You can’t talk about Mortal Kombat without talking about the 1995 adaptation which was just… so wonderful. It was wonderfully goofy, self aware of all its ridiculousness, awash in 90’s techno scores, the fight scenes were gloriously insane, every actor looked like they were having the time of their lives, and there was never a sequel ever.
So, naturally, when time came to reboot the Mortal Kombat movie, they decided to make it darker, grittier, and more serious and, in doing so, they up and sucked all the fun out of it. Now, we’ve got this dour and drab thing that never sparks joy, excitement, and does the unthinkable of making everyone in the film boring except for Kano who is, hands down, the best character.
I know, I have no idea who he is either.
Cole is a decendent of totally not Scorpion and is shocked and bored apparently that he has been selected by gods, fate, or whatever to be one of Earth’s champions in Mortal Kombat. The trouble is, the villainous Shang Tsung, the leader of Outworld who will soon win the next contest and the right to invade Earth, has decided to wipe out all of the champions of Earth before the tournament can begin.
The trouble here should be obvious: This movie doesn’t involve the tournament at all. Literally, there is no Mortal Kombat tournament… they’re apparently saving it for the sequel. What we have instead are the world’s most dull heroes talking about the tournament and complaining as they try and develop superpowers.
Heavens, this movie is dull. There is too much talking and not enough fighting and, when there is fighting, it is badly choreographed and a pain to watch. While it is nice to see fatalities in all of their R-rated gloriousness, none of them make up for the banality it took to get there. It is just so dull.
Listen, I know that Robin Shou might not have been the greatest actor in the world, but he had charisma and charm and that carried him and made us like him. With the exception of Josh Lawson who played Kano, exactly none of the actors in Mortal Kombat 2021 are remotely appealing. They are as interesting as a moldy sandwich and about as much fun as watching snails race. This wouldn’t be so bad if they were doing something other than talking, but as I said, 85 percent of this movie is exposition and explaining.
Josh Lawson, however, steals every scene he’s in. He is the one blinding bright spot of this film and the only actor who seems determined to enjoy himself, even if some of his lines are cringy. The way he says, “Kano wins!” You can almost see him blushing from embarrassment.
I can’t even look at the guy who plays Shang Tsung who is dwarfed in every conceivable way by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa who hammed up the part so beautifully, he practically dared you not to enjoy it. While it was nice to actually have an Asian man play Raiden, I couldn’t help but compare him to Christopher Lambert’s masterful turn at the character and how wholly inferior this new performance is.
How can you make a Mortal Kombat movie without any fun in it?
My gosh, a while back I watched that animated movie, Scorpion’s Revenge, and mused that it would have been a perfect reboot for Mortal Kombat as it stayed true to the lore, told an amazing story, and was fun to watch. Mortal Kombat 2021 is literally the opposite of that: It disrespects the lore, told a dull story, and was a chore to sit through.
I can’t say that Mortal Kombat 2021 was bad because that would be claiming that it had an actual emotional impact on me. This movie was a literal non-event that didn’t even deserve my hatred. It was simply there: It was a two-hour placeholder during my day. It was a thing that I experienced and now my memory of it is fading and I feel as though I will not be poorer for the deletion.