Mortal Kombat, 2021.
Directed by Simon McQuoid.
Starring Starring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Max Huang, Sisi Stringer, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Daniel Nelson, Melanie Jarnson, Ian Streetz, Nathan Jones, Yukiko Shinohara, Ren Miyagawa, Damon Herriman, and Angus Sampson.
Earth realm and Outworld are locked in a perpetual war for supremacy. Champions are chosen either by bloodline or by accident to fight. Unlocking an inner power is essential for survival if fighters are to compete in Mortal Kombat.
This New Line property has been around the block. Based on the video game created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, Mortal Kombat has a devoted fanbase. There have been other attempts to crack this franchise opportunity in 1995 and 1997 respectively, but neither took advantage.
In all fairness, the paper thin plot line which ties things together was never aimed at deep thinkers. Mindless button mashing and gratuitous finishing moves defined a game, which only deviated from the formula to introduce scantily clad high kicking male fantasies. It is and remains a domain for the gamer, from which no coherent film could ever emerge unscathed. That being said, filmmakers are still intent on making a quick buck from something with the narrative integrity of flat pack furniture.
What is more confounding than the existence of another Mortal Kombat is its calibre of cast. Amongst the ensemble are three legends of Asian cinema in Tadanobu Asano, Hiroyuki Sanada and Chin Han. Actors with decades of screen experience in far superior films, who are after the pay cheque and actively trading on stereotypes. With an Oscar nominee in Josh Lawson playing Kano, while Supergirl regular Mehcad Brooks bulks up for Jaxx, this is an odd mix.
Thankfully, some artfully constructed action sequences and solid VFX paper over the cracks. Not only does this reboot require audiences to leave their brains at the door, but also makes dialogue superfluous. However, jumping from earth to outworld by way of the feudal far east, Mortal Kombat makes sure to give decent screen time to fan favourites. Joe Taslim’s Sub-Zero is a stand out as is Josh Lawson’s Kano, while Lewis Tan’s Cole Young unfortunately loses out.
Costumes are intricate, production design impressive and performances committed. Unfortunately, there was never going to be enough substance in this set up to offer up any surprises. Fans of the game will really enjoy the authentic approach taken by director Simon McQuoid, but everyone else will be making tea. Fortune cookie wisdom goes hand in hand with stop gaps between fight scenes, until the inevitable sequel set up in the closing minutes.
Hanzo, Lord Raiden and Shang Tsung are embodied with ostentatious exuberance by the three far eastern cinematic supremos, but these characters remain two dimensional at best. However, for many of those tuning in that will be more than enough. With performers of note championing the notion of ethnic authenticity in cinema, Mortal Kombat succeeds on more levels than people may think. However, fans of this very specific genre of filmmaking are unlikely to give such things a second thought.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★