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‘Mortal Kombat’ (2021) Is The Strongest Video Game Film Adaptation To Date – Review

They did it! Director Simon McQuoid, screenwriters Greg Russo and Dave Callaham, the producers of New Line Cinema and James Wan’s Atomic Monster Productions, and the cast and crew of Mortal Kombat (2021) pulled it off. The highly anticipated Rated R flick is one of the most enjoyable, gory, and faithful video adaptations ever made to date. For years video game movies have been dismissed, but I’m here to tell you that the newest Mortal Kombat film delivers on the big-screen action, bloodshed, blades, and good ole ’90s nostalgia.

The main plot of the movie traverses familiar ground. Focusing on the Earthrealm heroes facing off against the forces of Outworld. What’s new is the heroes starting off uninformed and unpowered on their journey to find what their marks mean and work to unlock their powers. The refreshing part is while there are plenty of fights and fury there is no official tournament giving the franchise places to go and grow as a narrative and character-driven film.

Mehcad Brools as Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs and Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero/Bi-Han in New Line Cinema’s action adventure Mortal Kombat. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

One of the most joyous parts of the film is its full appreciation for the cheesiness of the source material. The writers weren’t afraid to include the Mortal Kombat announcer’s most memorable lines to bolster the nostalgia and respect for the source material. The filmmakers leaned fully into everything Ed Boon, John Tobias, Paulo Garcia, and John Edwards created for Midway back in 1992. The new cast certainly shines but the real star of this movie is Mortal Kombat itself. The sheer number of Mortal Kombat characters that appear is surprising. From the trailers, it’s impossible to piece together just how many of them will show up. The just under two-hour run time packs in as many fights and character appearances as you can handle. 

Shifting to the action, the logline here is that it just plain works. Violence? Check. Game references? Yup. Moves that make you turn from the screen and say “Dammmnn”? Definitely. The camera-work does a good job of covering each action piece and making it look good for the film medium while cutting in and shifting to the side angle made famous in the games. There are more than a few “Krushing Blows” and “Fatalities” spread through the run time. Every time one of the known moves flashes on-screen a small jolt of joy hits. The CG is plentiful but never distracting. The effects work well, especially with Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Bi-Han a.k.a. Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim). 

Mortal Kombat - Still
Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion/Hanzo Hasashi and Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero/Bi-Han in New Line Cinema’s action adventure Mortal Kombat. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Now is as good a time to highlight some of the incredible cast. Starting with Hiroyuki Sanada who plays the iconic Hanzo Hasashi a.k.a. Scorpion. Sanada is a geeky favorite who elevates whatever he appears in; he carries a general air of badassery with all his roles, most notably in Lost, Westworld, and The Wolverine. If anything is one thing to be said about this movie it’s that the “Kombat” delivers and Hiroyuki’s scenes might be the best among them.

Mehcad Brooks is also a fan-favorite and well-cast in his part. His massive arms and glorious mustache pair nicely with his natural charisma. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about this film is that Jax needed more screen time (he gets a good amount) but we could have had more. In an almost comedic way, Brooks’s python arms seem to be more centred in the frame than the actor himself. Stellar choice filmmakers.

Lewis Tan as Cole Young in New Line Cinema’s action adventure Mortal Kombat. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

Another notable character and actor is Sub-Zero played by Joe Taslim. Taslim is just purely badass in this role. He carries himself like a real cold-blooded ass-kicker and the best fight scenes are centred around his distinctly adapted ice powers. In some ways, there are almost too many villains to mention. As mentioned before a surprising amount of Mortal Kombat characters make an appearance in this one. The film in some ways portrays Scorpion on the side of good (Earthrealm) and Zero on the side of evil (Outworld). This was not always a line drawn in the game series, but it is fun to think about their clans warring over the years like the Montagues and Capulets or Sharks and Jets. Historically “Scorpion” was not a hero, but for the movie, it works to create a compelling narrative and one that gives a purpose to the fights.

The props and costume departments definitely tested their might on this production, which needs great designs to liven up the world on-screen. The design for Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Cole Young’s (Lewis Tan) costumes are amongst the best. The look of the film is just as vital as the fight choreography, and fans will be thoroughly satisfied with how these characters and the world translates to the big screen.

Ludi Lin as Liu Kang and Max Huang as Kung Lao in New Line Cinema’s action adventure Mortal Kombat. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)

This new Mortal Kombat is a great reintroduction of the franchise to a whole new generation. The superb fights and gut-wrenching violence are stitched perfectly to the roots of this series. If anything this makes you want more Mortal Kombat. Give us a Kung Lao (Max Huang) + Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) prequel series, give us a Sonya (Jessica McNamee) + Jax buddy drama, we want an Earthrealm Raiden Travel Channel series! Also Raiden (Tadanobu Asano)… we need you to step up your game in the sequel. (Sure, you can’t interfere but come on man let that lightning loose my dude!) Needless to say, there is an entire film and TV franchise that can be mined from this film.

Mortal Kombat (2021) will both satisfy your appetite and leave you wanting more. Not just more from amazing cast or talent behind-the-scenes, but more entries to this brutally awesome film series. Great job to all who created this fantastic film, you delivered a flawless victory!

Rating: 8.5/10

Mortal Kombat (2021) is playing in theatres internationally and will be released in the United States on April 23, simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max.

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