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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Review: Mortal Kombat (2021)

Director: Simon McQuoid

Screenplay: Greg Russi, Dave Callaham, and Oren Uziel

Year: 2021

I promised myself that I would not review the new “Mortal Kombat” movie for not being strictly a horror movie but, what can I say,  the fact that you are reading these lines shows that self-control is not one of my virtues. All in all, the amount of gore in this movie justifies opening a space for it on this circle, right?

This new “Mortal Kombat” version takes place before the iconic tournament. The warriors from Outworld have won the past nine tournaments and only need to win one more to take control of the Earthrealm. Shang Tsung wants to ensure that victory and focuses on eliminating the fighters chosen to represent Earth and win the tournament by lack of opposition. However, the Earthrealm fighters prove to be harder to subdue than expected.

I don’t recall playing the original games on the arcade, but I vividly remember the trilogy that made its impactful entry to the Nintendo 64 (and Playstation PS1) and won over those who didn’t know the charismatic fighters. What distinguishes this franchise from other fighting games is its wild violence, exemplified in the fatalities. This is something that the previous films did not emphasize, probably to get a PG-13 rating, but that in this one is put forward and gets it an R classification, more appropriate for the franchise.

The story offered by the screenwriters Greg Russi, Dave Callaham (“Wonder Woman 1984”), and Oren Uziel (“The Cloverfield Paradox”) and directed by the debutant Simon McQuoid has two important streams: the backstory of the rivalry between two of the franchise’s most iconic characters Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada; “The Wolverine”) and Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim; “The Raid: Redemption”), and the mythos around the tournament. As expected, the movie pulls plenty of references from the games, and although it is more skewed towards the newer games, It doesn’t forget those that were the platform of its success. From references to characters and their weapons (some of which can show up in a future sequel) to references to the fighting mechanism, where the infamous leg sweep that drove many players mad is showcased, “Mortal Kombat” uses nostalgia to its favor and effectively homages its successful trajectory.

It cannot be disputed that this movie uses the story of the games well and that it is fun, but it cannot be denied that it has some flaws. Among these, it is worth mentioning that in its effort to add as many fights as possible, the character development and plot are too fast, resulting in an action-packed movie but with a choppy and weak script. It also tries to show the fatalities the best that it can, but they still feel a bit short of what the games regularly offer. In some of these scenes, CGI is preferred, which in some work, but others look worse than those in the 1995 version, although not worse than those in “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”.

The new “Mortal Kombat” accomplishes its objective by far: it is violent, fun, and pays homage to the whole franchise. It can be argued that it has some flaws like the script or how it substitutes sprays of fake blood by gushes of CGI blood, reminiscent of the earlier games, but it overcomes this by being faithful to the series and its characters and heavily focusing on fun fights and explicit fatalities. The ending leaves the fight open and suggests at least one sequel, that let’s hope it continues on this same path and finishes the fight with a gory fatality.

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