Mortal Kombat is the movie adaptation of the video game of the same name, pitting the two iconic characters, Scorpion and Sub-Zero against each other in what would come to be expected of from the MK series in terms of brutality and gore-infused fight scenes. Although video-game adaptations into movies have rarely ever been a good thing, either due to the laziness of just plotting in the game in a 3d real-world setting, not really knowing what sets a movie success apart from a game’s success, or the fact that some games are just better off as games and do not work in the movie world no matter how hard you try to integrate it without altering the storyline or plot massively. Mortal Kombat is not some miracle, unfortunately, where it sets a trend in how video-game adaptations should be done, but it’s far from the worst lazy iterations that are out there. It does nail the nods and callbacks to its hardcore fans by putting in enough references and iconic signatures to reel them in and keep them satisfied at least.
The movie is set in a fictional setting where it is comprised of 18 realms, Earthrealm being one of them. The whole premise of Mortal Kombat being that the tournament if fought between all the realms, with the winning Realm being allowed to conquer the losing one. Earthrealm is down to its knees after losing 9 out of the 10 battles, with the final loss nailing their coffins and bringing an end to the Earthrealm.
The story begins with the flashback which was revealed in the teaser trailer months in advance, where Bi-Han, later Sub-Zero (played by Joe Taslim) of the Lin Kuei Clan wipes off the last remaining kin and the Shirai Ryu Warrior Hanzo Hashashi, later Scorpion (played by Hiroyuki Sanada). This sets up the synopsis of the movie where the main rivalry is set between the two strongest and most motivated factions, with one faction led by the Shang Tsung while the other being led by Raiden. Both Demi-Gods in their own rights have their ways of manipulation and recruitment tactics to further their cause and strengthen their army for the upcoming titular tournament to keep the Earthrealm from being conquered by Shang Tsung and in effect, Sub-Zero.
In the present day, Cole Young (played by Lewis Tan) is presented as the protagonist of the movie, an original character made for the movie. With a background in MMA and being a trained fighter in the U.S, he was born with a dragon mark on his chest that neither he nor anyone else around him really knows what it means or signifies. After meeting Jax (played by Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (played by Jessica McNamee), he finally comes to know what the dragon symbol signifies. He is one of the chosen ones to defend Earthrealm against the evil that lurks in the form of Shang Tsung’s ideologies and Sub-Zero’s brutality.
Sub-Zero is ordered by Tsung to have the Earthrealm and all its inhabitants wiped or eliminated before the tournament can take place. Now of course this is against the ‘rules’, but when such powers are at play here coupled with evil intentions, what could really stop them? Well, that’s where Cole finally wakes up and steps in after being reluctant at first, after realizing that the entire world, including his wife and kids are in danger to this takeover and will end up dead if it is not stopped. The trio of Jax, Young and Sonya find other team members which include Kano as well to come up with a game plan to defeat and vanquish their foes in the upcoming tournament and save the Earthrealm once and for all, hopefully.
Mortal Kombat video games have always been Gorey and full of controversies for their fatality move sets that depict violent and brutal dismemberment of human ligaments and the skeletal system, which surprisingly turned out to be the selling factor of the franchise in its early days. The more you try to put a stop on it, the more curious people get to understand the reason and depth behind it. Coming from such a genre, the movie does have good and well-choreographed MMA scenes where it feels realistic, and the punches feel hard. Mixed in with elements of CGI which is not overdone to the point of making it look like a Disney movie, Mortal Kombat does have some amazingly well-executed scenes which help, considering that the storyline is very bland and boring and lacks the substance or narrative needed to engage the viewer in to care about Cole Young’s problems. The lack of a core synopsis is where it feels like they used Scorpion’s character as a crutch mechanism to draw in the viewer’s empathy and desire to root, by having him first murdered at the start only to stage a grand reveal with the whole movie coming in together to tease the said reveal. The phrases used by characters in the games, and the fatalities and their iconic move sets that have made them popular over the years, are all there in the movie for the fans of the game series to be hyped about.
For all the good action/fight scenes that Mortal Kombat serves us with, the story is disappointing on those same notes as it just feels…unengaging. There’s no reason to care what any characters say, the dialogue feels rushed and the character development on any of them is not really present as you have to come with a pre-requisite knowledge of the lore, somewhat.
For the most part, Mortal Kombat serves its purpose of giving the fans what they have waited for so many years, a good-looking visually stunning movie in the 3d world with real actors playing the characters with references and callbacks to the original game to reflect its culture and iconic moments. The story could have been better, but oh well, for now, this does the trick for any Mortal Kombat lover out there as it is certainly better than the disaster they pulled with their iteration in the 90s.