More than fifteen years have passed since we’ve seen the forces of Earthrealm clash with the warriors of Outworld on the big screen. Now the time for a live action Mortal Kombat movie has come again, but is this world ready? Here’s a spoiler free look at what you can expect from this martial arts fantasy epic.
Context? What context?
Mortal Kombat begins with a clash between two fan favorite characters with almost no explanation, and the rest of the film follows a similar formula. Most plot points are given with flat exposition. This might ruin most other films, but Mortal Kombat keeps the exposition brief. As soon as you start getting bored you are immediately distracted by some stylish supernatural battle or dazzling display of cinematography.
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As with any self respecting video game adaptation, Mortal Kombat is full to bursting with references. Some, such as character fatalities and cheesy catchphrases, are obvious references to the source material. Others are more subtle. Kano’s frustration with Liu Kang’s fighting tactic in their training scene is a personal favorite.
For what it is, it’s difficult to fault the casting decisions of Mortal Kombat. Both in look and attitude, each actor portrays their video game counterpart well. We finally get to see an Asian live action Raiden. Though he feels criminally underused, each moment with Hiroyuki Sanada on screen is a treasure.
The biggest misstep in casting, sadly, is in the perennial Mortal Kombat antagonist. Ng Chin Han certainly has the ability to be angry and threatening, but his nuanced performance is mostly lost amidst the flash and spectacle that surround it. Shang Tsung, the ruler of Outworld and official big-bad of the Mortal Kombat universe, requires a performance as big as that title. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s over the top performance remains the gold standard of live action Shang Tsung.
Ultimately, Mortal Kombat succeeds at being exactly what it set out to be. A mediocre, but fun, action fantasy martial arts film. Much like its 1995 predecessor, this Mortal Kombat won’t be winning any awards, but it is entirely enjoyable as long as you can turn your brain off and let yourself enjoy the ride.
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