The video game film adaptation MORTAL KOMBAT Things are no different these days than many other big-budget productions whose studios are not sure how long Corona will thwart their plans. Instead of going to the cinema, you can go straight to the streaming services as a premium VOD. We’ll reveal in our review whether it’s worth checking out the ultra-brutal actioner.
OT: Mortal Kombat (USA 2021)
MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) makes his living by taking hard beatings. Why Shang Tsung (Chin Han), the ruler of Outworld, sends his best warrior, the sinister Cryomancer Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), to hunt down Cole remains a mystery at first. Concerned for his family’s safety, Cole sets out to find Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). Special Forces Major Jax (Mehcad Brooks), who bears the same mysterious dragon mark as Cole himself, sets him on their trail. Cole soon finds himself in the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadatobu Asano), an Elder God and protector of Earthrealm, the bearer given refuge by the mark. Here, Cole prepares with the experienced warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and the renegade mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson) to fight a decisive battle for the universe together with the greatest champions on earth. But will he manage to unleash his Arcana – the immense power that resides within his soul – in time to save his family and stop the forces of Outworld once and for all?
After numerous failed adaptations of video games, it is now an almost unwritten rule among film lovers that it simply cannot be good when creative people abuse “their” gaming heroes. It was only at the end of last year that director Paul WS Anderson, who was already responsible for the filmed game series “Resident Evil” (and not necessarily loved for it), tried one more time and put “Monster Hunter” – the adaptation of the action role-playing game of the same name – to the fullest Jug in the sand. More successful examples such as the filmed horror game “Silent Hill” were over 15 years ago. And solid entries like “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” or the “Tomb Raider” film adaptations were able to recreate the adventure feeling conjured up in the games, but were still far from the cinematic revelation. In this respect, it is hardly surprising that even the smallest hints of a finally successful video game adaptation are enough to make fans rejoice. Such as director Simon McQuoid’s announcement that his “Mortal Kombat” adaptation should be really bloody and not, like so many other examples in the genre, softened up for the general public. The video clip director has already fulfilled this promise. His actioner, which is released in this country for ages 18 and up, is dark and bloody; No wonder: the first part of the “Mortal Kombat” game saga was on the index for almost 26 years due to its drastic depiction of violence and triggered a storm of indignation in United Kingdom.
Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) prepares her “protégés” for the upcoming battles.
An indexing of the third live-action film based on the saga after “Mortal Kombat” (1995) and “Mortal Kombat 2 – Annihilation” (1997) (the first of which was directed by the aforementioned gamer terror Paul WS Anderson) is currently only to be feared to a limited extent ; On the other hand, similarly brutal thrillers such as “Hellboy – Call of Darkness” or the “John Wick” series have long since made a comparable physique suitable for the mainstream. In addition, Simon McQuoid relies on an emphasized darkness and seriousness, but then stages the archaic moments of violence so over-the-top that a feeling of repulsive attrition never arises – and with the foreknowledge of how violent the killing scenes in the Game template can sometimes be canceled, fans of the series should rather rejoice at this point than worry about what the moral guardians will say about it. “Mortal Kombat” fully meets expectations on this front. And Simon McQuoid isn’t just satisfied with as many liters of artificial or CGI blood as possible, he manages to do it – also with the help of his cameraman Germain McMicking (“Berlin Syndrome”)to present the various killer moves in as varied and creative a way as possible. Already in the prologue, which establishes the background of the dark cryomancer Sub-Zero and the associated laws of the “Mortal Kombat” world in a fairly coherent manner even for those who are not familiar with the game, the red lifeblood sprays out of every nook and cranny. Sometimes someone slaughters himself without regard to the losses caused by a whole group of violent henchmen, other times the focus is on a single blood stain on a white, stretched cloth, behind which a person who can only be seen as a shadow is being brutally murdered, whereupon this same stain joins in increased every second.
“Director Simon McQuoid relies on an emphasized darkness and seriousness, but then stages the archaic moments of violence so over-the-top that a feeling of repulsive attrition never arises.”
However, such an aestheticization of violence remains an exception as the plot progresses. The majority of such scenes focus on brutal slaughter, which often reveals the innards of the victims in all their perfection. But even with such an advantage, those responsible are unable to continue “Mortal Kombat” as a whole at this level. Because with visible attention to the fact that the game, which in the original was based on a so-called tournament mode, in which the sole aim is to compete with the opponent in tournaments armed to the teeth, is now a world that will also support many more films supplement, the basics of the game hardly play a role most of the time. This also comes at the expense of the atmosphere. Once the prologue, bathed in a rich gray-blue and surrounded by artificial fog, is over, the seriousness established in these minutes gives way to a much more light-hearted adventure plot. Established in the style of an origin story by newcomer Greg Russo and the blockbuster-proven writer Dave Callaham (“Wonder Woman 1984”) wrote the script for all the characters and deals with their peculiarities and quirks, strengths and weaknesses – both physical and psychological – in an expedited manner. With the exception of the main actor Lewis Tan, who has excellent martial arts skills (“Deadpool 2”) Hardly any other figure receives such intense attention. Above all, Sonya Blade, who acts as a kind of mentor, and the unpredictable Kano primarily act as cue providers and one-liner suppliers.
Things are pretty bloody in “Mortal Kombat”.
The latter always attracts everyone’s attention with his – in the truest sense of the word – insane performance. But Josh Lawson’s (“Bombshell – The End of Silence”) The mock psychopath here only serves the purpose of an amusing caricature. His outbursts of anger sometimes reveal the superpowers with which the “Mortal Kombat” fighters try to eliminate their opponents. But Kano’s aloof attitude, which is actually supposed to be frightening, even turns him into a kind of comic relief at times. Something that could hardly have been Simon McQuoid’s intention when you look at the hardness and intensity with which he lets the weapons and fists do the talking, especially in the last twenty minutes. Then, without the previously piled-up story ballast, undecided between “too much” and “too little”, all the moves with which the game so delights its fans come into play. Nevertheless, it takes well over an hour of the almost 100 minutes (without credits) until the focus shifts to this. Before that, the origin story idea shines through; Image montages repeatedly summarize the fighters’ training progress, with a few short action sequences in between that primarily serve to illustrate the abilities of both sides. That’s understandable to a certain extent. The “Mortal Kombat” from 2021 does not rely on the knowledge of the players, but rather builds its own film world. But all of this could be done much more elegantly than with the help of interspersed explanatory monologues, which slow down the film’s action immensely – and, above all, almost exclusively comment on the events on earth. If there really is one or even several sequels, there is a lot of catching up to do in the development of Outworld.
“In the style of an origin story, the script, written by newcomer Greg Russo and blockbuster-proven writer Dave Callaham, establishes all the characters and deals with their peculiarities and quirks, strengths and weaknesses – both physical and psychological – in a fast-track process.”
The same goes for the computer effects. With a budget of around 55 million US dollars, “Mortal Kombat” is by no means one of the most expensive large-scale productions of the current decade (for comparison: Paul WS Anderson’s 1995 film cost a mere 18 million). Unfortunately, the film’s financial limitations are evident. The scenes lack tactility, particularly in the comic-like, exaggerated killing sequences and the depiction of superpowers, for example through fireballs thrown by the characters. Now the film as a whole has to be given credit for following in the footsteps of its original with its emphatically artificial visuality. Also that of Benjamin Wallfisch (“Blade Runner 2049”) The score contributed relies on a similar mix of epic instrumental soundscapes and driving techno and electro beats. Ultimately, all the ingredients are there to make “Mortal Kombat” the start of a film series. It remains to be seen whether those responsible will use the potential or whether the undeniable narrative weaknesses will ultimately dominate.
Conclusion: The “Mortal Kombat” film adaptation from 2021, with its implied world-building, would have enough potential to lead to a film series but also just as many arguments as to why hardly anyone should be interested in the characters apart from the convincing hyper-violence. An ambiguous matter.
“Mortal Kombat” is available on premium VOD starting May 13th.