Mortal Kombat: Big, Stupid, and (Mostly) Fun Re-Imagining

Comic books have provided entire cinematic universes. Comparatively, video games have a less prestigious history of small-to-big screen adaptations. Yes, the Resident Evil series proved to be a lucrative box office franchise. Though it’s not perfect, Silent Hill has its fair share of fans. Most video game adaptations, however, have been lacklustre, for lack of a better work. German director Uwe Boll (House of the Dead) is practically his own subgenre of bad movie. When Mortal Kombat hit theatres in 1995, it proved to be something of a surprise hit. Though it wasn’t the most accurate translation of the video game, Paul WS Anderson brought just the right mix of action and cheesiness. And then Mortal Kombat: Annihilation killed any franchise potential.


Cole, a washed-up MMA fighter, discovers a birthmark is an ancient seal shared by a handful of warriors. As a centuries old tournament between the Earth-realm and Outworld approaches, Cole seeks out other chosen warriors to prepare for ‘Mortal Kombat’. But when Outworld’s sorcerer, Shang-Tsung, sends his assassins to hunt down Earth’s heroes before the tournament, Cole must train harder than ever before to unlock his arcana – a hidden power – to defeat the forces of Outworld.

Mortal Kombat …

Prior to its release, Warner Bros Pictures released the first seven minutes of Mortal Kombat online. Arguably, this footage is the best part of the whole movie. The centuries-old rivalry between Bi-Han (Sub-Zero) and Hanzo Hasashi (Scorpion), and brutal opening fight it inspires, would have made a fascinating movie. However, director Simon McQuiod and writers Greg Russo and David Callaham focus on getting as many video characters into the movie as possible. As for the story itself, Mortal Kombat follows the convoluted mythology of its source material, with Sub-Zero and Scorpion’s rivalry taking a backseat.

Cole’s journey into Mortal Kombat offers us an expository-laden window into the universe’s rules.

Instead, Mortal Kombat introduces us to its world through a new character – Cole Young – who shares a history with Hanzo Hasashi. By the way, this isn’t a spoiler as anyone should be able to figure that out. Cole’s journey into Mortal Kombat offers us an expository-laden window into the universe’s rules. Audiences unfamiliar with the video game will probably still be confused. None of this matters. Ultimately, Mortal Kombat’s story is a cobbled-together excuse to take us from one fight to the next. Much of the movie feels like a prequel. In fact, Mortal Kombat doesn’t give us the tournament that’s the subject of the title.

No Story, No Problem For Mortal Kombat

Fortunately, no one is watching Mortal Kombat for its story. After all, this is a movie based on a fighting video game. And McQuoid delivers on exactly what the movie promises. As compared to Anderson’s cartoonish version, McQuoid offers slickly choreographed, R-rated fight scenes. You’ll find plenty of CGI-blood as heads explode, characters impale or slice enemies into pieces, and limbs are frozen off bodies. Fan favourite Sub-Zero features prominently in the movie’s best scenes. Over 25 years have passed since the original Mortal Kombat and the visual effects here are much improved. If the movie’s story is underwhelming, McQuoid et al embrace the video game’s creative carnage.

You’ll find plenty of CGI-blood as heads explode, characters impale or slice enemies into pieces, and limbs are frozen off bodies.

Longtime fans of the video game will love seeming more faithful renditions of their favourite characters. Despite its focus on a new character, you’ll still get plenty of Sonya Blade, Jax, Liu Kang, Kano, Mileena, Kabal, and Kung Lao. At various points in the movie, you’ll get to hear your favourite catchphrases from the game. To account for characters’ otherworldly powers from the game, McQuoid et al introduce the concept of ‘arcana’ or some power pulled from the soul itself. The logic here is paper thin. Still no one is likely to care as it makes for some cool visual scenes. Moreover, this Moral Kombat gives us a slightly more convincing and mobile Goro.

Mortal Kombat Improves On Past Movie Adaptations

Given its source material, no one should be surprised that Mortal Kombat’s ‘barely present’ story is underwhelming. And its killer opening sequence promises a very different – and arguably better – movie than what’s delivered. But instead of giving us that movie, Mortal Kombat slavishly caters to fan service by cramming in as much as the video game mythology as possible. Nonetheless, the fight scenes meet all expectations and Moral Kombat makes good use of its R-rating. Besides there’s a certain giddy delight that comes with seeing your favourite characters brought to life on screen. Video game fans should love it; general moviegoers will still mostly enjoy the violent cheesy action.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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