Mortal Kombat Movie 2021: Get Over There!

The Mortal Kombat movie 2021 is out now in cinemas (in the UK). Should you finish it, or perhaps avoid it all together? I'm asking.

Have you seen the Mortal Kombat movie 2021 ‘extended trailer’ on YouTube yet? The one where Scorpion and Sub-Zero have an origin fight? Yeah? Well, leave it at that and save yourself some time as it wasn’t as expected, and after some research, it isn’t based on a true story.

I was expecting to see Hayden Christiansen as Scorpion, and Freddie Prinze Jr. as Sub-Zero – not an actual quality actor such as Hiroyuki Sanada, a real-life Japanese man, playing a Japanese character instead of some miscellaneous ‘character actor’ speaking in phonetics. What is this – an arthouse film with credibility? 

The opening sequence is wicked, and any fellow man-child who has grown up with the series will have been riding into Bonerville as our beloved characters come to life on screen. Especially when it looks so ‘professional’, when Sanada, a bona fide martial artist, is pulling off slaps without any CG. At least, not that much

Fellow actor Joe Taslim, him off of The Raid (watch that instead) was pretty menacing too – both in the intro and throughout. No spoilers, but he was very well cast. As for the rest of the ensemble (except for Kano)… meh.

Mortal Kombat Movie 2021 – Memories Revitalised?

Mortal Kombat has been one of my go-to franchises since playing it for the first time in the arcade. The subwoofer used to shake the local amusements arcade by the sea with “Finish Him/Her/They/Them”, blood-curdling screams and gratuitous moves. Eff Street Fighter II – that’s for kids. The only thing was, we never knew the moves – just Liu Kang’s, Scorpion’s ‘spear’ and Sub-Zero’s freeze.

Mortal Kombat movie 2021 - Kano the charmer
Super Mario Bros. 4. Source: Warner Bros.

For me, it was always team Scorpion. At school, that was the uncool choice (heh! uncool, that was unintentional). 100 times cooler than that chap from Big Trouble In Little China flying across the screen cursing in Alienese. At least he wasn’t voiced by Tadanobu Asano.

Sure, Scorps was a badass, but Sub-Zero could freeze his opponents at will, slide across the screen, and he wore blue. Cool

What’s that? Asano? Yeah, this sexy damn typist’s favourite actor (well, one of them). But that interest is from his acting work in his native Nippon – he’s wasted in Hollywood. I get that we non-Americans will see that you have to break America to be successful, but considering his filmography, he really doesn’t need to.

Here’s some Asano homework before continuing – so you know what he can do: Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip GirlTokyo ZombieElectric Dragon 80.000V or perhaps more well known, Ichi The Killer. 

Thunder… Lightning, Something Something

Asano plays Raiden in the film, and quite honestly, he makes Christopher Lambert look like Shaft. Asano oozes charm, charisma, courage and other good words that begin with C, but in the Mortal Kombat movie 2021, he was just underused and…flat.

Granted, you can’t do much with a film based on a videogame (or can you), but look what they said about comic book films. Now there are something like twelve different superhero films out there, and they’re all pretty good. Well done to Christopher Nolan for Batman Begins and Willard Huyck for Howard the Duck. Cockney rhyming slang?

Mortal Kombat movie 2021 - Caged but not Johnny
Caged, but not Johnny. Source: Warner Bros.

Anyway, Asano speaks in English throughout, and as popcorn cinemagoers only no English and don’t want to read other languages, speaking in his native tongue would be futile. Wait: Sanada only speaks Japanese (despite being fluent in English – I know him, we’re besties) aside from some fan service with Scorpions infamous line “Won’t you come over here?”.

I watched Mortal Kombat with my wife. She’s not a gamer, but she’s Japanese, so she knows Sanada and Asano, so stoked to see it. Throughout, I went all comic-book nerd from The Simpsons, telling her all about the characters – who was good, who was filler and so forth. It made me feel special, like I contributed to society, and perhaps, saved lives.

Easter Is Here (For Fans)

There’s certainly a lot of fan service in there, so anyone familiar with the games will pick up on catchphrases and Easter eggs such as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it photo of Kotal Khan (why is there so much hate for him? He was cool to play). A brief reference to that dude from The Jungle Book as well, so perhaps he’ll make an appearance in a sequel? No sign of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa reprising his role as Emperor Ming, and the replacement was… meh.

It’s hard to cover all your favourite characters and make it watchable and faithful to fans

While they’re (we) not likely to be die-hards like Star Wars fans, you gotta get a few things right. Including the two ninjas is a no-brainer, Sonya Blade… perhaps, Raiden is a must, Liu Kang, yes. However, his introduction was when it when downhill.

His acting was.. well, I note that he was acting, so was reminded that I was watching a film, shattering the hard work of a particular crim – coming up in a mo. 

Kang stared a little off-camera like he was going to break into song, then instead of a power ballad, released a torso that was created by a manga artist. This guy is ripped, but he looks like Michael Jackson circa Earth Song, with the physique of one of those kids you see in viral threads that look like they’re on steroids, but have been benching buildings for muscles like Goku.

Here’s a better muscle reveal clip by one of the best indie directors, Shinya Tsukamoto (scene from Ichi The Killer – coincidentally starring Raiden):

Expecting to see some fatalities in Mortal Kombat? Check. They’re as expected, with a few voiceovers in homage to the games. There was even a nod reference to a cage fighter that was an amalgamation of the game’s creators. I forget the name, but you’ll know what I’m talking about. 

Cannonball Run

The real fan tribute here is to Kano – my go-to Mortal Kombat character – avec the Australian accent as per the original movie. Bugger, I’ve just revealed my ace card. Should we ever face off on the game.

Kano, played by Josh Dawson, is the film’s highlight, outside of the opening sequence

That is until there’s a ‘character arc’ and it all changes. He’s the Deadpool in the film, highlighting the ridiculousness of it all with Kung Lao’s hat, how mad that everyone has an arcana power, and that he knows that he’s a c-word. He’s absolutely brilliant and steals every scene he’s in until about two-thirds in.

Mortal Kombat movie 2021 - Kano the charmer
Kano the Charmer. Source: Warner Bros.

I won’t cover the few characters that are left, just in case you haven’t seen the film. What was ‘interesting’, and I mean interesting as in ‘why?’, was the inclusion of the film’s protagonist, Carl Jung, or as written in the credits, Cole Young. No dissing the acting, he was fine, but the character was weak.

He’s an MMA fighter in the film and has the agility to pull it off. Actor Lewis Tan is much like Sanada and an accomplished fighter, dabbling in kung-fu, jiu-jitsu, and muai thay. But it’s neither his acting nor physical attributes that are to blame here, but just a lacklustre character, with a third act, reveal that reminded me of The Guyver when it comes to… aesthetics.

Will there be a sequel? Most likely. There are heaps of characters to explore. Those that were hinted at throughout the film were mostly lesser characters and to lick the arseholes of fans like me so they could show off to their wives (only have the one) about their Mortal Kombat knowledge and give that smug Tom Cruise grin to say “this one’s for you”.

Review scores are now mixed as more and more people make their way to the cinemas, pushing back the hordes of high street shoppers itching to spend all that money they’ve been squirrelling away for the past year. Should you spend your money on this? Do what you want. This isn’t a review, just a spontaneous ‘thought’ on a Sunday morning. What I will say is this. The first review I saw was Gamespot’s, and they gave it a 9/10. It’s no way that. More 6/10. But that’s why I don’t give scores – it’s opinion – nobody is right, just me.