That trailer was pretty neat, right? I mean, Scorpion Vs Sub Zero, Fatalities, Jax’s origin story, plenty of blood. It did exactly what it set out to do, got people excited and eager to see the third live action movie in the Mortal Kombat saga. But trailers can be deceiving and after pondering the MK movie for about a week now, the word “disappointing” keeps coming to the forefront of my mind.
Maybe it’s my fault for my expectations sky rocketing to silly proportions, it happens a lot for me whether it be games or movies, but let’s not start on a negative note because there are some things with MK that I did enjoy. The few alterations it did make to MK lore I actually found quite refreshing. As you would have seen in the trailer our new protagonist Cole (more on him later) has what he thinks is a birthmark in the shape of a dragon. Turns out that’s a marking for the chosen ones who will defend Earthrealm in the tournament against the forces of Outworld. If they are killed though then the mark transfers onto their killer, which explains why Kano is one of the “chosen”. Kano, bizarrely, being the voice of the audience in this movie, constantly questioning how dumb everything is. Which is weird seeing as I thought that would make more sense being Cole’s role.
So let’s get into our new hero. Played by Lewis Tan, Cole is a pretty terrible cage fighter who finds himself flung into this world during an attack by Sub Zero (The Raid’s Joe Taslim) and is largely a bit of a bore. The script is pretty bad, so it’s not the actors fault when you’re having to recite the dialogue. And the same can be said for the rest of the cast (aside from Kano) who are trying their best with the material, but it’s largely just their to transition into the fights.
When this movie was originally cast I was very excited. It seemed like they were hiring martial artists first, actors second. So you have Hiroyuki Sanada who is perfectly cast as Scorpion, the previously mentioned Joe Taslim as Sub Zero and Lewis Tan as Cole. There’s also Max Huang as Kung Lao, a member of the Jackie Chan stunt team. With this sort of talent it made me wish the camera would be more stationary and take in the impressive visual moves. While not Jason Bourne trilogy levels of shake, the amount of camera cuts are really disappointing and frustrating. With more action movie and television going for the one shot action sequence these days, the way the action in this is shot and cut made it feel almost old fashioned.
There is however, plenty of fatalities and gore for fans to get their fix. Characters being split in half, stabbed in their head, arms coming off, there’s plenty of that going on. The director clearly going for the fans here with not just references, but inside jokes that I found quite amusing. During one training bout, Liu Kang going for the leg sweep constantly while Kano exclaims, “that the only move you know mate?”. If you’ve played MK in a multiplayer setting before you’ll know one person who loved spamming back and kick.
It’s also surprising how well the special effects are. Maybe it was just me, but I was expecting a film based on MK with a cast of relative unknowns to the mass public to skimp on an effects budget. The CGI blood can sometimes look incredibly dodgy, though it does in a very videogame-ey way that I almost felt was intentional, but everything else looked really good. Most notably Sub Zero’s ice powers look incredible, as does Liu Kang’s fire and even Goro isn’t too bad, even if I do have a soft spot for the beautiful animatronic puppet of the original.
When it’s all said and done though, Mortal Kombat is disappointing. It may be faithful to its source material, but that only goes so far. Badly edited, sometimes badly acted and our new protagonist being a bit of a bore all add up. With it already doing big numbers on HBO Max, hopefully these issues I have will be ironed out for the inevitable sequel. So not exactly a “Flawless Victory”.