The original Mortal Kombat from 1995 was as decent of a video game adaptation as one could be. Sure, it was cheesy and the effects have not aged well in recent years, but one thing it had was a sense of self-awareness; it relished in those corny effects and dusty atmosphere, making it feel like the video game that it was based on. The only thing it was missing, however, was enough bloodshed and brutal fatalities to give it the R-rating it so desperately needed. When the original game was released, it caused controversy among parents and politicians for its use of graphic violence, causing the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) to come up with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to ensure that what children were playing was or was not appropriate for them. Now, after twenty-six years, we finally get a live-action Mortal Kombat movie with all the gore, profanity, and crudeness that make for an R-rated extravaganza!
From its opening, it is clear that this Mortal Kombat does not hold back from the bloodshed, giving us a bit of history on the rivalry between Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada) in a way reminiscent of martial-arts films with revenge plots, as we see hacking and slashing of assassins while a family becomes massacred; though it is only the beginning as our story goes into action centuries later. In the present, a tournament called “Mortal Kombat” is being held in Outworld in which a group of fighters with a certain mark are called in to participate, in a fight for the universe. MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) is one of those fighters, as he joins special forces operatives, Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) and Jax (Mehcad Brooks), along with mercenary, Kano (Josh Lawson in a scene-stealing performance) as they set out to Raiden’s temple to train with Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang), in order to stop Sub-Zero and Shang Tsung (Chin Han) from taking over Earthrealm.
Mortal Kombat (2021) is filled to the brim with so many references and callbacks to the games, that many fans will be familiar with. Not a scene goes by where you hear such phrases as “Finish him/her” “Flawless victory”, and the rest. This reboot was clearly made with the fans in mind; upping the blood and gore, which the original was afraid to tread, though one’s enjoyment of Mortal Kombat (2021) depends on whether you are into the lore, or do not care about good old bloodshed as delivered. Much like the games, there are fatalities, with each one relishing in bloody glory, enough to make you say “Oh sh*t” to your screen; it is best not to get attached if you have a favorite character. Who am I kidding? The violence is over-the-top, you would not even think twice!
Compared to the ’95 film, I would say that the 2021 reboot delivered enough enjoyment for me to get into that I would say it tops the original in almost every aspect. However, no matter which you prefer, let us agree that it is an improvement over the godawful Mortal Kombat: Annihilation!