If this is the direction video game adaptations are going in, then sign me up…mostly.
A film reboot of the game franchise of the same name, Mortal Kombat follows a handful of Earth’s champions as they gear up for a tournament that will decide the fate of the world. Hanging the story on the shoulders of an original film character in Cole Young (Lewis Tan) as he slowly figures out what Mortal Kombat is and why the evil minions of the Outworld led by the dark sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) won’t just leave him alone, Cole reluctantly joins up with other Mortal Kombat candidates to be part of a team that cannot afford to lose. Oh, and there’s a cool blood feud thing going on between the iconic Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) that’s much more important than it initially seems, so strap in and let the bloodshed ensue!
Based on the current status of video game adaptations, Mortal Kombat shouldn’t have been as good as it was. On the other hand – and given the current status of video game adaptations again – it’s exactly as bad as expected, the real question being which side of the quality line the final product lands on. Luckily for fans of the game series and people just looking for a brutal and entertaining experience, Mortal Kombat mostly delivers.
Putting aside how bad most of the acting is along with a thin script that probably could have used another pass (the Sub-Zero and Scorpion plotline is strong throughout, however), the promise of a competent R-rated Mortal Kombat movie is more or less is realized by the time the credits roll. From the fantastic opening scene to a handful of stand-out fights every few minutes or so, this is the closest fans have ever gotten to seeing a beloved gaming franchise adapted properly on the big screen, yet it can’t be denied that it still has its fair share of rough edges which the inevitable sequel should easily be able to smooth out.
But for all of the winks and nods to the source material as well as some interesting ides sprinkled throughout, the last third of the movie really puts a damper on everything that came before. Clearly using most of its budget on the special effects heavy fights to keep audiences engaged, the script becomes stagnant and boring the second the story settles into a groove that feels like its biding time until the finale. Losing a lot of the visceral energy and competence that the first part of the movie successfully pulled off, the fact that it isn’t revealed until well into the movie that we aren’t getting an actual Mortal Kombat tournament in this film really annoyed me as it came across as a cheap trick and one that makes the entire experience feel like a test run for something better. Look, I get the idea behind it – save the real good stuff for when the sequel gets a blank check to do whatever it wants – but I can’t lie that this decision stung a little and lessened the impact the film had on me as a whole.
So while I liked this movie and am excited that video game films are finally getting their time to shine in Hollywood proper, it can’t be denied that outside of the fantastic action and mostly solid direction, the script, acting and general flow of the story just wasn’t up to snuff. Granted, it’s clear that the budget was blown on the effects and brutal fight scenes (which are totally worth it by the way), but losing all steam in the back half of the film only to give fans blue balls about actually seeing a tournament play out on screen are some missteps that can’t be overlooked. I’ll take as many sequels as the filmmakers want to pump out for this franchise, but they need to fix this movie’s problems before Mortal Kombat can truly be crowned as the king of the video game adaptations.