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Review: “Mortal Kombat” delivers the punch but not a fatality

While it delivers plenty of blood, the new “Mortal Kombat” ultimately comes up short.

By Anthony Lopez, Staff Writer

Joe Taslim stars as Sub-Zero in the 2021 "Mortal Kombat" film. (Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

“Mortal Kombat” has the fights, gore and cinematography to be considered a definite upgrade over the 1995 original; however, it does not deliver that fatal blow audiences are looking for.

Directed by Simon McQuoid, the film follows MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) who is hunted by the menacing warrior Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), finding sanctuary at the temple of the thunder god, Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). Training with experienced fighters like Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang), and mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), Young prepares to stand with Earth's greatest champions to take on the enemies from Outworld in an all-for-nothing battle for the universe.

The film also introduces other familiar characters from the “Mortal Kombat” world, including Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada).

The cinematography and CGI in this film are remarkably beautiful; almost every shot in the film is dark, with a few exceptions of color. In a few fight scenes, the superpower animation (whether it included elements such as fire, ice, or even magic) are skillfully animated and well-constructed. The gore and death fatalities were off the charts, making the viewer feel uncomfortable in certain scenes. The fight scenes were captured just right, letting the audience know who the clear winner was. A notable example is the fight between Scorpion and Sub-Zero inside an abandoned warehouse filled with ice — the white-goldish icicles of the ice cave contrasted with the vibrant colors of the duo’s superpower destruction.

The music integrated into “Mortal Kombat” ties into the film perfectly thanks to Benjamin Wallfisch, who previously worked on “IT”, “Shazam” and “Blade Runner 2049.” The soundtrack played a crucial role during almost all of the fight scenes.

The performances, for the most part, were average. Taslim was really the only actor who stood out as the antagonist, making up for some very dull written scenes. Lawson had a few scenes that caused some laughs, although his jokes became a bit rushed later on.

The main problems with the movie are the poor character development and pacing. The pacing had the movie moving at high speeds (almost roller coaster-like) and never gave the audience a chance to get into the plot as much. For example, when each character is trying to unlock their arcana (inner power), the film spends too much time focusing on the trials and lessons — almost adding a “Karate Kid” feel to it — that each champion has to overcome. Characters such as Young and Shang Tsung (Ng Chin Han) were poorly written and felt very underdeveloped. With stronger writing, those characters and backstories could have been improved greatly.

Although “Mortal Kombat” did not provide a ton in regards to character development and pace, other components like the action and gore make it strong enough to be considered as a passable film.

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