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Posted on May 4th 2021 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under RF Cinema, Mortal Kombat, video game movies, movies

Back in the ancient time that was the 1990s, Mortal Kombat brought the video game franchise that shocked the world with its goriness to the big screen. It wasn't necessarily a good movie, but by staying true to its source material and not taking itself too seriously, it's managed to remain one of the very best examples of what a video game movie should be.

Now, over 15 years and several sequels later, a Mortal Kombat reboot film is here. Is it a worthy successor to the franchise, or will it be remembered with the likes of train wreck films like Doom and Battleship?

Looking at the IMDB credits for this new entry doesn't inspire a lot of hope. This appears to be director Simon McQuoid's full length feature debut, and the credited writers are either equally inexperienced or have pretty spotty resumes. Thankfully, it's obvious from the opening scene that much of the main cast is populated with actual martial arts experts, as in the first film.

The opening scene is a prologue where we see Bi-Han facing off with Hanzo Hasashi. For those not up on their MK lore, these characters go on to become Sub-Zero and Scorpion, respectively. The movie doesn't bother to explain why Bi-Han is after Hanzo and his clan, but it kind of doesn't matter. The scene makes for an awesome and lengthy fight sequence, where we get a glimpse of Han's icy powers.

Then Mortal Kombat jumps forward a couple centuries, again without explanation. Over the next few scenes we're introduced to Cole Young, Sonya Blade, Jackson Briggs, and Kano. Believe it or not, the new film has even less plot development than the first MK movie. When Cole first meets Sonya, she tells him that after she and Jax encountered someone with a dragon tattoo on their body (yes, that dragon logo) she's spent the last seven years "researching" what it is and what it means. In about 60 seconds, we get an explanation that anyone with the dragon logo on them has been chosen for a tournament called, you guessed it, Mortal Kombat. And that's basically it.

Maybe this is in one of the MK games I never finished, but this is the first time I've ever heard Reptile go by the name "Syzoth"

The entire remainder of the plot involves the chosen heroes traveling to Raiden's hidden temple so they can train for the tournament and find their "aura," which is the source of their power that will enable them to compete against Shang Tsung and his warriors from Outworld. Shang Tsung has no intention of playing fair, so he's sent his fighters to Earthrealm to kill the good guys before the tournament even starts.

There's not a lot about Mortal Kombat's storyline that makes much sense, and most of Tsang Sung's fighters are introduced without any explanation whatsoever. By the time the second act is in full swing, Raiden, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Mileena, Kabal, Nitara, and Reiko are all vying for screen time. As busy as it all gets though, it's still not as much of a mess as 1997's Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and once everyone is on the scene, things don't really slow down until the end credits roll.

Kung Lao was always my favorite. Where do I get a blade hat like that?

This is probably MK's biggest strength. It's so busy with fight scenes and trying to make lame references to its source material that you don't really have time to think about how nothing plot-wise actually happens. Hearing Kano announce "Kano wins!" and Kung Lao telling the team they must "test their might" are so obvious and shoe-horned into their scenes that they made me roll my eyes. But the fights themselves are genuinely impressive, and the characters are just hammy enough and play their parts well-enough that you kind of get into it, to the point where you don't mind seeing Liu Kang's fire dragon show up, or that Kung Lao actually does sink his hat into the ground like a buzz saw.

In short, Mortal Kombat 2021 works in many of the same ways its 1995 predecessor did. It doesn't try to do too much with the story and instead lets the ridiculous characters and fight scenes take center stage. After my first viewing, I was pretty critical of it, but during the second, I started to judge it based on its lineage rather than that of other movies. After seeing the credits for the second time, I was pretty on board with the whole thing, and am actually looking forward to the inevitable sequel. I won't spoil here the way Hanzo and Bi-Han's fight in the opening scene ties into the ending, but the climactic battle between Scorpion and Sub-Zero is freaking rad. If you enjoyed the 1995 film, then I can definitely recommend the 2021 reboot.

Are you excited for a new MK movie? Did you see it and want to tell me how wrong (or right) I am? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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