Another year, another videogame film.
We’ve reviewed a lot of videogame adaptations here and most of them fail for expected reasons. Too many in-jokes and tie ins mixed with too convoluted of a story tend to tire audiences. So how does this one do? Not terribly actually.
An issue anyone could predict with the movie is that there will be too many cooks in the kitchen. We follow Cole (Lewis Tan), who is told his rare birthmark means he is a champion for Earthrealm. Jax (Mehcad Brooks) tries to get Cole to Sonya (Jessica McNamee) who already has another champion Kano (Josh Lawson) held captive (he’s a dick). They need to find a way to get to Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) before Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) finds and kills them. We also have the fight between Sub-Zero and Hanzo (Hiroyuki Sanada) at the beginning of the film set this all up.
We also have the world tournament where if Earthrealm loses ten times the outer world gets control. Add in about eight more characters.
Honestly, I couldn’t really keep it straight. The story is at once absurdly simple while being overstuffed. The film also falls into the trap of most horror films by starting us off with more interesting characters (Hanzo) but then jumping so someone else (Cole). The bummer here is that like most horror movies, the initial characters and premise seem more interesting than what we transition to. The fight with Hanzo against Sub-Zero and his other ninjas at the start of the film might be the best of the movie. Yeah, we start off awesome, but then we have to dump all of this and restart the film.
I haven’t played a Mortal Kombat game for about fifteen years, so I am sure I missed some plot points, which is a fault of the movie, not the viewer. However, it seems somewhat absurd that this is supposed to be about a tournament, but the bad guys are killing all the champions before the tournament begins. I get that bad guys break the rules, but we have so much focus on this tournament that it is a bit disappointing we don’t ever get to it.
The movie is entertaining enough as Kano’s smartass comments help lighten the mood before the nice fight scenes. Some of the CGI leaves a little to be desired, but overall, the fights are solid. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the best is Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and these fights are so awesome they leave everything else in the dust. On the one hand, the movie delivers the duels between these two, but on the other, why not make them the main characters?
As an action film, this one provides just about everything in bountiful portions. Good choreography, violence, cool moves, and some sheer brutality outweigh the cringey and forced slow-mo movements or lame dialogue. The good moments outweigh the bad, which is awesome, but the great moments are just the bookends.
If you’re in the mood for some fantasy/action I think this one will deliver the goods. Certainly not going to win any awards, but it is a fun evening.
Check it out if you’re a fan of the games or the action genre.