Let’s get this out of the way first, this is no prestige drama. It’s not even in the same realm as highly acclaimed martial arts movies. But if you enjoyed the video games and all of their bloody fun, then yes, you’re going to love the hell out of this.
The new reboot of Mortal Kombat knows exactly what it’s trying to do it, and it manages to do it to some degree of success. The fights you want to see are there. So are some of the catchphrases, character moments, and fun little easter eggs. And perhaps most importantly, so is some of the borderline cartoony violence.
2021’s Mortal Kombat is a big improvement over the 90’s version. It at least takes itself a little more seriously, and has the ambition to be a sprawling high-concept martial arts fantasy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite get there.
The main issue is that it just can’t really decide if it wants to fully commit to anything. At times it tries to be an emotional drama like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. At other times, it’s basically breaking the fourth wall to wink at you with video game references. Straddling the line between both of these approaches hampers it quite a bit.
Going all in on the video game cheese would have helped it tremendously. There are moments where it comes close to this, especially when there’s a full one on one fight between two characters. At some points, it wouldn’t have been out of place for a health bar to have appeared on the screen or for a deep-voiced announcer to start shouting random things. But as soon as it feels as if the movie is ready to swing for the fences, things die back down and it reverts to an unearned emotional note.
That’s not to say that what’s there isn’t fun. The moments where the campiness and brutality amp up are freaking awesome. This is maybe just around twenty five percent of the whole movie, so there’s a lot of cutscenes to sit through between them. However, there’s one moment in particular in the final act that makes the whole movie worth it. When you hear the familiar 90’s techno come in, you’ll leap out of your skin.
It’s really unfair to try to really critique this movie. It’s purposefully a fun B-movie for fans of a specific game and particular genre. For the most part, it understands the assignment and gives its audience what it wants.
If and when there’s a sequel, let’s hope it fully commits to a flawless victory.