The year was 1995. Newcomer Paul W.S. Anderson had just released his vision for a live-action Mortal Kombat movie based on Ed Boon and John Tobias' controversial fighting game series. It performs admirably well, enough to spawn an infamously bad sequel, but this led to the series shying away from the cinematic world for over two decades.
Whispers began about a potential reboot, and before long, this latest film took shape. Promising R-rated glory, grizzly fatalities, and a more accurate retelling of the Mortal Kombat lore, it had a lot riding on it to be a success. While that still remains to be seen, it now faces a tremendous uphill battle.
NOTE: This review is completely spoiler-free.
Mortal Kombat (2021) follows the story of Cole Young, a struggling MMA fighter who is apparently chosen by fate to take part in a battle for the universe known as Mortal Kombat. Earthrealm and Outworld have engaged in this brutal tournament for years, and one more victory for Outworld could spell the end of humanity. Together with Lord Raiden's forces of Earth's mightiest heroes, Cole must defend the world and his family from an impending invasion from Shang Tsung and his group of powerful fighters which include Sub-Zero, Mileena, Kabal and more.
Let's first talk about the best thing this movie has going for it: Kano. The foul-mouthed Australian mercenary is a scene-stealer, played perfectly by Josh Lawson. His banter, particularly with Kabal, makes for some of the most hilarious and engaging moments in between the film's action. At times, it can feel like he's simply chewing up the scenery and making his co-stars look tame by comparison, but that's just a testament to both the lively character and Lawson's performance which breathes some much-needed life and dark comedic relief into the film.
As far as performances go, everyone does their job and does them well. Liu Kang and Kung Lao, played by Ludi Lin and Max Huang respectively, are great and deliver plenty of Shaolin Monks nods to long-time fans. Lewis Tan as protagonist Cole Young delivers a humble performance, and it's easy to get attached to his plights. However, the character himself can often feel misplaced among the universe's iconic fighters, and struggles in the beginning to really find his footing and purpose in the ensuing battles. Jessica McNamee is an okay Sonya Blade, but she - like Tan - is often drowned out by the other actors. The same applies to Mehcad Brooks' Jax.
Unfortunately, the film downplays Scorpion's role...
It's clear that everyone involved were driven by a strong passion for the games...
Writer. Enthusiast of all things geek. Legend has it he completed Final Fantasy VII without a memory card.
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