Mortal Kombat (2021)

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This article is about the reboot 2021 film. You may be looking for the 1995 original with the same name.
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Mortal Kombat
MortalKombat2021.jpg
"This movie is gonna get your soul sucked!" - Kabal
Genre: Martial Arts
Fantasy
Directed By: Simon McQuoid
Produced By: James Wan
Todd Garner
Simon McQuoid
E. Bennett Walsh
Written By: Oren Uziel
Greg Russo
Based On: Mortal Kombat
by Ed Boon
John Tobias
Starring: Lewis Tan
Jessica McNamee
Josh Lawson
Tadanobu Asano
Mehcad Brooks
Ludi Lin
Chin Han
Joe Taslim
Hiroyuki Sanada
Cinematography: Germain McMicking
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: April 8, 2021 (International)
April 23, 2021 (United States)
Runtime: 110 minutes
Country: United States
Australia
Language: English
Budget: $55 million
Box Office: $83.6 million
Franchise: Mortal Kombat
Sequel: Untitled Mortal Kombat sequel (In development)


Mortal Kombat is a 2021 American-Australian martial arts fantasy film directed by Simon McQuoid (in his feature directorial debut) from a screenplay by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham and a story by Oren Uziel and Russo. It is based on the video game franchise of the same name created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, serving as a reboot to the Mortal Kombat film series. It was theatrically released internationally on April 8, 2021, and scheduled to be released by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema in the United States on April 23, 2021, simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service. A sequel is in development with Jeremy Slater set to write the screenplay.

Plot

Hunted by the fearsome warrior Sub-Zero, MMA fighter Cole Young finds sanctuary at the temple of Lord Raiden. Training with experienced fighters Liu Kang, Kung Lao and the rogue mercenary Kano, Cole prepares to stand with Earth's greatest champions to take on the enemies from Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe.

Bad Qualities

  1. Misleading title: Despite Mortal Kombat being named after the game title, the combatants do not participate in any tournaments for certain stages. In fact, most of the movie’s duration takes place inside a cave. Even so, the film could've been better if it takes place outside of cave and the fighters participated for any tournaments of certain stages.
  2. False advertising: They advertise the film like its gonna be the most gruesome Mortal Kombat film to be released. However, that’s not the case; Scorpion’s Revenge had more gore than this. Also, the fact that they advertise the film this way also proves the point that the director cared more about the franchise’s gimmick than the actual universe that it built. (Moral of the story: don’t adapt a franchise for its gimmick; adapt it for the story and universe that it built.)
    • They also advertise that this movie will have the best fight scenes out of all Mortal Kombat movies. However, when you do compare these to previous Mortal Kombat movies, they aren't nearly as good. Most of the fights in this movie are short and have very basic action choreography.
  3. Plot hole: Raiden answered that he is not allowed to use his powers on any enemy fighters on Earthrealm only for him to use his powers to zap Shang Tsung back to Outworld despite being in Earthrealm. Also he answered that he's "not allowed" to intervene despite Raiden constantly teleporting his fighters in & out of the fight.
  4. Some of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation problems were resurfaces in this movie:
    • The movie brings a bunch of Mortal Kombat characters that most of them don’t have any characteristic or background other than the studio using the "It's based of the game" or “If you know their names or know how they look like then you know who they are” excuse as for the villains (except the “important” ones) only serve to get killed/defeated by the heroes.
    • Despite Scorpion & Sub-Zero being the “faces” of Mortal Kombat, they get little screen time and barely do anything, until the third act.
    • The movie is over-relying on actions scene even if the scene doesn’t build up or comes out of nowhere.
    • Unlike the dragon tattoo from Annihilation, the dragon tattoo makes a return in this movie but it’s purpose has been altered to a Arcana and it has a lot of inconsistency such as implying fighters are “born” with it, however, there is some of the fighters that unknowably got it because they killed someone who unknowably had it. The fighters struggled to gain their powers while Sonya gained it in the matter of seconds and how Jax got his new arms out of nowhere.
  5. The main protagonist, Cole Young, is not only the worst, but also terrible and boring exclusive fighter of this movie, as not only is he the wasted roster pick for Johnny Cage (despite being teased at the end of the movie that hinted sequel and originally being casted but removed since they don't want a "white male leading the audience") but he also has the most generic motivation and the most forced fights as he can easily beat Goro despite Cole never winning any boxing matches in a year while getting beaten up before the fight with Goro and his powers comes of nowhere which the media dubs his powers as “plot armor”. He is also even completely lacking of any personality and he wouldn't affect the movie in the slightest if he was a character from the games. That said, he even gets no character development time at all.
    • His actor, Lewis Tan, shows no emotion and he can be laughable at times.
  6. The antagonists are just pathetic. Sub-Zero was the only antagonist/villain who was actually threatening, the rest are glorified jobbers and don't have any motivation. This is a problem that the NetherRealm Studios games have: Villains who rarely (if not, at all) pick up any victories in the story. A villain/antagonist needs to be a threat, unless they are intentionally weak. Tsung (who never mentioned his purpose of the tournament), Mileena, Kabal, Nitara, and even Goro (a boss character) are done dirty in this movie.
  7. A lot of characters were either wasted, underdeveloped, or underutilized. Liu Kang and Scorpion barely do much in the movie either, and these two are very important to the video games.
  8. Unlike NeitherRealm Studios' depiction of Raiden, this film's depiction of Raiden is more unlikable as he is more rude, harsh, and very unhelpful to his fighters and this worse by how Raiden barely confronts Liu Kang over the death of Kung Lao & also because he never used his powers to force his enemies away or being sent back to Outworld.
  9. One of the most controversial moments of the movie was the “Kung Lao death scene”, the scene was mainly panned by fans because how none of the hero fighters decides to save him since all just stood there and watched while both Raiden & Liu Kang also choose to not use their powers to attack Shang Tsung and all the evil fighters are completely absent form this scene instead of being used to prevent the heroes from doing anything to save him.
  10. There’s many unnecessary changes from the source material such as:
    • Liu Kang was universally one of the main or lead characters but was turned into a side character.
    • Bi-Han already evil from the start and purposely choosing to kill Hanzo and his family as well as being an immortal.
    • Goro not being the second to last fight the Earthrealm fighters have to face.
    • Reiko being Shao Kahn’s general only tuned into a hammer swinging dumb muscle.
    • Mileena being racebended as biracial when the character is typically depicted as Asian-descent.
    • Nitara being a mute.
    • Kano’s iconic cyborg eye is now just a scar on his face.
    • Sonya able to fire plasma out of her hands while in the games she uses a gauntlet.
    • Reptile being referred by his real name while still looking cool in his reptile form, Reptile is simply too different from what he is like in the games.
    • Shang Tsung able to kill Raiden’s fighters before the tournament without any punishment from the elder gods.
  11. The final battle (depending on your view) is awful and forced as the villains don’t put up much of a fight now and get defeated easily, all the individual fights are short as they last for a minute or two.
  12. The dialogue is simply awful and hard to take seriously.
  13. In general, the acting is mediocre at best, like Lewis Tan and Jessica McNamee.
  14. The pacing in the second act of the movie feels a bit rushed.
  15. A small amount of the costumes are very fake looking or sometimes doesn't resemble the character such a Reiko.
  16. The subplot regarding Arcana is pointless and really does nothing to contribute to the movie's already basically nonexistent plot as it only exists as filler, like it never mentioned again afterwards.
  17. While the CGI and special effects was good for the most part, Raiden’s lightning effect literally looks like it was ripped straight from TikTok.
    • While it fares fine during fight scenes, Cole's armor when not fighting is very obviously just a textured shirt.
    • Nitara is very clearly a CGI creation, which is made more obvious in the Outworld scenes.
    • While Goro looks fine when by himself, his fight against Cole utterly fails in giving the impression the character has any kind of physical mass.
  18. Although not bad, the fight choreography is questionable. A lot of the time the characters will go flying through the air with a single hit.

Good Qualities

  1. The visual effects are very impressive, as well as visual effects to the various characters that use their abilities.
    • Compared to the 90s Mortal Kombat movies, the visual effects in this movie are definitely superior.
  2. The movie doesn't have the cheesiness of the 90s Mortal Kombat movies as the tone is more serious.
  3. Josh Lawson (Kano), Joe Taslim (Sub-Zero), and Hiroyuki Sanada (Scorpion) give the best performances in the film.
  4. Unlike the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie, Scorpion and Sub-Zero were handled better here as they aren't mindless thugs anymore.
  5. Despite being short, seeing Scorpion return to finally fight Sub-Zero is one of the best moments of the movie.
    • "I have risen from Hell to kill you"
  6. Despite Kano being annoying at times, he is a decent comedic relief and is very funny.
    • In fact, Kano has more personality and development compared to most of the characters in the film.
  7. Some of the costumes look cool such as:
    • Scorpion and Sub-Zero's costumes look like unique mixes of their costumes from different games.
    • Liu Kang has a number of different outfits in the movie and they do look nice.
    • Kung Lao's costume is spot-on.
    • Despite being unlikable, Raiden's costume does look good and definitely more accurate to the games compared to the 90s versions.
  8. Since this is a Mortal Kombat movie, some of the fatalities are amazing and graphic, the film actually has the graphic violence that the series is known for, since it was rated R; something that the previous two movies were sorely lacking due to being rated PG-13.
    • Likewise, despite the false advertisement, the movie has way more gore than the original Mortal Kombat and its sequel combined.
  9. Seeing Liu Kang mourn Kung Lao’s death was generally upsetting.
  10. Some of the interpretations of the characters are unique such as Sub-Zero having some of Noob’s qualities, Kabal using his speed to his advantage in other ways, how Mileena hides her actual mouth and Kung Lao having almost the same personality from the Midway games.
  11. The soundtrack is very nice for Benjamin Wallfisch, especially the new techno remix of the classic Mortal Kombat theme from the games, named "Techno Syndrome" by The Immortals, produced by Wallfisch.
  12. The fight scene "Hanzo vs Bi-Han & the Lin Kuei" is the one of the only fight scenes that has decent fight choreography.
  13. Despite the unnecessary changes of the plot and characters from the original series, this movies does a good job at remaining faithful to the source material, as it at least has the spirit and charm of the Mortal Kombat games and has some cool references to the games-- the same sadly can't be said for other video game movies. Examples include Shinnok's amulet being seen, cave paintings depicting Kung Lao, Sonya Blade having papers depicting and referencing characters like Nightwolf, a statue of Kotal Kahn, and even background graffiti in the Sub Zero vs Jax fight scene that depicts an input code for Sub Zero's iceball attack.
    • Nitara and Reiko are essentially fodder in this movie and don't need to be there. Despite this, their small butt-monkey role is a nod to how widely mocked they were by players.
    • Liu Kang nonstop using his leg sweep attack on Kano, a nod to how his AI in earlier games would relentlessly abuse that attack.
    • Reptile being referred to by his real name, Syzoth.
    • A visible photo of an urn with a horned centaur that looks extremely similar to Motaro.
  14. Unlike most villains in this movie, Sub-Zero is actually a threatening villain.
    • Despite being less sympathetic compared to his game counterpart, his portrayal in the movie is still pretty cool.
  15. Some of the deleted scenes did offer some good features such as Shang Tsung's history with Mileena and also that Shang Tsung is afraid of Sub-Zero himself. Raiden does seem to look way better without the eye effect.
  16. The cinematography looks cool.
  17. The credits look cool and BLOODY!

Reception

Mortal Kombat received mixed reviews from critics, but positive reviews from audiences, who praised its action sequences, musical score, acting (particularly Lawson, Taslim and Sanada), visual effects, and faithfulness and references to the source material, but criticized the screenplay, pacing, script and introduction of a new lead character (unrelated to the games' lore). Many fans said it was far better than Annihilation, but still disappointing and shares as much problems as the 1995 one. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 55%, with an average score of 5.5/10, based on 289 reviews. The audience score was 84%. The site's critics consensus reads, "Largely for fans of the source material but far from fatal(ity) flawed, Mortal Kombat revives the franchise in appropriately violent fashion.", and the Audience Says consensus reads "The acting is spotty and the storytelling is a bit rushed, but if you can turn your brain off for a while, Mortal Kombat delivers plenty of graphic violence and intense fight scenes for fans of the video game series.". Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 44 out of 100, based on 43 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale. The movie has a 6.1/10 on IMDb.

Upcoming sequels

Regarding the continuation of the film as a series, the film's producer Todd Garner revealed to Collider that there is a possibility of a Johnny Cage-centric standalone film. Taslim has revealed that he signed on for four sequels if the reboot is a success. Director Simon McQuoid stated that he is open for returning to direct a sequel if the story for it is good. Co-writer Greg Russo told Collider that he sees the reboot as a trilogy with the first film set before the tournament, the second film set during the tournament and the third film set post-tournament. In an interview after the film's release, McQuoid said that the character Johnny Cage was not introduced in the film because Johnny Cage was a "giant personality" and would throw the film out of balance. He revealed that potential sequels could explore the material for characters like Cage and Kitana. He also expressed that he would like to include more female characters.During an interview, Jessica McNamee has expressed interest in exploring her relationship with Johnny and Cassie Cage in potential sequels. Professional wrestler The Miz has openly expressed interest in the role of Johnny Cage and has even received the support of Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon. Martial artist actor Scott Adkins also showed interest in the role of Cage while interviewing Lewis Tan with the latter agreeing. On September 14, 2021, Variety reported that Warner Bros. is looking to develop other installments in its Mortal Kombat universe. In January 2022, Warner Bros. and New Line had officially greenlit a sequel, with Moon Knight creator Jeremy Slater set to pen the screenplay.

Slater told comicbook.com that Cage is in the sequel but is unsure how much he'll be in the movie. It was revealed by Deadline that McQuoid won't be returning to direct the sequel due to working on his second feature film Omega. However, it is confirmed that he would eventually returning to direct the sequel in July 2022.

Videos

Trivia

  • Mortal Kombat is a remake of the original 1995 film, making it some of the first remakes of a video game movie since the 2018 Tomb Raider movie.
  • The film was initially rated NC-17 upon first submission to the MPAA for graphic violence. Director Simon McQuoid later hired an additional editor to cut down several gory and brutal fighting scenes to achieve a commercially desired R-rating.
  • The film marks the first time to use the current New Line Cinema logo, albeit a variant.
  • The red band trailer has clocked 116M views in its first week, becoming the biggest red band trailer of all-time, besting the 4-day mark of Logan (2017) and Deadpool 2 (2018), until the release of the first trailer of The Suicide Squad a month later.
  • It is one of the multiple Warner Bros movies to be both released in theaters and on streaming service HBO Max.
  • It is one of the streaming service HBO Max's most succesful film to date along with Godzilla vs. Kong.
  • The film was released in Japan on June 18, 2021, despite not having Mortal Kombat games released officially in the country due to CERO gaming rules concerning excessive gore.
  • It was in development hell for 9 years.
  • Stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell was announced as having been cast as Nitara on November 11, 2019. However, in the film she is actually played by Mel Jarnson.

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