A Battle to Beat Its History
It was 26 years ago when the characters of Mortal Kombat jumped from the video game console to the big screen. We got to see live action version of characters like Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Kano, Kitana, Sub-Zero, and Scorpion. While a bit cheesy at times, it was a good movie and quite true to the mythology of the game. Two yearslater, they came out with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation which was nowhere close to on par with the first movie. When it was announced that a new Mortal Kombat movie was coming out, there was definitely a lot of excitement. Given that the COVID pandemic is still going even with the vaccine getting quickly distributed, the movie was launched like a lot of big movies now, simultaneously in the theatres and on HBO Max. Mortal Kombat 11 has been out over 2 years now and a lot of the storylines in the game have been rebooted from their original paths so the question was what they would do with the characters this time. Below, I’ll be talking about the plot of the movie so if you haven’t seen it yet and plan to, come back later and see if you agree with me. Otherwise, read on and see what I thought about this Mortal Kombat movie.
We start out the movie in Japan many years ago with Hanzo Hasashi, the man who would become Scorpion. After a nice family scene that you know was set up to be destroyed, Bi-Han is introduced. This is the original Sub-Zero who was killed in the lore of the first game to be replaced by his brother. In the movie, this member of the Lin Kuei has his ice abilities which puts him a step ahead of Hanzo. Hanzo is an excellent fighter though and takes down adversary after adversary even creating a mortal version of his classic weapon by using rope and a blade he found. In the end, Sub-Zero wins and Hanzo ends up burning up into a pule of dust for some unexplained reason. Raiden shows up to save Hanzo’s daughter who was hidden right before Bi-Han had entered the family’s house. This introduction to the characters was a nice set-up.
Next we jump forward to modern time and are introduced to Cole Young. It’s obvious from the focus that he’s going to be important, but he’s never existed in the Mortal Kombat universe. Starting off what could be a new chain of movies is an off choice. The game has a lot of characters that could be picked from. The first movie focused on Liu Kang, Johnny, and Sonya. We’re introduced to his family as he loses an MMA fight which apparently has been a pattern for him. Enter Shang Tsung and his idea to cheat his win of Earth realm by killing off Earth’s champions before Mortal Kombat even occurs. My first question was how he would know who to kill. Well, it turns out the champions all share a dragon tattoo marking them as invited, one that can actually be transferred by killing someone else who has it. This was a big WTF moment for me. The fact that someone could steal a champion’s mark (which is exactly what Kano did) and become an Earth champion is a very odd idea, especially since someone who would kill a champion is not going to be a nice person despite proving to be stronger. This whole concept didn’t impress me and took me away from the good feel I had after the opening scene.
Of course, Cole has had one of these marks since he was born so Sub-Zero comes to hunt him down. Enter Jax who comes and saves Cole and his family and tells our hero what the tattoo means. This Jax looks smaller than what we’re used to from the games and even the movies. I guessed it was going to be him from his introduction but the casting seemed a little odd. Jax hangs back to hold off Sub-Zero while Cole and his family take off in the truck. I’m not sure why they didn’t all just take off in the truck to safety, but given that Jax was doing loops around the city instead of just getting out of there, I don’t think he was all that smart to begin with. A human Jax vs Sub-Zero at full power means the battle’s going to be a little one-sided. This ends up being the case as Zub-Zero freezes Jax’s arms off. Anyone who has played Mortal Kombat knew what was coming as soon as Sub-Zero grabbed his hands given Jax’s metal arms in the game. So far, things have been a little predictable.
Jump ahead to Cole dropping off his family and then heading to meet Sonya Blade. I have to say that the casting of Sonya was good. Jessica McNamee has the look and the demeanor to bring out the true character. The two of them enter the bunker while Sonya starts filling Cole in on all the stuff Jax and Sonya had found on Mortal Kombat. They have enough research on the history to make Fox Mulder proud and enough pictures and articles of Cole to make a stalker feel outdone. There’s even a picture of Nightwolf in some old paperwork so we probably assume we won’t be seeing him in a sequel. So, it turns out that Jax got his tattoo by killing some super powered being who had killed a champion. Because of this, they were able to pull together everything about Mortal Kombat. The name, the realms, and all sorts of odd details. She said it took years but given everything they found, they must not have done a whole lot more than this. I guess they books from the video games must have been accessible in this world or something to get all this from just a tattoo. This is becoming a really big jump to accept for me.
Our next guest star is Kano (sans the metal face plate) who has a tattoo too as I mentioned earlier. Sonya, on the other hand, does not have one. (Can anyone guess what’s this is leading up to eventually?) Enter Reptile. Not the guy in the green ninja suit either with or without the lizard skin. He’s an actual reptile though his does have his usual camouflage ability. He’s shown up to kill the champions, especially Cole it seems since he doesn’t go after Kano who is tied up and helpless. Eventually, Kano gets free and join in on the fight and manages to get the right side of his face cut. He can still see but has a pretty good scar which they never do anything about. They don’t even clean it or give him a Band-Aid let alone the metal plate I was waiting for throughout the whole movie. The fact that he never got that disappointed me as Kano is one of my favorite MK bad guys. Though after Joel Edgerton played him in the first movie, I’m sure he was a lot of gay guys’ favorite.
Following the battle, Sonya decides they need to get to a temple where the champions were known to train. (Did they have a Facebook page or something? How does she know these details!?) Of course, Kano happens to know right where it is so he gets the three of them airdropped in there. On the way there, Cole is having flashes of Hanzo’s weapon creating an obvious link. As they are looking for the temple from the drop point, Liu Kang walks walks over a dune and greets them to take them to the temple. At this this point, I’m just going with it. There must have been some mystical sensing of the tattoos or some such. Back at the temple, we meet Kung Lao and see Raiden again. Sonya is, of course, brushed off since she has no tattoo. One interesting thing they address is the special moves the fighters have in Mortal Kombat. In this world, the champions are able to use an arcana they gives them abilities like Liu Kang’s fireballs. After Shang Tsung (along with Milena and Sub-Zero) are kicked out of the temple by Rauden, Kano is able to learn to use his laser eye. Of course, Cole can’t figure out his and his sent home. Gotta build the drama. While all this is going on Sonya finds that they were able to save Jax and give him simple mechanical arms, nothing like what he has in the game though. Can anyone guess what his arcana will be? Yes, this movie is fairly predictable.
After Cole is teleported home, Kabal shows up and convinces Kano to turn on the others which didn’t take much. This allows the bad guys we’ve seen so far plus Nitara and Reiko to slip in and attack everyone. Just so no one is left out, Goro is sent after Cole who finally gets his arcana during battle. He has some sort of armor shirt that seen to absorb the energy of the hits that he can then redirect back. It also allows him to create a couple weapons. Of course, the guy who was getting his ass kicked in the ring is able to kill Goro. That makes sense. He gets back to the temple in time for Kung Lao to get killed. The rest of them escape and and make up a plan to battle the bad guys who happen to split up just as they need them to. The battle effects are one of the better things about the movie. It’s not til almost the end of the battle that Mileena actually shows her split jaw and jagged teeth. Throughout the rest of the movie, she just looked like she had a bloody face.
We reach the end game when Sub-Zero kidnaps Cole’s family and he takes off to save them. Being a descendant of Hanzo, Sub-Zero wants to end the bloodline. Thankfully, Hanzo comes back as Scorpion with his classing “Get over here!” The two fight Sub-Zero and he is defeated with Scorpion’s flame breath from his one fatality. After the battle, it’s time to gather new champions. The first one will be in Hollywood and you see a Johnny Cage movie poster. This leaves things open for a sequel. There are definitely enough characters to choose from.
Overall, it’s not a bad movie but not a great one. The best part of the movie are the special effects. The script itself is a bit predictable and the characters are pretty static. Honestly, if I had to recommend a Mortal Kombat movie, it would be the 1995 one. The effects may not be as flashy as they are nowadays but the story is more interesting and you see some growth in the characters, something that doesn’t exist in this movie. I’m not saying not to watch it. It’s an entertaining enough action movie but just keep your expectations on the lower end.