Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 50 minutes, Director – Simon McQuoid
MMA fighter Cole (Lewis Tan) finds himself recruited to take part in the deadly Mortal Kombat tournament, with the aim of stopping evil Outworld forces from taking over the Earthrealm.
Simon McQuoid makes clear from the opening scene of this modern take on the classic Mortal Kombat video game series that this is not in the same vein as the cheesy, brightly-coloured films of the 90’s. Both in terms of tone and hopeful quality, while Paul W.S. Anderson’s 1995 adaptation does have it’s fans the ’97 sequel Annihilation is undeniably regarded as a dreadful video game adaptation. It’s weird to think that this is McQuoid’s feature debut. He’s spent much of his career directing grand scale adverts for major brands, with some video game-involved experience. He has an eye for worlds and uses that to immerse the viewer into those that make up the divides and action within this adaptation of the successful arcade action series. Perhaps the best video game adaptations are those that explore and expand the world’s that they’re set in – I’ll continue to defend Duncan Jones’ Warcraft! McQuoid and the rest of the film’s crew do just this and make for a number of engaging battles throughout.
The Mortal Kombat tournament is a series of death-matches that protagonist Cole (Lewis Tan) finds himself recruited and training for. Alongside Sonya (Jessica McNamee) and Jax (Mehcad Brooks) who have been investigating the competition, Cole discovers that other participants of the generational fights from the Outworld are planning on taking over the Earthrealm before the next event. Joining the trio is cocky fighter Kano (Josh Lawson). Kano is undeniably the source of the continuing R-rated content when the crimson bloodshed isn’t lining the film. His mass dropping of the f-bomb does begin to often feel as if it’s just written in the remind the viewer that this is an R-rated feature and so it will have some more graphic violence soon. It’s safe to say that as a character, especially with his wisecracks amounting to mostly failed attempts at comic relief, isn’t the easiest to get on with throughout the film.
Yet, the film knows that we’re here for the action. Fights that involve fire and ice throwing, teleporting beings and plenty of hand-to-hand combat. There’s a video game sensibility to some of these moments, particularly in the second half of the film as they become the main focus with most characters having interacted in some way by now. A loose plot is somewhat formed around, or building up to, fight scenes. While the camera does sometimes cut back and forth before and after punches, kicks, stabs, etc and again to show the impact; giving a chaotic unfocused feeling that does make some of the action a bit difficult to follow at times, there’s still plenty to enjoy. There is still some swift, effective action, a fair deal of fatalities certainly live up to the film’s R rating aims (a solid 15 certificate here in the UK).
It’s enjoyable and makes for an engaging watch, and, again, a handful of shots have that video game-like feel to them. This could likely work well for those more aware of the games. And in this vein there are plenty of names, characters and details that are sure to please fans of the series, while not pushing away the casual viewers, unaware of the names and faces in the Mortal Kombat universe. This may not be a flawless victory, but it’s certainly not a fatality.
There’s a definite line of entertainment to be had here for both fans of the games and those who know very little, if not nothing, about them, especially in regards to the action and fights in the second half. Each with their own elements that slightly add to the world-building feel of the earlier scenes and never allowing (most of) its central characters, in a film that is sometimes quite busy with multiple figures popping up here and there; at least making clear who’s good and bad, to feel degraded or silly. This take on Mortal Kombat is far from the tackier family friendly fare of the mid-late-90s and it’s all the better for it.
Mortal Kombat fortunately uses it’s worlds, rather than the fairly loose plot, as a device to ease the viewer in to the violent bloodshed that makes up the, sometimes too chaotic, video-game-like action that boosts the entertainment factor of the piece, by the end making for an enjoyable video game adaptation.