Overall – 7/10
In great fashion Mortal Kombat beat all my expectations. There have many video game – live adaptations that have only disappointed us here at Shadowchat, Monster Hunter amongst many others. However MK2021 was a fun surprise.
I didn’t expect to be as entertaining as it was, and I hope that in this article I can help convey a few key points on why I thought Mortal Kombat was better than expected for a fan that was expecting the absolute worst possible outcome… Dragonball Evolution levels of cringe.
So in actual fact, the traditional story of Mortal Kombat follows Liu Kang, his journey and he ultimately defeats Shao Kahn. This is consistent in most of MK’s reiterations and video game sequels, however MK2021 the movie takes a very different approach and adds a small twist.
With the addition of ‘Cole Young’ played by Lewis Tan, the franchise decides to ‘create a new character’ and throw in a custom fighter with an MMA background. Many of us were split on how we felt about his addition to the story for a few reasons.
1 – Coles character goes through a very cliche development arc of zero to hero, backed by lineage and being destined for greatness.
We’ve seen this countless times before and whilst it is a classic background to pick for many storylines including epic adventures, it doesn’t feel quite at home with MK2021 as most long-time fans are quite biased to Liu Kang being the true lead of its story. We were given no real reasons to be hooked on his character as a deserving lead other than the fact he was a nice guy who cared about his family and that he was the obvious descendant of Hanzo Hasashi, aka Scorpion.
2 – The addition and development of Cole allowed MK to be a bit more grounded and relatable to outsiders to the franchise.
Coles’ addition was most likely strategic as an attempt to reach new audiences and induct a fresh batch of fans. With the peaking interest in MMA as the lead form of martial arts around the globe, it was only natural that the inclusion of the art to MK2021 was inevitable. Having said that I feel like this wasn’t capitalized on well enough and that the most explicit MMA involved in the movie was in Coles’ introduction and the overall attempt didn’t feel forced – but instead out of place.
However I do not think Cole will ultimately take the lime light and outshine Liu Kang in his destined fight to defeat Shao Kahn. Instead I purely think Cole is here to alter the timeline in order to modify ‘SPICE THINGS UP’ for the regular viewers/ community so that it isn’t the same regurgitated copy pasta franchise that is Mortal Kombat.
Overall acting, lines and character development was imo ‘GOOD’.
None of it was stellar but some actors did have very strong presence on screen with solid acting. Actors that stood out for me were; Jessica McNamee (Sonya Blade), Joe Taslim (Sub-Zero), Josh Lawson (Kano). Liu Kang himself played by Ludi Lin was not shown up by the rest of the main cast, mainly because he’s so damn pretty.
Girls in the cinema went nuts… or at least my girlfriend did.
Cheesy lines like Kung Lao’s “FLAWLESS VICTORY” or “KANO WINS” were a mixed bag of “that works pretty well” and “oh lord spare me”. On a hot take I really think the cheesy fatality lies were mandatory, would it really be Mortal Kombat without screaming out “FINISH THEM”? No, hell no. It’s part of MK’s identity. The cringe was inevitable but atleast they made SOME of it work.
The actual acting was good. I felt like they didn’t really utilize Hiroyuki Sanada enough throughout the film. Scorpion is a core element in the universe and it was only natural that he had a role to play in this the current adaptions plot. We can attribute his lowered exposure due to the characters recent feature in the Netflix animated film featuring his tragic origin story. Too much Scorpion and we might get tired of the iconic ninja.
Mortal Kombat is filled with fantastic brutalities and gory scenes true to the franchise. Combat throughout the movie stayed fairly real to the relevant styles they are derived from. For martial artists like myself this is both a respectful to culture and true to form. Of course we are unable to tell if the Ninjutsu of Hanzo Hasashi is true with the way he wields the roped Kunai as there are no Kunai weilding ninja’s left in this world to verify if those techniques would actually shatter someone’s dome that badly, but honestly who cares?
If anything, I feel like Cole could have used more ACTUAL MMA in the movie. There was barely any grappling, and once he found his “ARCANA” he got a pair of lethal “Tonfa”. This was VERY confusing, because that had nothing to do with MMA, cage fighting, Cole’s history or his ninja heritage. They gave him some very obvious “PLOT ARMOUR” and made it a thing where he absorbed damage that looked like it stored energy and released in tenfold similar to Black Panthers’ Vibranium suit but it was pretty ambiguous and honestly a hugely missed opportunity. His weapons were unnecessary and they should have simply had him MMA his way into some very fantastic fatalities or at most given him knuckle dusters.
Closing this out I think we all agreed this movie was a bit too short and honestly needed more fights. We can see where they went with its new direction, we can appreciate it but to be honest we probably would have appreciated more fight scenes. Introduction of characters like Nitara and Reiko were pretty much wasted and Mileena could have had some better fight scenes. They were either killed too easily or left us wondering “why was this guy even here?”
Overall Mortal Kombat was pretty fun. It wasn’t horribly cringe and kept many if not all the characters true to their nature. In the case of Sub-Zero & Scorpion, they in fact expanded on their heritage, culture and if anything portrayed them in a better light. There were some moments where we hated the films resounding moments throwing the MC back to the first 10 minutes forcing the film to come full circle in a hard braked power slide, but there some great moments where we just laughed at Kano as he stole the show (some say salvaged).
Mortal Kombat is worth the watch and if anything is a great successor to the 1997 classic.
A film you can watch with your friends and spend a few hours talking about how brutal the kills were, or how you really didn’t expect Sub-Zero to speak both Chinese & Japanese.