Reel Reviews | Mortal Kombat

by Charles Kirkland, Jr.

The super-popular video game gets one more shot at a movie treatment in the Warner Brothers’ latest release, Mortal Kombat.

Earthrealm is about to fall.  Nine times it has lost the tournament of realms and one more loss will ensure the takeover by the Savage Realm.  But, according to prophecy, the bloodline of Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) will produce a champion who will defeat the Shang Tsung (Chin Han) and his minions to win Mortal Kombat.

The screenplay for Mortal Kombat was written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham (Wonder Woman 1984, Godzilla), from a story by Oren Uziel and Russo, and is based on the videogame created by Ed Boon and John Tobias.  It is directed by newcomer Simon McQuoid and stars Sanada and Han along with Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, and Mehcad Brooks.

Historically, video game movies have been garbage.  The problem most times is creating an interesting story that explains the ridiculously nonsensical world of a videogame.  Mortal Kombat, unlike Doom, Need for Speed, or lots of the other game movies that have come previously has a storyline that is built into the game that is quite adequate in itself.  This is probably why there have been so many attempts at crafting a film version of the game (two movies and two television series prior).  In fact, Lewis Tan (Into the Badlands, Deadpool 2) who plays the new lead character, Cole Young, appeared in an episode of the television series back in 2015.

Yes, the new lead character.  Half the fun of watching the movie is when fans of the game recognize the characters from the game come to life and don’t worry there are plenty of opportunities to recognize characters from the game.  But this story is about a new character who has been chosen to be the savior of the world and champion of the tournament, a title that was reserved for Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) in the past. Believe it or not, the change is not unpleasant.  They don’t explain the change but it works to give a different movie from the past.  Another change from the past is to see Lord Raiden played by an actor of Asian descent this time (Tadanobu Asano). 

Despite its 110-minute runtime, the film feels a little rushed and lacks some character development but who watches a videogame movie adaptation for the story.  This movie is about action and there’s plenty of super-gory and violent scenes to please.  Make no mistake, this movie is for those who love the game and almost no one else.  Sure they attempt to recruit some new viewers into the saga by incorporating the world of MMA into the movie but there’s not enough of it to garner any interest.

Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, and some crude references, Mortal Kombat is interesting, at best.  It’s not flawless but it is violently entertaining and weirdly fun for those who know what they are watching.  The one thing that is missing is the iconic soundtrack with the song that screams the name, Mortal Kombat!

Mortal Kombat is available in theaters and on HBO Max. 

Grade:  C+