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Wednesday October 20th

Column: New 'Mortal Kombat' film adapts the games faithfully

Hiroyuki Sanada, left, as Scorpion/Hanzo Hasashi and Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero/Bi-Han in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “Mortal Kombat." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros./TNS
Buy Photos Hiroyuki Sanada, left, as Scorpion/Hanzo Hasashi and Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero/Bi-Han in New Line Cinema’s action adventure “Mortal Kombat." Photo courtesy of Warner Bros./TNS

"Mortal Kombat" is exactly the violent, nostalgic movie I expected it to be. 

The adaptation of the popular video game series is the latest production under the HBO Max and Warner Brothers deal and is currently playing on the streaming platform and in theaters simultaneously. 

I think the modern remake is better than the older two movies, "Mortal Kombat" and "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," which were released in 1995 and 1997, respectively. Those films have a certain charm to them, with outdated effects and unrealistic combat scenes. 

The newest movie outdoes the older movies in some aspects, though not without its own faults.

The plot is as bland and basic as any other summer sci-fi blockbuster: the chosen one, Cole Young, must fulfill the prophecy and save the world from the forces of evil. 

But let’s be honest, people did not come to this movie for an Oscar-worthy story, it’s all about the nostalgia and the violence, and "Mortal Kombat" does not disappoint. Iconic tropes from the video games — like move spamming, flawless victories and fatalities — are generously referenced and joked about, which elevates the overall movie. 

The film's willingness to joke about the ridiculousness of the lore and the universe is something I appreciate.

In addition to the nostalgic references, the score is mostly refurbished versions of the original EDM soundtrack from the 1995 movie, piling more nostalgia on top of the constant references.

While I enjoyed the violence in the movie, it seemed redundant in light of the John Wick franchise, which has a similar gimmick but did it better.

The problem at the core of the movie comes from the tonal dissonance between the heroic characters and the actions they take. For example, Jax gained his power by saving his friend, then afterward brutally murders one of the villains, then delivers a snarky quip. 

On the other hand, this is a "Mortal Kombat" movie, so censoring the violence or taking away the quips would only serve to disappoint the fanbase the series has built over 25 years.

My favorite aspect of the movie was Kano, the temperamental Australian mercenary who butts heads with Cole Young. Actor Josh Lawson had a good comedic chemistry with his co-stars, which helped ground the fantastical universe by poking fun at its ridiculousness.

I also thought that the action scenes were expertly choreographed, with some impressive martial arts on display throughout the film.

The film is not a masterpiece in any sense of the word, but it certainly met my expectations as a grotesque and fantastic martial arts display with self-referential and comedic moments throughout. 

Joe Taslim, who plays Sub-Zero, has confirmed that he is under contract for sequels, and I am interested to watch how the series develops.


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