We live in an era of reboots and sequels where groups of disparate people come together for a common cause. Some have worked well (see “Logan” and “X-Men: First Class” as examples), while others have not worked out so well (see Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” as an example.)
Don’t take that last suggestion so literally; see “Logan” again.
In Simon McQuoid’s directorial debut “Mortal Kombat,” the style of the film, which mirrors Ed Boon and John Tobias’ game story, the movie is based quite effectively, doesn’t work as well in the story department.
The script, written by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham, based on a story by Russo and Oren Uziel, favors character through uncomfortable humor to build to a crescendo.
At the start of the film, a title card outlines the history behind the game and the film, leading us into a Miyazaki-esque opening sequence featuring a feud between clans for control over the competing realms, Earthrealm and Outworld. The technical details behind the camerawork, the lenses and filters, and the choreography of the fights are jaw-dropping. And violent.
McQouid gets points for the look of the film. In the early scenes, Russo and Callaham create a nice subtext of mythology to start the movie. However, the mythology is abandoned to bring the chosen few together, leading to character moments and the aforementioned uncomfortable humor.
The humor is not demeaning in any way. Instead, its use feels like the film is letting its guard down unnecessarily.
Admittedly, the characters are fun to watch unfold. Lewis Tan’s Cole Young has the spirit of the conflict within him, but he seems to have repressed his inner feelings, more in favor of abusing himself to support his family. After being attacked by Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), Cole seeks out Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), a former Special Forces operative, who has Kano (Josh Lawson) held captive.
There’s a snarkiness, that misplaced humor shared between Sonya and Kano – a “who gives a crap about me” type attitude. Sonya has pieced together the pieces of the puzzle of Mortal Kombat’s existence. Another technically proficient “game moment” happens when they are attacked a second time. These moments are where I give the story some credit for employing these “game moments” to propel the story’s movement, but those moments feel more perfunctory than necessary.
“Mortal Kombat” starts with mythology in mind keeping it as a subtext rather than exploring it as a story point vexes this critic. “Mortal Kombat” has been gestating in Warner Brothers’ vaults for over two decades following a failed second film and several lawsuits, and the latest incarnation suffers a similar fate. The R-rating conveys a more graphic story with the visuals at the expense of the characters.
Fans of the game will be impressed, and this critic marvels at the technical aspects of the film. However, this reheated “Mortal Kombat” lacks soul and feels hollow. Maybe Shang Tsung took it?
Now in theaters and streaming exclusively on HBO Max, “Mortal Kombat” fails to deliver a full-on, modern, and rebooted experience.
- Mortal Kombat