I understand I might be in the total minority, but I enjoyed Mortal Kombat (1995) for what it was. Did it make sense? No. Was it cheesy (some might say delightfully, others might say something about too much cheesiness can kill you and your movie) and 90s as fuck? Yes. And I say that as a person who hasn’t played the original games. Maybe that’s the reason I was never too disappointed, or possibly I just wanted to see a film, where people would fight each other while some 90s techno would blast loudly and proudly. I would love to say it’s my guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty watching it.
When I saw the first trailer for this new version of Mortal Kombat, I was delighted. It looked like it would be fun while “fixing” the biggest flow with the 90s version – no blood/fatalities. But then, when the movie got released, the movie got mixed reviews. So my initial enthusiasm faded a bit, and I forgot about this film until it arrived on one of my streaming services. The moment I saw it on there, I immediately knew. I was watching it right then; no more waiting. And I was surprised, how much I have enjoyed myself.
Mortal Kombat has managed to “fix” the issue its predecessor had and delivered a lot of blood and fatalities. But funnily enough (and this might be a bit of a SPOILER, but hey, it’s a Mortal Kombat movie), it created a different “issue” that didn’t bother me but seemed to bother others – there is no Mortal Kombat. Because as we all know, that is the name of the tournament, where everything is at stake. The fate of humanity. Yes, it’s precisely, as it was in the previous one, humans didn’t have great fighters, so they (yet again!) lost nine consecutive tournaments. If they lose one more time, that’s it for planet Earth. Except in this newest reincarnation, the “other side” doesn’t want to wait until the tournament starts, and we watch this movie about the Outworld trying to cheat its way, trying to eliminate the fighters before Mortal Kombat even starts.
And here’s the dilemma for the viewer. You can either complain about the rules not being clear, or the fact that technically the movie doesn’t deliver on its fundamental premise (no Mortal Kombat), or you can enjoy the ride. For example, if the Outworld are not worried about the humans, why not wait and eliminate them at the tournament? Or why would the “Gods”, who are supposed to watch over the rules, allow this to happen? But I didn’t worry about that and enjoyed the ride and what a ride it was. I liked how all human heroes had to discover what their arcana was (each heroes’ ultimate power move). I liked the fight sequences and the fact they weren’t shying away from the blood and gore.
What surprised me the most was how much I enjoyed the cast. Specifically, I need to name the two standouts in my eyes – Jessica McNamee (Sonya Blade) and Josh Lawson (Kano). Ladies first, so let’s talk about Jessica. She doesn’t have a muscular physique like Gina Carano/Ronda Rousey and (as far as I know) doesn’t have their background fighting-wise, but she is no less convincing in her role of tough woman, who could take down pretty much anybody. Jessica commands the screen, and in her fight scenes, I have 100% believed she would be one bad-ass fighter. But and I can’t believe I am saying this, Josh Lawson stole the movie. His Kano is one of those characters who could have easily been so annoying, one punch line figure who is just there to be cheeky and in between good and evil. And he undoubtedly starts this film very much like this. But the more screen time he gets and the more his character gets fleshed out (aka he chooses his alliances), the better he gets. Don’t get me wrong, nobody here is giving an Oscar-worthy performance. But his asshole Kano was so fun to watch; you don’t want to root for him because he is a dick. But Josh plays him so well, and he knows when to lean more into the “goofy/annoying side” and when to switch to the more threatening side of that character; he made him stand out for me. And that is almost a miracle having a character like him, who is the definition of “love to hate him”. Bravo.
When the movie finished, I was hyped. I thought the film delivered on everything I hoped it would… well, minus the actual tournament. And yes, even though it seems silly in a movie called Mortal Kombat to forget to show us the literal tournament, I ultimately liked that decision. Because I enjoyed the journey and wasn’t too worried about the destination. I thought this was a great first film in something I hope could become a trilogy, possibly? Because for my money, they built this world quite well in this film so in the next one we could focus more on our characters, introducing new characters (the fan favourite Johnny Cage, who was “hinted” at the end of this film would be a great addition) and get to the tournament.
Overall, Mortal Kombat delivered on everything I hoped it would. Nowadays, we get a bunch of movies that try to hide behind the “we are just simple action films, switch your brains entertainment”, but rarely do those films entertain you. But there was something about Mortal Kombat that, put it in pretty straightforward terms, just worked, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The action sequences were great, the cast was promising, and the world-building was done well enough that you can easily see a movie or two that could expend on what this one set up. If you are looking for a simple “punch first, ask questions later” film and don’t mind the occasional cliche or two, then Mortal Kombat might be for you.
That’s all for this one! Did you see it? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Until next time,