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‘Mortal Kombat’ movie review: A sluggish reboot that has no Mortal Kombat tournament

A still from ‘Mortal Kombat’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Those who have played Mortal Kombat in their teens know that there is little in terms of story the video game has to offer. We all picked up the console to gore our opponents and then to hear the immortal words: “Finish him!” But when you still go ahead with a film adaptation, it doesn’t hurt to try.

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Directed by Simon McQuoid — a reboot of the franchise that brought us a couple of gory films in the ‘90s — the latest film adaptation is no different.

Mortal Kombat begins in 17th Century Japan where Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and his family are slaughtered to death by Bi Han/Sub Zero (Joe Taslim). As fate would have it, Hasashi’s child survives the carnage and is taken into safe custody by Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). Fast forward to the present day and we see Cole Young (Lewis Tan), the protagonist and a descendant of Hasashi’s; Cole is a mixed martial artist past his prime, and he has the dragon mark on his body (the game’s logo) but he thinks it is a birthmark and doesn’t realise its potential until one day Sub Zero returns to Earth realm to eliminate the remaining champions ahead of the next Mortal Kombat tournament.

‘Mortal Kombat’
  • Director: Simon McQuoid
  • Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada and others
  • Story line: A team of champions bearing the dragon logo have to come together to save the Earth realm from villains of The Outworld

Making a video game adaptation work on screen is a tricky proposition. Mortal Kombat starts off with an obvious disadvantage in that there cannot be a more bland story arc. It is basically the stuff you have seen Avengers do in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — a group of renegade personalities coming together to save the world — but without an emotional hold on the audience.

Mortal Kombat just ambles on — from scene-to-scene and from one ordinary dialogue to another — before we get to another pointless action sequence. The lone bright spot seems to be Kano (a very funny Josh Lawson). To make things worse, there isn’t actually a Mortal Kombat tournament that happens because Shang Tsung, the evil boss from The Outworld, wants to kill all champions before the tournament can happen: which seems odd especially when The Outworld has won nine out of 10 previous tournaments with the Earth realm. Lacking confidence much?

A still from ‘Mortal Kombat’

A still from ‘Mortal Kombat’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

One likeable aspect is that unlike Avengers or the MCU, there isn’t hesitation to kill off characters; the combatants are expendable and so when the sequel is made, we could see more interesting characters flying off the script.

Towards the end, Shang Tsung promises to bring armies to the Earth realm next. But let’s hope that there is more of a character arc, plot and just cause to these fights when that happens. Otherwise, we would be left with another film that is nothing more than an unhealthy montage of training videos, unoriginal dialogues and mindless action.

Mortal Kombat is currently playing in theatres

 

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 1:55:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/mortal-kombat-movie-review-a-sluggish-reboot-that-has-no-mortal-kombat-tournament/article34392649.ece

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