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Film Review: Mortal Kombat (2021)

09:00 April 28, 2021
By: Fritz Esker

Based on the wildly popular video game series, the new Mortal Kombat (in theaters and on HBO Max) captures the over-the-top gore that made the video games unique at the time of their release but fails to add an interesting story or characters to the bloodshed.

In the interest of full disclosure, yes, I do like video games. I am old enough (43) to have played Mortal Kombat in arcades during my early high school years. But it was never a cherished franchise for me (Double Dragon was my favorite, and that had its own terrible film adaptation in the 90s). So if you're a devoted fan of the Mortal Kombat games, take the above information for whatever it's worth.

In the new film (there was also a bad 1995 adaptation), an MMA fighter (Lewis Tan) discovers he is one of the chosen fighters to represent Earth in an inter-dimensional fighting tournament. If Earth loses 10 times in a row, the bad guys, led by Shang Tsung (Chin Han), will take over the world. At the start of the film, Earth is on a nine-tournament losing streak.

The filmmakers were right to make the new Mortal Kombat an R-rated endeavor (the 1995 one was PG-13). A gaming franchise notable for its gore should be gory on the big screen, too. There are indeed a few moments of creative bloodshed in a few of the fight scenes, even if the fight choreography itself is pretty pedestrian. But the attempts at character development are pretty stiff and there's lots of expository dialogue. It's hard to introduce this many characters in a 110-minute film. For a film about fighting, the middle third is pretty dull and devoid of action.

Mortal Kombat is for hardcore fans of the franchise only.

** stars (out of four)

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