MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), accustomed to taking a beating for money, is unaware of his heritage–or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung (Chin Han) has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), an otherworldly Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) at the direction of Jax (Mehcad Brooks), 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 (Tadanobu Asano), an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang), and rogue mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe. But will Cole be pushed hard enough to unlock his arcana–the immense power from within his soul–in time to save not only his family but to stop Outworld once and for all?
For whatever reason, I played a lot of games as a kid that I probably should not have been playing at such a young age. I was playing games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty at the age of about eight or nine years old. But none of these games really bothered me with their graphic content. And I was allowed to play most games like this as long as I knew that what I was playing was fake.
One of the first video games I ever remember playing was the very first Mortal Kombat game, and the second I booted it up, I fell in love. I was presented with a roster of characters that looked extremely cool and deadly, and I had the time of my life playing with each and every one of them and figuring out what makes each character so distinct. Baraka was a favorite of mine because of those gruesome claws of his. Scorpion’s spear and fire abilities accompanied with the badass “Get over here!” line? Simply amazing.
I have played nearly every game in the franchise to date and I love them dearly even if I am not a pro at them by any means. So, essentially, for my whole life, I have been waiting to see a Mortal Kombat movie that actually does the game justice. There were two films created in the 1990s based on the games, but the less said about them the better.
And as amazing as that initial trailer for Simon McQuoid’s 2021 Mortal Kombat movie looked, I had to keep my expectations low because of two reasons. One, it’s yet another film adaptation based on the game series, and the two that came before it sucked. And two, it’s a video game movie, and those are almost always horrible.
But ten minutes into this new film, I was genuinely blown away by how much I was loving it already. This 2021 adaptation is extremely faithful to the games and features buckets of blood and fatalities that looked like they are ripped straight out of the games and that is an incredibly good thing.
Let’s be real – nobody is going to want to watch Mortal Kombat because of its story. The story here isn’t great and it isn’t anything riveting or deeply unique, and it doesn’t need to be. Not at all. The reason why people want to see a Mortal Kombat movie is to see a group of super-strong fighters fight each other to the death. Literally. And trust me when I say that this film has that in abundance.
As dark and as brutal as the source material is, even still the series can be a little bit goofy and corny. So, yes, this movie is quite corny at times as well. But it’s never something that takes away from the overall enjoyment of the film. There are definitely going to be some people that don’t like this film because they can’t get past how outlandish it is and how much it just commits to its zaniness, and that’s okay. But if you are a fan of the games or if you are just in the mood to see some gory fights, you’ll be supremely satisfied.
Something that really surprised me here though was how much I ended up caring for the characters and their motivations by the time the ending fight occurred. Like I said earlier, the story isn’t great and it’s predictable. But the characters actually get some development along the way. Especially Cole Young, who I really hope we get to see more of down the road. If this film proves to be a success (which I am sure it will), I hope that in the next Mortal Kombat game, he will be included as a playable character.
Shang Tsung is another villain in this film that gets introduced early on, and he is the definition of a mustache-stroking villain. He’s cheesy, he’s corny, he’s predictable, but boy is he fun to watch. And honestly, those are the same words you can use to describe Mortal Kombat in general. Don’t come for the story. Come for the fights. And if you do that, you’ll have an absolute blast.
Overall Grade: A-
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence and language throughout, and some crude references
Directed by: Simon McQuoid
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Running Time: 110 minutes