Review: Mortal Kombat

By Christian DiMartino

Alright folks, I’m just going to come out and say it: we have ourselves a guilty pleasure.

It’s interesting, I don’t really know much about video games, but I know enough about Mortal Kombat. I have expressed my distaste for video game movies over the years because usually they’re pretty abysmal. Yet here was have Mortal Kombat, and while I’m not a die-hard fan of the games (I could name a few characters, but that’s about as far as I go), I found myself enjoying Mortal Kombat on behalf of the die-hards. What knowledge I do have of Mortal Kombat is put on the screen. This is as fan-servicey as a movie can get, and yet I enjoyed it for that reason. It’s bloody, like really bloody, and totally over the top, just the way you’d expect an R-rated version of Mortal Kombat to look. If you’re looking for a good time, the movie will probably give it to you.

I mention the “R-rated” aspect because this rendition follows two previous films from the 90s, when Mortal Kombat reigned supreme, that probably for financial reasons, were rated PG-13. The first film, titled Mortal Kombat, was corny and looks absolutely terrible visually (this came out a year after Jurassic Park), but it’s kind of fun, in a 90’s way. The sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, is utterly dreadful- sometimes laughably so, but man, not only is it bad, but it somehow looks worse than the predecessor, with production values that feel beyond amateurish. So basically, not only do we have two movies that aren’t even good, but on top of that, they’re rated PG-13. No.

This Mortal Kombat though is more like it. Visually, honestly, it looks pretty good. As for the violence, well, I’ll just reference AC/DC and say that if you want blood, well, you got it. It’s brutal, but there’s a creativity to the brutality that captures the spirit of the games. Mortal Kombat begins so-so, with some dialogue that is pretty rusty. Yet at about the halfway mark, the film does a line of blow and ends up being what you paid to see (well, I watched it on HBO Max, but I could’ve paid to see it).

The thing about a film like this is that it does have a somewhat thin plot, but at the same time, it’s thin enough to where you can take it just about anywhere, if that makes sense. The central character here is a young MMA fighter named Cole Young (Lewis Tan), who isn’t a character from any of the previous games… but that doesn’t matter. Young seeks out the world’s greatest champions in a battle for the universe after him and his family are targeted and attacked. So he finds himself teaming up with Sonya Blade, Kano, Jax, and so on.

Again, sort of thin. That’s just it though: its characters and story are thin, but also, you don’t go to a movie like Mortal Kombat for character development. You go to see people get creatively, brutally murdered, and yeah, you got it. Much of this film, particularly the violence, is exactly how you’d imagine it to look, practically recapturing the look of the fatalities of the game. I remember the first death here that caught my eye, and how can it not? Said death consisted of a hat that was being used as a blade, stuck in the ground and spinning, while someone’s entire body comes into contact with it, slicing them in half.

So this is a pretty strange review, in that I recommend Mortal Kombat on behalf of those who probably really want to see it. Normally, this isn’t my cup of tea… but I went for it. It’s by no means a masterpiece, but it does entertain and it manages to capture the spirit of the video games beautifully. I mean, this is a Mortal Kombat movie- either you’re going to be amused by the grotesque violence, or your stomach will churn. Your stomach might still churn, but on the film’s own terms, it works.

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