I did not have very high expectations, after all. Although I've been longing for Warner's new adaptation of Ed Boon's best-selling, cult classic video game series. A directorial debut, cheap casting and a relatively low budget has gossiped in advance about a film that may not impress, and that's pretty much exactly how it feels. This... Is not impressive.
The story takes some liberties in relation to what is told in Netherrealm's games, but at the same time manages to be crammed with fan service and absolutely captures the very essence of what makes Mortal Kombat Mortal Kombat. We get to follow the mixed martial arts fighter Cole Young who, after being a prominent belt holder today, is fighting for scraps in a basement, and losing every fight. He does not have the spark, anymore. The fire inside him is not burning anymore. And when it's clear that super-bad guy Shang Tsung and his Outworld companions intend to destroy Earth after fraudulently securing victory in the tenth Mortal Kombat tournament, Cole is commissioned by Jax and Sonya Blade to help with making sure that does not happen.
Cole, Jax, Kano and Sonya travel to an underground temple where Raiden, Liu Kang and Kung Lao wander around to join the "team" that intends to stop Shang Tsung, Sub-Zero, Mileena and Kabal's evil plans. But yes, first they have to be trained and during the actual training "discover" their superpowers, something that only happens when they have found their inner spark.
Mortal Kombat (2021) begins with a nine-minute scene in which Sub-Zero slaughters Scorpion's family during an ambush on the outskirts of a small Japanese village sometime in the 18th century. We will never find out why, or where this fight is leading. This in relation to the slightly insane amount of exposition that director Simon McQuoid dives into in act two, in the underground temple ruled by the thunder god Raiden, builds a movie that feels as ill-considered as careless in terms of story telling. No one (least of all me) expected a masterpiece here, given that Ed Boon's games have always offered a kind of cheesy B-movie feel, but still - this manages to take itself too seriously and script-wise, is somewhat of a disaster.
Mortal Kombat jumps around in time and space, the actual fights are constantly interrupted by elements of seemingly slow backstory and Simon McQuoid pushes, squeezes and forces pace and structure to bring in as many characters as he can, and tries to justify their existence. In addition to this, the acting efforts are bad, at best. Most of those involved look like they're reading from cue cards.
Add to this some bad production designs that either consist of soundstage scenes where the green screen mapping was done by someone without proper experience, or cardboard scenery that looks like it was designed in a preschool. The computer effects that shape smoke, fire, laser and other goodies together with the design of the four-armed giant beast Goro, leave a lot to be desired as well.
Mortal Kombat (2021) is a bad movie, unfortunately. There are glimmers of light, however, such as the final fight between Scorpion and Sub-Zero, but overall the choreography is unimaginative, the stunt work a bit lacklustre, which makes the bulk of the fights feel slow, and the script is ridiculous. The middle part of just over 40 minutes is horrible and despite a really delicious final fight, this remains a real disappointment.