Mortal Kombat (2021) – Movie Review

I return from the brink! Yes after a few months I have returned to review the latest entry in the ‘video game movie’ pantheon. This was my first movie I saw in cinemas after the (at the time of this review) easing of UK lockdown. I was incredibly hyped for this movie, both as a MK fan as well as the knowledge that this movie would help me get back my movie reviewing mojo and put me in the mood to review once again! We’ve got a lot to talk about and a lot of catching up to do, so let’s get right into it and…F-F-F-FIGHT!

Story

I don’t think I’m surprising anyone when I say that this movie’s story is weak, and I mean…Mortal Kombat 4’s Meat levels of weak. The story basically serves as an avenue to shoehorn every easter egg imaginable while also shoving our cavalcade of characters together so they can get to the fights. For anyone actually interested in the so called ‘plot’ of this movie, a quick synopsis is as follows.

“The fate of Earthrealm is hanging in the balance, the sorcerer Shang Tsung is on the brink of conquering it and will stop at nothing to get his prize. Enlisted by a secret force, the mysterious Cole Young is brought into a world of magical warriors, sinister ninja’s and loud mouthed villains as he seeks to unlock his hidden power, lest Earth fall to the clutches of his enemies.”

Does that sound generic, not very engaging and very cliché? Well pat yourself on the back because it is exactly as cliché as you think it is, maybe even more so. This story has nothing unique going for it, every story beat can be predicted several minutes in advance. This movie also has some frankly bizarre pacing, hard cutting to scenes with little to no introduction prior while also rushing many of its other scenes. So many character arcs are left either incomplete or rushed to a fault, there’s so little to feel invested about in this movie that I would be hard pressed to even find a positive aspect to the way this story is structured. However, I feel it would be wrong to continue criticising this story and plot, after all this movie very clearly doesn’t want you to focus on its story, much like Godzilla vs Kong where the main focus is the combat. That said, you can’t have ‘kombat’ without…’kharacters’, so let’s take a look at them.

Use as much fire as you want scorpion, nothing can make this movie hot.

Characters

Despite a lacklustre story, surely the characters can elevate this movie a little higher right? Well…one in particular does but…we’ll get to him. The characters in this movie as very hit or miss, many being passable at best and most being downright unnecessary. Our hero Cole Young feels so unbelievably out of place in this movie, not only because he has no prior inclusion in the franchise, but also because he’s just such a predictably lame hero. He has all the tropes down to a T.

  • Orphan? Check!
  • Mysterious past? Check!
  • Secretly legendary lineage? Big fat check there too!
  • A nice guy but with deep internal struggles? You betcha!
  • Skilled but lacking in a particular way that comes up later in the movie allowing him to complete his character arc at the last minute? You already know the answer to this one.

I could go on, but I have several other characters to discuss, so let’s leave Cole and move on to Sonya Blade. She’s not much better to be honest. A bland, tough as nails woman who works alone and is a super duper badass chick with something to prove and nothing to lose. Sonya is the emotional punching bag of this film, her position as a ‘non chosen’ warrior really makes her the receiver of so much crap from other characters and it feels so unbelievably forced. I could go in to the ‘woke’ undertones with her character, but that’s a topic I’m both not equipped to discuss and too uninformed to discuss. I do like her relationship with Jax, who himself is a fairly entertaining character. He has a fun personality and a borderline compelling arc about making his new powers his own and all that junk, but again it’s not the best.
I can’t really go into any other characters in greater detail, Kung Lao and Liu Kang are cool but only fill up space on the roster, Kung Lao especially is incredibly pointless despite having the coolest kill in the movie. Raiden is almost never in the movie and has no involvement which is a huge waste, and Shand Tsung is so laughably lame as a villain it’s hard to describe. However, Subzero and Scorpion have a compelling conflict that we see explored at the start of the film and having an overhanging presence in the movie that you can feel is going to bubble over into a climaxing showdown and it does not disappoint.
The final character we need to discuss is the hilarious and wonderfully brutish Kano. Full credit to Josh Lawson for taking this role and elevating it above all others. Kano captures this movies tone perfectly, he’s cocky, funny, annoying but in a good way, and while his twist turn to the dark side isn’t exactly well explored, it doesn’t take away from the loveable nature of his character, at least not for me. So to the movies credit, it at least manages to make at least one enjoyable character to carry the otherwise lackluster class.

The nostalgia hits hard, I just wish the characters did too.

The Kombat

To this movies credit, it really does excel with regards to the fight sequences. While some of them are a touch underwhelming, and many don’t even serve much of a purpose. The faithfulness to the games fighting moves was pretty spot on, and it felt good to see these moves on the big screen. I will give this movie credit for not trying to dumb down the fight scenes from the games, fully embracing the wacky moves and really going to town with them. The characters range of abilities also adds a little spice of variety to their fights, although if I may diverge onto a quick rant, I have something to say about the superpowers in this movie.

BONUS RANT!

I’m sorry…but the way this movie tries to explain away the characters powers is beyond contrived and stupid. Calling them Arcana’s and giving them this…deep symbolic meaning behind obtaining them is so dumb, it’s such a ‘movie’ way to explain things. On top of that the movies whole ‘marked of a kombatant’ thing is as equally stupid, serving no purpose other than to give Sonya an arc of learning her true worth, only to get a mark anyway cos I guess the movie thinks she is useless without one. So yeah, this movies handling of superpowers is shockingly bad, and it is an active negative that unlike things like the story and character writing, I cannot excuse.

Ok so with that rant over, let’s go over my favourite fight scene, and probably the best fight scene in the movie, the Sub-Zero vs Scorpion rematch. While it does include Cole for the final portion, and yes this is a negative because I don’t want to see a bland piece of bread fight this fight, a solid 80% of this fight is awesome. The choreography combined with the warriors utilisation of their powers is really a treat, and we get many more fun little winks and nods to the games with the special moves. Plus it has a pretty cathartic ending, with Scorpion finally conquering Sub-Zero and getting justice for his family. So with that I can safely say this movie has a lot of things to praise with regards to the combat department, speaking of praise, time for the grades!

As far as costume adaptations go, I like it.

Grades

Story: 2/5

This story is barebones and it knows it. This movie serves merely as a series of plot devices barely strung together trying to explain away why this series of contrived events need to happen. It’s by no means terrible, but it has so little substance to it and has such strange pacing that it becomes almost annoying. Thing’s happen both way to fast and way to slow, there’s absolutely zero balance in this plot.

Characters: 3/5

Kano carries this cast on his big brawny shoulders, but everyone else in this movie is painfully dull. The main cast, and in particular Cole himself are unforgivably dull, and while I didn’t expect MCU levels of character complexity I at the very least expect the characters to have some weight to them and not feel somehow more bland than the video game they come from.

Presentation: 3/5

The CGI is what you’d expect in this day and age, it looks good and adds a lot of dimension to this movie. The cinematography is pretty standard as well, there’s nothing really outstanding but nothing I’d call bad either. Really this movies presentation shines in the way it shows off the fight sequences and character movements, so it at least has that.

Kombat Khoreography: 4/5

For a movie with Kombat in its name it definitely delivers. The fighting is well paced, the fatalities and other game homages are very cool to see, and the final confrontation is definitely standout. The superpowers and the lore behind them are dumb as they come, but the visual spectacle and added levels they add to the fights do give them that little bit of flare that the rest of the movie is otherwise lacking.

You know its bad when the reviews are colder than Sub-Zero

Final Grade: 3/5

As sad as it is to admit, Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t break the video game movie curse, as this movie fell prey to many of its deadly spells. A barebones plot, equally barebones characters, a few homages dashed in and a couple ‘open your mouth in awe’ moments, the most basic recipe for the most basic of video game movies. I will admit to having a ‘post lockdown sentimental love’ for this movie, but as far as its actual worth as a movie it is incredibly basic. It’s not the worst, but it is far from the best and I can only hope that a potential sequel does a better job. I would definitely recommend it, both to franchise fans but also general movie goers, I think we’ve all earned a ‘turn your brain off’ action flick after all this time.

With that I’m happy to say I should be making a return to reviews in the near future. The easing of lockdown has opened the opportunity to see cinema movies, marathon series with my friends and given me many more avenues to return to delivering content. With that said I love you all and thank you for reading, if you enjoyed please consider liking the post and following my post for updates on future posts. Also make sure to follow @joe_reviews on twitter for further updates and general nonsense. Until next time, stay safe and stay awesome!

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