Monday, April 26, 2021

Review: "Mortal Kombat" isn't a flawless victory, but its fun

I have never been a big gamer, but one franchise that I have undeniably been a fan of is the Mortal Kombat franchise. I like unleashing holy (and I guess, sometimes, unholy) Hell on a worthless, pitiful avatar. I love throw ice blasts and fire blasts and shadow kicks. But its more than that. The gaming franchise has a great collection of characters, unique moves, storytelling. It's a fun game, but not something to be taken seriously.

Growing up, I definitely liked the movies. I was pretty young when they came out. I was so excited just to see characters I've grown to love on the screen in live action. As I have grown older, I am not so sure the 90's movies have aged well. I think the first film was 1995 can be dumb fun, I think its sequel in 1997 is just dumb. The production looks cheap in both movies, the performances range from decent to outright awful in both movies. In both movies, it seems actors were definitely hired, but no fight choreographers or stunt doubles and watching the fight scenes in both movies is kind of awkward today. Especially when you can really see how its done by today's standards.

I can have fun with at least the first film in the original franchise because of that fun factor. Sometimes I can turn my brain off and enjoy something that is silly. I don't think you should expect something Oscar worthy from a movie like "Mortal Kombat." In fact, I would find it puzzling if that was what an audience would be hoping for. We all go to the movies and watch them for different reasons. Some people only like the blockbusters and the mindless crazy. Others only like the more sophisticated, abstract films. Some seemingly hate everything they watch and try to look cool by recommending something obscure. Several tend to think that all films should be judged by the exact same standards, and that just baffles me completely. Every type of movie is trying to speak to a certain type of audience, and I feel we forget that sometimes.

"Mortal Kombat" from 2021, the new film hoping to start a new franchise, is a very silly film. It is clearly trying to cater to the fans, but at the same time, its trying to convert new fans. It's a perfectly fine movie. I wouldn't call it horrible and I also wouldn't call it a masterpiece. It is perfectly fine. The Mortal Kombat fan in me enjoyed some of the things he saw, and has some glaring gripes with other things he saw. The ordinary movie fan in me enjoyed some of the things he saw, and has some glaring gripes with other things he saw. If you want to turn your mind off for two hours, I hope you enjoy it. This is mindless fluff, and if you want a movie of people beating each other up with abandon. This film is definitely for you.

The special effects in this film are better than they were in the 90's, which is good, I was expecting those this new movie to look better simply for being made in 2021. The costumes look much better in this film. Still, you can kind of tell there was somewhat of a budget crunch in some places. Some of the arenas where the fighting takes place look a little cheap. But this didn't derail the film for me, it comes off more as a nitpick for me. The thing that should really shine in a "Mortal Kombat" movie is the fights. The fights are pretty cool. They definitely locked in some fatalities from the video games, and those are fun to watch. But compared to recent fighting movies like "The Raid" films from Indonesia, I can't say the fight scenes in "Mortal Kombat" wowed me in any significant way.

Hiroyuki Sanada plays Scorpion, one of the most popular characters in all of video games. Sanada happens to be my favorite Japanese actor so I was looking forward to seeing him here. Sadly, Scorpion doesn't show up very much in this film. He's got a great opening scene and then he shows up to kick some ass at the end. That's...pretty much it. I am also a big fan of Chin Han, an actor you know whether you realize it or not. He had an acting career in China, but in 2008 he seemingly exploded after a supporting credit in "The Dark Knight." He's a guy you've definitely seen somewhere since. He's fine. Most of the actors are fine. It's tough to really judge their performances because the script is so goddamn ordinary. Characters explain things to each other, each scene is one exposition dump after another. Nobody really has any personality. That is excluding Josh Lawson; who plays Kano and Damon Herriman who voices (yes voices) Kabal. Kano and Kabal were the only characters awarded with any personality, and Lawson in particular does what he can to make his time shine. Everyone else just explains things, and explains what happens around them. Nobody really talks like an actual human being in this movie.

Kabal is a hoot. Seriously, they made him surprisingly funny.

The weirdest decisions come from the inclusion of Cole Young and the absence of a fighting tournament. Lewis Tan plays Cole, a completely original character. He's the main character and I found a bit offensive as a Mortal Kombat fan that Lui Kang was sidelined as a character to make room for this new lead that I don't care about. They don't make Cole very interesting and given that the Mortal Kombat franchise is rich with characters already, why include a dull original? The story is kind of the same the games. The evil Outworlders are looking to conquer Earthrealm and they have to win ten fighting tournaments before the Elder Gods will allow them to do so. Shang Tsung, played by Chin Han, decides to cheat after the ninth tournament, and just have his fighters hunt down the Earthrealm fighters (who conveniently have marks indicating they've been "Chosen") and kill them before the tenth tournament. As a fan of the games, it drove me nuts that an explanation for how or why the Elder Gods would allow cheating is never explained. I get the need to do something new or take the story in a new direction. But Mortal Kombat with no tournament is like Bruce Wayne with no Batman. 

It sounds like I have lots of gripes. But that's what I mean when I said "Mortal Kombat" is no masterpiece. But Josh Lawson is quirky, Kabal is funny, the action scenes are cool enough for the film to work. It's silly, but its supposed to be silly. This is supposed to be about some badass fighters, kicking each other asses and spouting one-liners. There is just enough good here for it to work. But for something so simple, they come this close to dropping the ball. I hope if they get sequels, they really improve on what doesn't work. Give these characters some personality, streamline the fights. This potential franchise has just that...potential. Don't squander it!

No comments:

Post a Comment