Mortal Kombat failed to hit UK cinemas last year due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Many people also missed out on streaming services that had the film for a short time so, like myself, a lot of people’s first opportunities at watching the film will be the recent release on DVD, Blu Ray and 4K UHD formats. As soon as I saw the film was now available to buy physically I grabbed a copy and dived into a film that I had been excited for since its original announcement.
This review contains spoilers
Mortal Kombat kicks off with Hanzo Hasashi (Scorpion to the layman) with his family. The scene soon turns into Bi-Han’s domination over Hanzo’s clan. Bi-Han is Sub Zero within this film, but also Noob Saibot in the games after he becomes a wraith. Bi-Han kills Hanzo’s family apart from a baby that is hidden under a floor and also successfully kills Hanzo. There is some clever dialogue here between the two, whereby Bi-Han speaks Chinese to the Japanese Hanzo, who responds with a statement about not understanding him. The scene isn’t mesmerizing but it sets a good foundation to the film – or so I thought.
The movie changes to hundreds of year after this incident and we are greeted with a cage fighter named Cole Young. For the laymen out there – he doesn’t exists in any game, comic, movie or animation from the Moral Kombat universe. This instantly seemed strange as the lineup for Mortal Kombat is utterly huge – but let’s go with it for now. Young is a cage fighter, and not a very good one, who was born with a dragon marking that means he has been preselected for the Mortal Kombat tournament. Soon we learn that Outworld, who have won the last nine tournaments against Earth, tried to end the Hanzo bloodline all those years ago to stop “the prophecy” which ultimately means they will lose the tenth tournament. If they win the tenth tournament they will gain control over Earth Realm and enslave humanity.
It is obvious and cliche at this stage that Young is clearly part of the Hanzo bloodline. Outrealm soon start to travel to Earth Realm to kill off any human who has the marking to better their odds in the tenth tournament. Raiden becomes marginally involved to protect the warriors and once amalgamated they start training. Sonya Blade, Kano, Jax, Liu Kang and Kung Lao all train together and for those newer members of their group they try to unlock their Arcana. This is their “superpower” that people with the games will be familiar with. This is where the film becomes Hollywood expectation.
Kano gets his Arcana merely by becoming angry over an Egg Roll, Sonya gets her’s offscreen, Jax gets his by trying to lift a rock. But Cole Young – enters the Hollywood Realm which means that he cannot find his regardless of getting his ass handed to1 him on a silver platter for the entire film. Only when his family is in danger does his Arcana start to materialise. At this point I was certain he would take the role of Scorpion. But he didn’t. His superpower is a shiny suit, that protects him from all the whooping he receives, and two Tonfa’s (T-Baton’s). Now this guy literally does not win any fight in the movie up until this point, but because of this whoop-vest and two sticks he manages to obliterate Prince Goro of Shokan – one of the top fighters of Mortal Kombat and the reason Earth Realm lost so many tournaments. Right…
After this scene Cole Young precedes to gets his ass whooped yet again by other characters and needs assistance to win every fight thereafter. In the final battle against Bi-Han, Scorpion reappears from wandering the plains of Hell and defeats Sub Zero for him. At this stage in the film a lot of main roster characters have been killed, but presumably not for long as Shang Tsung, the slightly boring leader of Outworld, returns to take his dead warriors and throws some empty threats in their direction. This opens up the film for a sequel which, looking at the last scene, will include Johnny Cage.
Other than the excellent introductions of the Mortal Kombat fatalities that we grew up learning the moves to, the film seems mis-sold to me. I was very excited to see that Hiroyuki Sanada was taking the role of Hanzo Hasahi. A lot of the promotional material, and even the front cover contains this amazing actor as Scorpion. However the screen-time for Sanada was minimal and I feel a little manipulated into purchasing the film.
In regards to Cole Young – he has no characteristics of any kind other than being a poor fighter. Young is literally pushed as the new hero of Earth Realm in place of Lui Kang, but hs is utterly awful. The character as a person, a fighter and even his Arcana is poor. Young is a product of cliche writing that doesn’t capture the essence of the Mortal Kombat franchise in the least. Main roster characters were pushed to one side for this Hollywood fabrication that definitely isn’t a “flawless victory”.