As a teenager back in the 1990s, I was a fan of the video game Mortal Kombat. It was the most popular game in the early 90s, then a film version came out in the summer of 1995 and it was a big success. So much so that the studio fast-tracked a sequel that would come out two years later. Unfortunately, the sequel was so bad and failed at the box office that it killed the film franchise. Now, almost 30 years later a new reboot of the franchise is hitting the big and small screens.
The story kicks off in 17th century Japan, Hanso/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) is living a quiet life with wife and children. Suddenly, assassins show up and kill his men and family. The man who’s in charge of the attack is Bi-Han/Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). A brutal fight between Hanso and Bi-Han ensued and unfortunately Hanso was not able to defeat Bi-Han. It’s unclear why Hanso and his family were attacked, the filmmakers somehow assumed that people already know their back stories. That’s one of the many mistakes they made for this reboot.
Fast forward to present day and we’re introduced to a has been fighter named Cole Young (Lewis Tan), he’s in an underground fight and got his butt whooped. While getting dinner with his wife and daughter at a restaurant after the fight, Sub-Zero suddenly showed up and started attacking them. Then Jax (Mehcad Brooks) came to their rescue, he instructed Cole to find Sonya (Jessica McNamee) who has the answer as to why suddenly his family’s life is in danger. Once Cole tracked down Sonya, she informed him that he’s one of the chosen fighters to defend earth from the evil lord named Shang Tsung (Chin Han) who lives in an Outworld and wants to rule our world. Sonya tells Cole that they have to find a hidden temple that house the world’s best fighters that can defend our world from the evil fighters from the Outworld. Cole agreed because he wants to save his family from danger. There’s not much else when it comes to the plot, the rest of the movie is full of bloody fights and special effects.
The screenplay is credited to Greg Russo and Dave Callahan, it’s a not bad script but not good either. By making the story more “grounded” and serious, it just took the fun out of it for me. The original 1995 film wasn’t great but at least it knows that it’s silly world they’ve created and just had fun with it. Here they tried to go all Nolan’s Dark Knight route and just didn’t work for me. Also, I thought there’s way too much fan service. I don’t mind if the filmmakers decided to include things from the source material, but this is a different medium and I expected something better from the creatives that are involved in making a film version. First time director Simon McQuoid moved things along by including brutal and bloody fights that fans of the video game will be happy to see. But narratively, he didn’t do a good job here. The movie also suffered from some very sloppy editing.
There’s not much to say when it comes to the performances. Some were cringeworthy and many were just wooden performances by the actors. The lead hero Cole is one of the weakest heroes I’ve seen in an action film. I don’t think it’s Lewis Tan’s fault since the character was so poorly written. The only stand out performance is Josh Lawson’s Kano, he’ basically the comic relief in an otherwise grim story.
Despite the shortcomings of this reboot, I still enjoyed it and of course the movie ended with tease of more sequels. Many fans of this video game are mostly in their 30s and 40s now, so I think some will enjoy it while many of us who expected more will likely be disappointed with this version. Me personally, I prefer the 1995 film version because it didn’t take itself too seriously and I had a lot of fun with it. I still think that original version is the “best” film based on video game.
So have you seen MORTAL KOMBAT? Well, what did you think?