- Movie Rating -

Mortal Kombat (2021)

| April 23, 2021

I come to the 2021 edition of Mortal Kombat only with vague memories of having played “Mortal Kombat II” on the Sega Genesis, and a modest affection for the first screen attempt back in 1995.  From what I recall, I played the game routinely without having what you might call a fixation.  I recall that the point was to maneuver the character on the left side of the screen into a brutal conflict with the character on the right side of the screen until one or the other was so dizzy that an omniscient referee instructed me to “FINISH HIM!”  At that point, a combination of motions on the playpad resulted in an ‘Evil Dead’ style finishing move that was as gory as it was hilarious.  At one point, my character removed his opponent’s head and spinal cord and held them aloft in victory.  No points for grandstanding.

The Mortal Kombat movie, I think, is trying to replicate the adult-oriented nature of the game.  The chief complaint about the 1995 movie treatment was that while it had wall-to-wall kickboxing action, the filmmakers toned down the graphic violence – an objection that I frankly did not have.  The 2021 updating doesn’t have that problem.  In addition to up-front and obvious R-rated language, it also tries to visualize the gore, to which we are now subjected to a heart being ripped out, guts spilling on the floor, and at least one character who is split in half.

That, in a nutshell, is the crutch upon which this movie stands.  It is trying to so replicate the game’s infamous bloodlust that a story is not really present, and the characters have traits instead of personalities so it is hard to care about them.  In so doing, there isn’t a mailable story to tell.  There’s some nonsense about a battle for the universe by a frustrated young kickboxer who gathers the best of the best of the best against a group of colorful bad guys.  Well, that’s fine and dandy until you realize that this is a set-up to be played, not to be watched.  Ultimately, you get the experience of having to watch another person play a video game and you never get a turn.

I don’t know what I expected here, but if the point was to match the game’s unpleasant atmosphere, the filmmakers knew what they were doing.  But where is the movie?  This all feels like cut-scenes inserted between the gameplay.  It needed something, perhaps the touch of a stylistic director like Sam Raimi, who could bring his skills for comic violence into the fray and levin this material out of the doldrums.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Action