A couple of weeks after our US friends got to watch this movie via HBO Max (and we’re not bitter about that, honest), Mortal Kombat finally makes its way to UK shores. The movie –a new, live-action reboot of the Mortal Kombat film series – is available from all major streaming platforms from Thursday, and tells the story of an ancient fighting tournament, where combatants battle it out to the death!
In the movie, various warriors are recruited to compete in the tournament, including Cole, an MMA fighter who carries an unusual birthmark. Unbeknown to Cole, this mark means he is prophesised to be one of Earth’s mightiest champions in a fight of good versus evil.
Along with Sonya Blade, Jax and Kano, Cole is then transported to a mysterious temple, where he meets other champions, including Raiden, Liu Kang, and Kung Lao. He learns more about his destiny, unlocks a secret hidden power he didn’t know he had, and squares-off against the bad guys!
Mortal Kombat is directed by Simon McQuoid and stars Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Chin Han and Mehcad Brooks. If you wish to rent the film, then check out the likes of Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and CHILLI etc, where it will set you back around £15.99.
Now, before I talk about the movie, I should quickly mention that Mortal Kombat will be one of the last big releases to be exclusive to video-on-demand (VOD) services in the UK before cinemas reopen. From the 17th May 2021, UK cinemas will fling open their doors to the public, following the lifting of coronavirus lockdowns, so all of 2021’s major tentpole releases should start hitting the big screen moving forward.
OK, back to Mortal Kombat, and if my plot description seemed very short it’s because this movie has barely any story. Oh, there’s a bit here, and a bit there, but this film boasts a narrative which is held together by gaffer tape and hope.
I know most people watching Mortal Kombat are not checking it out for the story, but I feel it is something which needs to be addressed early doors, because damn, there’s nothing going on here. This a 110-minute movie which is largely a succession of fight scenes, which take place in warehouses or on soundstages, and that’s about it.
The film does explore the Mortal Kombat mythology, with plenty of time devoted to the lore, but it’s heaped on so thick that it all becomes a bit of snooze-fest. For the first half of this movie, I felt as if I was watching a Mortal Kombat 101 video, telling me everything I (n)ever wanted to know about the games, and that is not the way to win over new audiences.
Where is the depth? Remove all the exposition and what remains? Not much.
Now, the good thing is, if you are a big fan of the games, you’ll appreciate all this world building, and you’ll also appreciate the inclusion of most of the iconic MK characters. You’ll love seeing Nitara, Reptile, and Goro, and in particular, you’ll love the fact that fan-favourite bad guy, Sub-Zero gets plenty of screen time.
Sub-Zero is my all-time favourite MK character, and I do enjoy seeing him on screen. He looks cool (no pun intended), and he is a true highlight amongst the cast.
Another highlight is Kano, played by Josh Lawson. Lawson gets all the best lines, and has some character development – which can’t be said for anyone else.
Sub-Zero and Kano are the only interesting characters in this entire picture. Everyone else is boring, flat, or forgettable.
Is this the fault of the cast, or the fault of the screenwriters? I’m going to say it’s the fault of the screenwriters, who fail to inject any pizzaz into this ensemble.
If one character was a bit stale and lifeless, then I could zero in on that actor, but it’s all of them. None of the actors are given anything to work with and watching them go through the motions is painful and sleep-inducing.
Thankfully, every time I came close to nodding off, a big action fight scene took place, and this kept me (kind of) invested in what was going on. The fight scenes are well choreographed, and all the blood and guts that the games are notorious for, is also present and correct.
This isn’t a movie which shies away from delivering glorious death scenes or some deadly finishing moves. And if you have always wanted to watch a blood-thirsty live-action Mortal Kombat movie, then this is most certainly that.
This is also a movie which goes to great lengths to make all of the characters look good on screen. Sure, almost all of them lack any personality, but I can’t fault how a balance is struck between the computer game aesthetic and reality.
Well done to the costume department for helping to bring these guys to life the best way possible, and while I’m throwing out praise, a pat on the back to the effects team too. You delivered some decent visuals, especially during Sub-Zero’s final battle – arguably the best scene in the movie – and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
I think it is pretty clear that I won’t be recommending Mortal Kombat, but I do feel that this is a movie which has been made with the best intentions, and by a director who likes this gaming series. Sure, this movie has plenty of faults, but this isn’t due to a lack of interest, or because the director/studio is keen to pump out any old rubbish.
Why this movie fails is because it doesn’t elevate itself above the game series. It understands the world, it knows exactly what the fan-favourite moments are going to be, but it doesn’t create a story to bring it altogether and because of this, it’s only mildly watchable at best.
The best way I can describe Mortal Kombat is this is a fan-film. An expensive fan-film, but a fan-film nonetheless. I didn’t hate it, I just found myself not caring about it and ultimately, I wondered why this was made into a big screen movie, rather than just a web-series?
Those who adore the Mortal Kombat games will find it enjoyable enough, as it is made specifically for you, but for everyone else it’s very forgettable. I expect hardcore fans will help it to secure a sequel, so it’s not ‘game over’, but it is a non-starter for me.