In 1995, New Line Cinema gave fans of the “ultra-violent” martial arts game “Mortal Kombat.” Was it good… well, that’s a conversation for another day. Today we are taking a look at New Line Cinema’s 2021 version of Mortal Kombat. This film has lived on the lips of MK fans for years and finally had them foaming at the mouth once the Red Band trailer first dropped in February of 2021. But does 2021’s Mortal Kombat a flawless victory? Or was it fatality?
From the trailer and the film’s opening scenes, you assume that the story will closely follow Hanzo Hasashi, Scorpion. This, however, is more of a stepping stone to get you to the actual main story. Not going to lie; I was kind of disappointed about this fact. Instead, the story follows Cole Young (played by Lewis Tan), an MMA who seems to have lost his fight. As it turns out, he is a long-lost descendant of Hanzo. He’s grown up with a strange dragon birthmark that unknown to him means that he has been chosen to fight for the Earth in the next Mortal Kombat tournament.
Meanwhile, the evil head of Outworld, Shang Tsung (Chin Han), is out to stop a prophecy that states that he will lose the next Mortal Kombat. His solution is simple, kill all of Earth’s protectors before the tournament can begin. Cole spends the rest of the movie attempting to survive the assassination attempts and unlock his inner powers.
So what famous Mortal Kombatants do you see in this film? You have Scorpion, who Hiroyuki Sanada played. I wish we had more of him and this character in the movie. You may have recognized Hiroyuki from Helix, Westworld, and even Avengers Endgame. Traditionally he’s been a fantastic actor who played terrific characters, including Oishi from 2013’s 47 Ronin.
You also have the staple characters such as Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Kano, Jax, Lord Raiden, Shang Tsung, Lui Kang, Kung Lao, Mileena, Nitra, Reiko, and Kabal. This was a decent list of characters, but I feel like their execution was poorly done at times. The film seems rushed at times, and as a result, there’s a lack of character development. If you’re new to Mortal Kombat, you could quickly become confused about who some of these characters are and why they were doing what they were doing. Since the film’s release, many MK fans have pondered the need to introduce a new Mortal Kombatant, Cole Young.
Cole’s addition to the MK Universe has been controversial in the fandom. In my opinion, He was to help introduce newcomers to the franchise. This may have worked, but as I stated earlier, the introductions were brief and rushed.
As a martial arts film, the fights had great moments, and then it had not-so-great moments. The opening fight scene between Hanzo and Bi-Han was wonderfully choreographed. “Ninjitsu Weapons” were often improvised farming weapons. Having Hanzo improvise his Johyo (rope dart) using a gardening tool was perfect. Other times, however, fights were obviously choreographed. More than once, you could see Kombatants reacting to punches and kicks that had not entirely been thrown.
The addition of “fatalities” and staple moves was a win for many MK fans. When executed, they looked natural for the most part—a few times, such as Lui Kang’s Bicycle Kick, where it looked a bit cheesy. Graphics for special effects were vibrant and worked most of the time though I’m not sure we will ever have a Prince Goro that doesn’t look like a rubbery graphic placed on the screen.
This film is absolutely an R-rated film. Not sure a film based on the modern Mortal Kombat could be rated as anything less. Yes, the F-bomb is dropped frequently, and Kano does making some very inappropriate crude sexual jokes. However, the R-Rating is primarily due to the violence and gore. You have disembowelments, bodies cut in half, lost limbs, mouths opening far wider than they should, and more blood than your local blood bank could ever dream of having in storage.
So is Mortal Kombat worth watching? Honestly, it’s hard to say. Are moments fun and exciting? Yes! But there’s also a drag during several scenes and the rush to get through the story leaves the film lacking. Perhaps the problem is that there were too many characters to focus on; perhaps there was just no focus? If you’re a Mortal Kombat fan, you may enjoy this film, but you’ll be annoyed with certain parts. If you want a fun fighting film, this may scratch your itch. If you fall into one of those categories and have a coupon or your theater has a cheaper ticket time, It may be worth it to you. At the end of the day, you may desire to go back and watch the 1995 film or play the latest edition of Mortal Kombat. Overall, I’d give this film a 3 out of 5 Bicycle kicks.