Mortal Kombat review: Should you watch the video game movie reboot?

Mehcad Brooks and Joe Taslim from Mortal Kombat
Mehcad Brooks and Joe Taslim from Mortal Kombat. Pic credit: Warner Brothers

26 years ago, Paul W.S. Anderson made the first attempt at adapting Mortal Kombat into a film franchise. The movie found a decent balance of catering to teens while showing the famous moves and catch phrases.

But for most fans of the property, a lot was left to be desired having none of the signature fatalities from the video games.

Now, Warner Brothers is back with a reboot and this time, it is bringing the gore with it.

But can gore bring the franchise to life after all these years? The answer to that is rather complicated.

Here is our Mortal Kombat review.

Mortal Kombat review

Directed by Simon McQuoid–his first feature film– this new take on Mortal Kombat stars Lewis Tan as Cole. He is an MMA fighter who was born with a mysterious branding on him in the shape of a dragon.

When we are first introduced to Cole, he appears to be an underdog fighter and gets beaten by an opponent. We learn he has a wife and daughter and does not have much family to speak of beyond the two of them.

The movie takes very little time to acquaint us with his world, life, and friendships beyond the MMA world and gets right to the point. Bi-Han, aka Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), is sent from the Outworld by Shang Tsung (Chin Han) to kill earthly competitors, and his first stop is Cole.

Both introductions to Sub-Zero are chilling (pun intended), and Joe Taslim (The Raid) makes the most out of his role. He is by far one of the better aspects of this reboot.

From here, though, Cole is rescued by Jax (Mehcad Brooks), and he informs Cole of the danger that is coming for him and everyone who is marked to compete. Cole is put in the situation of having to team up with all those with the mark and prepare for combat–the mortal variety.

Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada in Mortal Kombat
Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada in Mortal Kombat. Pic credit: Warner Brothers

Mortal Kombat is one of the most frustrating experiences of 2021 so far. When the film is good,it’s an absolute blast. But when it’s bad, it’s absolutely terrible.

Before we are introduced to Cole, the movie has an insanely epic prologue involving Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada), also known as Scorpion, in which his family is attacked by Sub-Zero before he becomes the alter-ego. It’s beautifully staged and incredibly tense.

This is especially true when we see Sub-Zero for the first time in full costume wreaking mayhem in the city.

And then, it all slowly begins to fall apart badly. Mostly when we arrive in Outworld.

Why Warner Brothers chose a director with almost no experience for this property is confusing beyond measure. Not a single moment in Outworld feels like a living and breathing environment. And for some reason, we never leave one specific area of Outworld the entire time. They just stayed inside one sandpit, and ate, drank, argued, and met with villains there for long stretches.

Say what you want about the 1995 film but Anderson was able to open up Outworld in several locations and make it feel like a place.

In various moments, it’s excruciatingly obvious that actors are standing in front of a green screen. On top of this, the CGI has some of the worst renderings since X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

And if viewers thought the acting was bad in Mortal Kombat 1995, this reboot says, “Hold my beer.”

Max Huang and Ludi Lin from Mortal Kombat
Max Huang and Ludi Lin from Mortal Kombat. Pic credit: Warner Brothers

The entire middle section of this film gets dragged down by these aspects. But then, we are given more Scorpion and Sub-Zero warfare, and it finds life again.

This is what makes Mortal Kombat such a frustrating reboot. The screenwriter is on record saying he felt Cole was needed to give viewers an audience surrogate. This was Mortal Kombat’s downfall.

He should have had more faith in the material. Embedded in this screenplay, is an awesome movie where Scorpion is the lead, seeking vengeance by entering Mortal Kombat and giving Sub-Zero the ultimate cathartic fatality. And Hiroyuki Sanada could have led this movie with his eyes closed.

Instead, we are left with a film that gives us a poorly acted, shoddy CGI’d, and an effortless world-building mess that occasionally has epic moments between the only two characters we care about.

Should you watch Mortal Kombat?

Mortal Kombat will frustrate viewers mostly because it shows the potential that could have been. This movie only rules when Scorpion and Sub-Zero are on the screen, and the story is misplaced on the wrong character.

Besides a few amazing fight scenes and a thundering soundtrack, Mortal Kombat is not the reboot fans deserve. If they make a sequel, the potential is there, but the first outing lands without any impact.

Do not see it in a theater but a stream on HBO Max will suffice the appetite for the video game reboot.

Readers who want to see more HBO Max coverage, check out our other reviews for Godzilla vs. Kong and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Mortal Kombat is in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.

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