’, the tournament unfortunately does not even really begin throughout the whole film! It’s rather quick skirmishes that frequently happen throughout its runtime in order to keep its audience occupied. 

ii – The whole concept of ‘birthmark’ and Arcana is just simply ludicrous and unnecessary. This is where I would say that the film was trying too hard to justify its absurd premise. Sure, it’s preposterous but that’s what makes the franchise so much fun. As a viewer, if I see concepts of different realms, creatures with 4 arms, human flesh functioning like jelly, I sure as heck not going to ask “Hey, how come you can throw fire from your hands?”. It’s inconsequential to the overall narrative.

iii – Speaking of underdeveloped characters, nothing could be more ‘vanilla’ than our main protagonist Cole Young. “Who?” you might ask.. well, get in line cause (for some pointless reason) he was solely created for this film so people can throw their expositions at him throughout the film. Although the film tries incredibly hard to make us sympathise with him and his family, it’s just not going to happen. He’s too underdeveloped, uninteresting of a character for us to care about him. And to top it off, his “Arcana” or special powers are so incredibly lame and generic, it’s unfathomable. 

iv – The CGI at times was questionable. Not a deal breaker by any means but could have been in the oven a bit more before being taken out.

v – Regardless of all the mishaps mentioned above, the biggest flaw that Mortal Kombat suffers from is that it never felt as epic as they wanted to make us believe. Since the Outworld had won all previous 9 tournaments, one more loss to the Earthrealm could potentially signify its extermination. With such a world threatening situation, you would expect to have a bit more investment into the plot but sadly, that is not the case here. The climactic fight at the end (although fantastic) did not feel epic at all and this for me, is the biggest failure of the reboot. It felt like a limited series episode. Probably a great conclusion to an episode but not to a feature length film. Maybe they should have released it as a HBO Max series instead.

+ Overall

While Mortal Kombat is far from being a “flawless victory”, it still possesses some entertaining sequences and fatalities to keep you entertained throughout its runtime.

Rate: 2.75 out of 5 stars