Video game film adaptations usually do not turn out well. With the exception of “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” and “Sonic the Hedgehog,” most attempts to bring games to the big screen end up with mixed to negative critical reception, regardless of their box-office success.
2021’s “Mortal Kombat” remake tries to buck this trend, and fans were able to see the results of their efforts when it released in theaters and on HBO Max on April 23. One has to commend its efforts, as there are plenty of good qualities within the film, such as most actors and the fight scenes themselves.
However, overall the product feels like it was just short of greatness, with a story as typical as ever and a bland protagonist making this film’s victory far from flawless.
“Mortal Kombat” follows MMA fighter Cole Young, who is suddenly thrust into a realms-wide battle of life and death in preparation for a tournament known as Mortal Kombat. With the villainous Shang Tsung of Outworld planning a takeover of Earth, Cole must team up with series favorites Jax, Sonya Blade, Kano and more, in order to defeat him and his lackeys, protecting Earth as we know it.
The story is as predictable as it could be, with it being very easy to spot story beats as the film progresses. However, that is likely not why people watch this film, to begin with.
“Mortal Kombat” is a series infamous for its gory and intense battles, which the reboot has plenty of. Luckily, these are hands down the best part of the movie. There are several fights throughout the entire film, each of which matches the number of high stakes that are in the games, not to mention the amount of gore featured. The filmmakers clearly know what fans come to “Mortal Kombat” for, and it at least respects that important part of the formula.
The same can be said for most of the cast. Everyone portraying the established “Mortal Kombat” feels well-cast and delivers strong performances. Highlights include Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero and Josh Lawson as Kano.
Every character from the game translates well to this big-screen reboot, with serious and comedic moments alike feeling just right with them around. It is a shame then that the film, rather than having a previously established character like Johnny Cage be the protagonist, decides to create an entirely new character to act as the lead.
Cole Young, played by Lewis Tan, is very bland as the main character, especially compared to his peers that are so full of life. Often he feels like a passenger in a journey that is supposed to focus on him. When he does actively make decisions, they are often inane and lead to dangerous situations that could have easily been avoided. Tan does his best to make an impact using what little material he is given, so he does deserve credit for that. However, the fact remains that if you took Cole out of the movie and switched some things around, there would not be much of a loss to the overall story.
“Mortal Kombat” is filled with as much dumb fun as one could hope for from a movie like this. The story is nothing to write home about and Cole Young is a very forgettable lead, but every part of the film that is based on the video games’ continuity is a blast to watch on the big screen.
The overall cast is strong and full of life, and the fight scenes are filled with as much intensity and gore as one could hope for from a film like this. If one thinks about the film too much, it falls apart quickly. As a popcorn flick, it is a blast that will hopefully light the spark of a franchise that will grow into something larger and more quality in the future.