Despite being one of the most violent games ever released (of its time), in the nineties studios worked hard to water down the series for a younger audience. With that, they effectively killed off any cinematic prospects for over twenty years after 1997’s embarrassing “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation.” Now in 2021, Director Simon McQuoid brings us a new vision for “Mortal Kombat” that’s faithful in many respects, and embraces the gore and grue of the original games. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch, but it’s a damn good martial arts fantasy when all is said and done.
MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm. Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld. Will Cole be able to stop Outworld once and for all?
Admittedly, Paul WS Anderson’s 1995 cinematic adaptation still has its charms, but it misses a lot of the more interesting beats of the game including the lore, and character focus. McQuoid’s reboot tries to compensate by offering up a ton of character focus and exploration of the lore of the video games, while also fully embracing the graphic violence. “Mortal Kombat” has a ton of fun establishing the universe of the original series, with establishing of the ages old rivalry between iconic characters Sub-Zero and Scorpion, and then rolls with the classic hero’s journey, following hero (and avatar for the audience), and original character Cole Young.
Young is a man who is thrust in to the world of “Mortal Kombat” and has to overcome some brutal foes, all the while trying to reach down deep and find his weapon for combat. The shadow of the vicious rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion lingers over the narrative, and McQuoid handles all of the sub-plots and narrative threads well. While not as dark as I would have liked it, McQuoid’s film is focused on entertainment and blood soaked action first and foremost. It would be great if the follow up is a bit sterner in tone, especially as there’s the promise of an actual tournament unfolding. In either case, “Mortal Kombat” was a treat for 2021. I had a blast, and it definitely holds large rewatch value.
Along with the digital copy for consumers, the Blu-Ray release comes with four Deleted/Extended Scenes which includes “Extended Cole Nightmare and Longer Kano Plane Story”, “Sea of Spikes”, “Kung Lao and Liu Kang Meet with Raiden in Chinese Garden”, and “Sub-Zero Confronts Shang Tsung”. These are presented in more or less finished form with occasional text inserts; the color grading isn’t finalized and the audio is limited to Dolby Digital 2.0. The twenty one minutes From Game to Screen: The Making of Moral Kombat is a mid-length featurette offering an enjoyable overview of the franchise’s transition to the big screen over the years.
Key members of the cast and crew (including actors Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Matilda Kimber, and more) also share their personal memories of MK video games, from the original cabinet to modern home console sequels. The sixteen minutes Mortal Kombat: Fan Favorite Characters includes 11 mini-featurettes exploring the film’s characters including Cole Young, Sonya Blade, Kano, Sub-Zero, Jax, Lord Raiden, Scorpion, Shang Tsung, Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Mileena. Oddly missing are Goro, Reiko and Kabal. Fight Koreography is a nine minutes look at the fight scenes and stunt work seen during some of the film’s most intense moments, featuring fight choreographer Chan Griffin, and others.
Into the Krypt: Easter Eggs of Mortal Kombat features Director Simon McQuoid taking us through each and every Easter egg and other neat little details that die-hard fans should enjoy. Finally, there’s the twelve minutes Anatomy of a Scene a collection of 7 short featurettes offers a quick overview of how several key scenes were developed, filmed, and finished in post-production. This includes Hanzo Hasashi vs. Bi-Han, and Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero just to name a few.