Saturday, April 24, 2021

Mortal Kombat (2021) - Recap and Review

 mortal kombat movie poster wallpaper screensaver

After two not-so-successful attempts, the third live-action movie based on the popular fighting themed video game, is here. Is third time the charm? 

There will be spoilers in the review and readers who are yet to watch the movie are recommended to skip the review.

As the movie begins, Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) is living a peaceful life with his family. Tragedy strikes when a rival clan member Bi-Han (Joe Taslim) murders his wife and son. Hanzo is also killed but promises that he will return to avenge his family. Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) arrives shortly thereafter and rescues the sole survivor of the attack: Hanzo's infant daughter.
mortal kombat cole young mma fighter 2021
Cut to the present. Shang Tsung (Chin Han) is en evil sorcerer from Outworld and wants to ensure that his realm wins in the Mortal Kombat tournament. To this end, he dispatches Bi-Han (who calls himself Sub-Zero now) to kill the champions of Earth (or Earthrealm as per Mortal Kombat's mythology).

On the top of Sub-Zero's hit list is Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a down-on-his-luck MMA fighter. Cole's wife, Allison (Laura Brent) and daughter, Emily (Matilda Kimber) still believe in him and provide strong moral support.

Jax (Mehcad Brooks) rescues Cole and his family from Sub-Zero and loses his hands in the process. Cole has been directed by Jax to reach out to Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). Sonya serves dual purposes in the movie: she is the requisite exposition machine and the eye candy for the target audience. >

Sonya fills in Cole (and by extension the audience) on the Mortal Kombat lore and how he is also a Champion (his “birthmark” is the proof). She also has a hostile hostage: Kano (Josh Lawson), the motormouth who is clearly a fan of Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool. He provides most of the movie's humor and packs in a ton of cultural references.

Once news about Sub-Zero's failure to kill Cole reaches Shang Tsung, he sends Reptile to finish the task. Despite having the power to be invisible and the fact that his saliva can melt even metals, Reptile is defeated by the combined efforts of Sonya and Kano.

Sonya convinces Kano to join him on the quest to beat Outworld's champions. They are soon joined by Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), who takes them to Lord Raiden.

liu kang kung lao shaolin brothers temple mortal kombat wallpaper screensaver

From here on, the movie goes on an autopilot mode as the Earth's would-be champions are trained by Liu Kang and fellow Shaolin monk Kung Lao (Max Huang) in the Shaolin temple. The purpose is to unleash each person's arcana (or special powers, to put it in layman's language). Kano is the first to experience his hidden potential while Cole struggles to find his. Raiden sends the disheartened Cole back to his family, after revealing that he is a descendant of the deceased Hanzo Hasashi (better known to fans as the legendary undead ninja Scorpion).

Shang Tsung launches an attack on the temple, but Raiden places a protective cover to prevent their entry. One of Shang's henchmen, Kabal bribes Kano into opening the shield and thus begins the climactic fight sequence as Shang proclaims: Finish them”.

The movie is clearly made for die-hard fans of the video game. I have not played the game or watched the previous movies. Still, I could catch a number of nods to the game: a bunch of catchphrases and Fatalities.

sonya blade kano mortal kombat 2021 movie poster wallpaper

For the general public, the movie might turn out to be a mixed bag. I found the movie to be funny in parts (mostly due to Josh Lawson). Acting wise, Jessica McNamee makes the best impression as Sonya Blade. She comes off as humane and likeable. In addition, Max Huang and Joe Taslim seem to be enjoying their roles.

Rest of the cast are either miscast or appear wooden. Chin Han (The Dark Knight) is possibly the least threatening villain I have seen in recent movies. Even digitally created characters have oozed more menace than him. Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl) continues to be as boring in his role as ever.

Lewis Tan is ok as the lead, but Ludi Lin fares far worse as Liu Kang, the supposed champion of the titular tournament and one of the most popular characters in the game. He has the physicality needed for the role, but not the gravitas. Same goes for the actor who plays Lord Raiden. The character is the mentor for Earth's champions (and Liu Kang in particular), but the actor's performance leaves no impact.

The movie also suffers from unintentional humor. In some scenes, Liu Kang is seen lecturing other characters but is physically dwarfed by them. While this is not something unacceptable, the actor's lack of acting talents makes this scene (and a few others) an amusing watch. Similarly, Jax's initial set of weapons look weird. It is understandable that the director wanted the character to develop his arcana. Still it could have done in another way.

brass body dave bautista the man with the iron fists

I also did not understand what was Cole's arcana/special powers. He reminded me of the Brass Body character (played by Dave Bautista) from the movie: The Man with the Iron Fists.

Another weak point in the movie were the way the fight scenes were choreographed. Most of them were not interesting to watch and even the much hyped Scorpion vs Sub-Zero action sequence was average. Speaking of Scorpion, he appears in only two scenes in the entire movie: In the opening scene and in the climax. Hiroyuki Sanada could have shot all of his scenes in a day, if the studio had planned carefully. Scorpion fans would be advised that their favorite MK character has very limited screen presence and better to approach the movie with lessened expectations.

mileena kabal reiko outworld mortal kombat 2021

That leaves us with the bad guys. Serving Shang Tsung (along with Sub-Zero) are Mileena (the one with scary teeth), Kabal (who looks a lot like the Predator and has similar powers), Reiko (the muscle) and Nitara (a vampiress). Only Mileena and Kabal have dialogues and the actors do their best with the limited work.

And the movie ends with Cole setting his sights on Hollywood and one specific actor: Johnny Cage.

Movie lovers may or may not like this movie, but MK fans might lap it up for the previously mentioned references to their beloved game.

Image Sources: New Line Cinema, NetherRealm Studios, Atomic Monster, Broken Road Productions, Warner Bros.

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