Mortal Kombat is arguably one of the most popular video games in the world despite the fact that previous screen adaptations have been met with scorn by fans of the games. Still when Warner Bros. teamed up with producer James Wan (Aqua Man) to bring his life-long dream of creating a Mortal Kombat film to fruition those gamers immediately got excited mainly due to the fact that Wan rarely delivers a bad film.
But then things began to change, the film which was originally believed to be directed by Wan suddenly landed in the hands of first time feature director Simon McQuoid and big names like Vin Diesel and Joel Edgerton who were originally linked to the film had fallen to the way-side. Then in a strange move it was revealed that while Wan had said the film would stay true to the games now the main character would be a fictitious character never even seen in the games.
That newly developed character is Cole Young (Lewis Tan – Deadpool 2) who toils away as a ‘fight club’ MMA fighter not knowing that he is the direct descendant of the legendary ninja Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada – The Wolverine) or the tale of the mystical world that surrounds him.
That all comes to light for him when one night he crosses paths with another fighter, named Jax (Mehcad Brooks – Supergirl), and the two suddenly find themselves under attack by the evil Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim – The Raid: Redemption) who is on a mission to wipe out all of the Earth Realm’s fighters before the next ‘Tournament’.
With Jax staying to fight against Sub-Zero, Cole is sent to further his education with the rough and rugged former soldier, Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee – The Meg), and soon they find themselves all having to team up with the very, very Australian Kano (Josh Lawson – Long Story Short) in a bid to stop the evil that is now spilling into the Earth Realm.
The best way to describe Mortal Kombat is that it is a frustrating film. All the makings are there for a good action film and early on things look promising. However, the film falls away with the introduction of Cole and his family – they feel like unnecessary characters and while it feels like they were only introduced so that other characters had to explain the mystical world to someone (so the audience could be enlightened as well) it still feels like a lot of things go unsaid. This is not an easy film for those that haven’t played the games to pick up on although somehow it does still feel like a fun ride.
The fun side of this film is the character of Kano. He gets a majority of the jokes – and most are at the expense of Australians which may or may not work in markets right around the world. Luckily though characters such as Sonya, Liu Kang (Ludi Lin – Power Rangers) and Kung Lao (Max Huang – Time Raiders) are interesting enough... although to be perfectly honest all the characters are interesting other than Cole.
Visually the film looks great and pundits of the game will enjoy the fact that the director and his team pushed the boundaries when it came to the violence and gore but sadly the film trips itself up with a folklore that is really only accessible to fans of the franchise while the film seems to also forget what caused the increased suspense at the start of the film.
The opening sequence of the film is clearly influenced by Japanese cinema but all the suspense and tension generated here seems to evaporate once the film becomes ‘Americanised’ and it soon starts to feel like you are actually watching a film from Marvel or DC.
Hopefully if more films are made in this franchise we may actually get to see Wan jump into the director’s chair because with his track record it is easy to see that he could make something very special, sadly though this film is just another mediocre attempt at bringing the games to the big screen.
Mortal Kombat will return to Phuket cinemas when they re-open after the current outbreak.
2.5 / 5 Stars
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus