Last week, I took a look at the Mortal Kombat movie from the 90s in preparation for this film. It was a fun action film that while isn’t the most well made films of all time, it definitely is one of the better video game movies. And as this gem returned to the world of the classic fighting series with more money, more fight scenes, and definitely more blood. But do these new features outshine the original?
Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a former MMA fighter and descendent of Scorpion (Hirokuyi Sanada), is one day chased by Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), a ninja sent by the sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han). While running from the icy warrior, he’s rescued by Jax (Mehcad Brooks) who leads Cole to Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), a soldier who’s been tracking down the marks that Cole, Jax, and crime boss Kano (Josh Lawson), all have. The search leads them to the temple of Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), where they learn about the Mortal Kombat tournament, a tournament that the forces of Outworld are using to conquer Earthrealm. The team is trained with the help of Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) to prepare to face Shang Tsung and the other champions of Outworld.
The most that I can say about the cast is that they do a good enough job for the most part. But when you compare them to the 90s film, they’re, for the most part, a blank slate that fit their roles accordingly. Lewis Tan’s Cole feels like he’s there solely to be the POV character for audiences, which feels unnecessary. The original explains things better by having characters from the game be the perspective characters and let their personalities bounce off each other. And here, only one character bounces off everyone: Kano. Josh Lawson steals the show as Kano and is just having the time of his life. His banter varies from loving him to loving to hate him; and among the rest of the cast, he seems to be the only one with effort put to it.
Much like the original, there are details and nods to the original that longtime fans of the series would appreciate it. But aside to loyalty to the original, the story feels slow and focuses more on preparing the Earthrealm champions, with the tournament itself being an afterthought. And while there are some good moments in it, the story is by and large a skeleton to hang the fight scenes on.
One of the many improvements compared to the 1995 film is the fight scenes. Whereas the original had the same charm as most low-budget action movies from the time, this one definitely has a lot more put into them. Each of them are distinct and put a lot of focus onto the martial arts and have a style to them. For example, the champions fighting Reptile feels inspired by the “Alien” movies. And then you have the attack on Raiden’s Temple where everyone is duking it out in a battle royale.
I’m definitely of two minds with this movie. On the one hand, it’s definitely have some great fight scenes that are compelling to watch. But on the other hand, the rest of the story is underwhelming and drags, with an average cast. This is really a movie for hardcore Mortal Kombat fans; but for others, just stick with the 1995 film.