Mortal Kombat has now made it onto UK shores slightly later than planned, but fans of the iconic video game series can now see whether it was worth the wait – or, more accurately, worth the £15.99 rental.
The movie reboot introduces a new character into the world of Mortal Kombat in the form of MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) who's used to take a beating, but has no idea of his actual heritage. That is until Outworld's Emperor Shang Tsung (Chin Han) sends his best warrior Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) to hunt him down.
Narrowly surviving an attack thanks to Jax (Mehcad Brooks), Cole teams up with Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) and reluctant ally Kano (Josh Lawson) to find the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), protector of Earthrealm. Cole needs to quickly uncover his true nature in order to stand with Earth's greatest champions in a battle against Outworld.
If you've never played the Mortal Kombat games, that could all sound like nonsense and to be fair, it kind of is anyway. Crucially though, it is faithful to the mythology of the games bar some touches that make it more cinematic, such as the introduction of Cole as the audience surrogate into this world.
The faithfulness extends to the casting and the characters picked for this reboot, which is spot-on. It's hard to imagine any fan bemoaning the choices and while not all fan favourites are included (sorry, Johnny Cage fans), it's a great mix that has been brilliantly realised for the screen.
Lewis Tan might suffer in comparison to the already-established favourites, but Cole provides the heart that might have been missing if it was just a straight-up tournament movie. Everybody suffers in comparison to Josh Lawson's despicable Kano, though, who comfortably walks away with the movie.
The elements that Mortal Kombat fans would expect are all present and correct too, from the character phrases to the brutal and very bloody fatalities. Director Simon McQuoid is careful not to overuse game references though as it could have diluted their impact, but every one will provoke a joyful reaction from fans as the movie isn't overloaded with them.
However, and it'll be a pretty big however for some fans, McQuoid has also made the controversial decision to omit a full-scale tournament from the movie. It's been a subject of much discussion among fans since the movie's release in the US, and McQuoid doesn't come up with a satisfying alternative to it.
In some ways it makes sense as it could otherwise be seen as a remake of the 1995 movie and it also allows the movie to appeal to a wider fanbase, introducing them to the fantastical world. The problem is that the story chosen instead is generic and flat, and it's telling that when the fighters do take part in one-on-one combat, you can see how good it could have been.
The fight scenes are Mortal Kombat's saving grace as they're beautifully shot, avoiding quick-cut editing that affects many action set pieces. As with their gory fatalities, there are no holds barred in the fights and make full use of the international cast with various styles on display. You'll want more, but you have to make do with more exposition scenes instead.
Mortal Kombat still absolutely has enough about it to leave fans satisfied, especially with its fantastic final third. There's promise of more to come and now with the world established, maybe we'll get an unadulterated Mortal Kombat next time around. It's not quite a flawless victory, but neither is it a fatality for the series either.
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