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‘Mortal Kombat’ delivers on the gore, “earns” its R rating

| Monday, April 26, 2021

Maggie Klaers | The Observer

After the failure of the 1997 “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation,” it seemed that the “Mortal Kombat” series would never manage a triumphant return to to the big or small screen. A third film was in development hell for more than 10 years due to numerous script rewrites, recasting attempts and crew changes. In late 2010, though, Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema acquired the rights to the “Mortal Kombat” series and announced a new film that same year. They then announced that the film — which, somewhat ironically, would not be released for over a decade, either — was to serve as a reboot for the entire series.

The new film, aptly named “Mortal Kombat,” follows the main storyline of the games, but with a novel twist. The film features former MMA champion Cole Young (Lewis Tan) as he teams up with Special Forces member Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Black Dragon mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson) and thunder god Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) to stop sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) from taking over Earthrealm by competing in a Mortal Kombat tournament. The film alters the traditional plot of the games with the stipulation that a select few people are chosen via dragon symbol to be Earthrealm’s champions; however, an ancient prophecy states that “the blood of Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada)” will unite a new generation of champions.

The film does a great job of staying true to the original premise of the video game franchise by keeping the idea of a Mortal Kombat tournament. The film also does a great job of expanding on many lovable characters’ backstories and even introduces new characters that had yet to make an appearance in any previous adaptation of “Mortal Kombat:” Kabal, Kung Lao, Nitara and Reiko, for instance, all made their big-screen debuts.

The reboot of “Mortal Kombat” also stayed true to the games in the sense that its producers made the movie as gruesome as possible. It features unique Fatalities that are laden with blood and guts and help to earn the film its respectable R rating; this rating can likely be attributed not only to the presence of extreme violence and gore, but also to the sheer amount of profanity it contains (enough to combat any horror movie or thriller). In terms of overall cinematography, the film seemed to be very dimly lit and even dark at certain points, especially in the Outworld scenes that involve Shang Tsung and his band of miscreants.

The story that this reboot chose to tell was very unique, especially when one considers the franchise’s previous installments. The idea of having an original main character be the center focus rather than a character from the “Mortal Kombat” roster was a big (and not unwelcome) change. Also, the decision to make this main character a descendant of one of the most popular characters of “Mortal Kombat,” while a plot point that has already been used in the previous two games of “Mortal Kombat,” still seems to be a breath of fresh air for “Mortal Kombat” fans.

Where there is certainly a lot to like about this new version of “Mortal Kombat,” there are unfortunately some glaring negatives, too. My first big complaint concerns the characterization of Kano. Kano is meant to be a foul-mouthed psychopath who does not show any type of remorse for his actions. But while this film’s version of the character is still quite foul-mouthed, Kano’s more psychopathic traits seem to have been lost. As a result, this version of Kano becomes so annoying that you just want to turn off the film. Another problem with this movie is that some of the effects are really lackluster. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that much of the filming was done in front of a green screen — that’s what it looks like, at least. One moment marked by especially poor special effects is when Kung Lao (Max Huang) first makes his appearance onscreen via teleportation. Unfortunately, the teleportation effect looked really glitchy, and it just felt out of place.

Regardless of these problems, though, the film is a truly faithful adaptation of the “Mortal Kombat” series and earns. Fans of the “Mortal Kombat” franchise should not expect to be disappointed.


Title: “Mortal Kombat”

Director: Simon McQuoid

Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson

Genre: Action/Fantasy

If you liked: “Detective Pikachu,” “Mortal Kombat (1995)”

Shamrocks: 4/5

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