[REVIEW] Mortal Kombat – Not exactly a flawless victory

Movie adaptations of blockbuster games have (mostly) always been an eyesore. Trying to shoehorn years of built-up lore into a one-and-a-half-hour movie is a grueling task to undertake, yet endless attempts have been made to do so. Mortal Kombat is one of those franchises that just can’t seem to shake the stigma of getting cheesy movie adaptations. But all of that is about to change. With the addition of Mortal Kombat – no more, no less – the renowned R-rated fighter franchise hopes to finally score a flawless victory. Unfortunately, Mortal Kombat takes quite a few hits to the face. Then again, a one-sided fight isn’t fun to watch either.

Before I set off, it’s paramount to understand that Mortal Kombat isn’t following the same rules as its predecessors. Instead of jumping right into the “alright guys, let’s compete in a tournament and duke it out” premise, Mortal Kombat feels more like a prequel. To add some unexpected, fresh context to it all, the lead part has been reserved for a newbie called Cole Young. Cole is an MMA fighter who just isn’t up to his game anymore. Ring-sided by his kid, he can’t even seem to win a simple fight. Still, he piques the interest of certain people. People like Jax Briggs, who desperately wants to know how Cole got his dragon-shaped “birthmark”.

Unfortunately for Cole, less benevolent individuals are also eager to find out who he is. Individuals like Sub-Zero, who’s sent to earth by the soul-eating Shang Tsung to “finish him”. From that point on, Mortal Kombat starts rolling down the path of introductions and semi-successful character development. Only a few characters really hit the satisfactory mark, while others feel majorly underrepresented. Mileena and Goro – both fan favorites – hardly get any screen time and feel like fillers while Kano almost feels over-represented. To be fair, Kano does bring a lot of mood-lightening humor to the film – as does the wonderfully ironic Kabal – but you can’t stop but wondering why he’s eating up so much of the dialogue.

The same can’t be said of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, or Hanzo Hasashi and Bi-Han if you will. The dueling pair gets the honor of setting a serious tone in the intro, but they also know how to bring a slightly disappointing middle part to a spectacular end. After watching the credits roll, I had to admit that this was the scene that I was anticipating the most, though most of it was already spoiled by trailers. Nevertheless, it felt like the highlight of the film. That, and the blood-soaked fatalities that are sure to spark some highly inappropriate and mildly disturbing joy to the fans. It would have been swell if the seemingly mandatory and always awkward “flawless victory” would’ve been left behind. Then again, Mortal Kombat wouldn’t have been Mortal Kombat without it, I guess.

To be honest, the corniness isn’t my biggest gripe with Mortal Kombat. As I said, some characters aren’t really fleshed out, with a few even being dumb as fuck. General Reiko is deduced to nothing more than a hammer-swinging retard and Nitara only serves the purpose of creating R-rated screenplay. Goro is even worse at ending a clearly won fight than Cole is, which is understandable from the storyline’s perspective. Still, it makes Goro’s fight scene hard to watch, let stand believe. Lord Raiden just feels badly cast to me, but that’s a matter of personal opinion. For a mighty Thunder God, Raiden comes across as an uncharismatic thirteen-in-a-dozen Asian guy with a pointy hat. Maybe I’m just too hung up on good ol’ Christopher Lambert from the 1995 movie.

Then again, Mortal Kombat isn’t all that bad. I might have come across as terribly negative, but honestly, I enjoyed most of it. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for Scorpion versus Sub-Zero scenery. Or maybe it’s because I secretly adore the gallons of gushing blood that goes with fatalities. But it could also be that I’m sort of appreciating Mortal Kombat because it’s Mortal Kombat, including all of its flaws. I mean, I even liked the 1995 movie, and that’s no Oscar-winning flick either. Yes, there are lots of questionable things happening in the movie and faces will be palmed while watching it, but things like Easter eggs and way-too-obvious references are kinda making up for it.

In the end, Mortal Kombat had me torn apart like Jax’s arms. On the one hand, I really had my hopes set to sink my teeth into it. On the other hand, I was ready for major disappointment. Mortal Kombat is – and will always be – a franchise with too many characters to put into one movie and choosing just a handful will always disappoint some fans. Then again, this is all fixable with a sequel, which is clearly coming judging by the last scene. I’m trying not to spoil too much here, but let’s just say that Kano won’t be the only cocky sonofabitch protecting Earthrealm from the mighty Shang Tsung. Some characters just aren’t meant to be caged.

So if you’d like to give Mortal Kombat a go, just remember that this is just the beginning. If you’re a big fan of an unlimited blood budget, cheesy Kano jokes, and always in the mood for a Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero vendetta, you’re good to go. Just don’t expect Mortal Kombat to be this award-winning film. There are still a few fights left to be fought to enter that league.

Entertaining, but not exactly flawless
The Wins
Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero never disappoints
Doesn't take itself that serious, but isn't too cheesy
Most of the fight scenes are decently choreographed
The Losses
Not all characters get the screen time they deserve
Some of 'em are miscast and even dumb as fuck
The Goro vs. Cole Young fight doesn't make any sense