HBO Max: Mortal Kombat

In case you want to waste two hours.

Mortal Kombat is a property that is simultaneously simplistic yet incredibly complicated just due to the sheer accumulation of characters over the saga. The basics are simple; There’s a fighting tournament between realms and if a realm wins a certain number of times, they win the heavenly legal rights to invade the losing world. It’s a plot that’s utterly stupid when given any serious thought, but ultimately it’s just surface coating to justify a game where badass people with magical powers kill each other in a ring. It’s not what’s important.

For Mortal Kombat fans this is a story we’ve seen retread a million times over. Bi Han kills Hanzo, Jax loses his arms to get his signature metal replacements, Sonya hates Kano, etc. The movie introduces new fanfic insert character Cole Young. Cole’s job is to serve as the fish out of water so the characters and world can be explained to new viewers. Cole is the descendant of Hanzo, who we all know becomes Scorpion. Cole is a wet fart.

The overall cast is shockingly large including Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Kano (Josh Lawson), Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Shang Tsung (Chin Han), Bi-Han (Joe Taslim), Hanzo (Hiroyuki Sanada), Kung-Lao (Max Huang), and more. There are characters who are notable to the plot that don’t get much explanation for their presence outside of “bad guy must kill” including Mileena (Sisi Stringer), Nitara (Mel Jarnson), and Kabal (Daniel Nelson, Damon Herriman voicing) who has a bit of a Brooklyn accent now.

But how are the fights, you stupid moron, I hear you saying. The fights are fantastic. Not only are they well choreographed, but the blows dealt feel like they have some force to them and you spend a lot of the time feeling like the protagonists have actual stakes at risk. Previous Mortal Kombat movies tended to gloss over the gamey aspects of each character, but here their quirks are more celebrated no matter how ridiculous.

We also get a lot of fatality moments pulled straight out of the games. Visually Mortal Kombat is a good looking film. Computerized blood will never look great in my opinion, and there’s a few points in the film where it does look bad. Otherwise the combined visuals and choreography along with the kicking soundtrack make the action scenes in this the best we’ve seen to date.

The whole issue of Johnny Cage falls into the realm of fixing a problem you created. In the context of a film structure I understand why it made sense to remove Johnny Cage as having him in the same party as Kano would be redundant. However this was never an issue in previous Mortal Kombat adaptations because Kano was never a primary character and would only show up from time to time. Johnny Cage would be redundant in this film as written because the script writer intentionally made him redundant. But who knows, maybe Johnny Cage will be in the sequel.

Tadanobu Sato’s rendition of Lord Raiden is the weakest part of the film. I’m not sure what he was going for, but Sato’s voice reminded me of Steve Oedekerk dubbing lines in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. It’s not great. Raiden’s character seems to randomly swap between passionate defender of the Earthrealm and then not giving a shit and showing deep contempt for Earthrealm’s chosen warriors as predestined failures.

One thing the Mortal Kombat movie is missing is Mortal Kombat. There’s a whole plot point where Shang Tsung is attempting to kill Earthrealm’s fighters before the tournament, and I assumed that’d just be the first and maybe second act. But no, it’s the whole movie. It’s a great movie, but they sort of forget the whole tournament thing by the midway point. We hear about elder gods not being pleased but Shang Tsung is all “who cares what those lazy assholes think” and just enacts his plan anyway.

This probably would have been a great film to watch in a theater, but since the Regal doesn’t open in my state for another month that’s not on the docket. It’s crazy to think that this was director Simon McQuoid’s first feature length film.

Rating: A-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.