Mortal Kombat vs. Mortal Kombat
I’ve been struggling with how to talk about the new Mortal Kombat movie. I’m not huge into doing reviews a big blockbusters anyhow, because everyone and their brother does it… This little blog in the right hand corner of nowhere probably isn’t going to provide any new or meaningful insight.
The other problem is because this is a franchise actually have a certain weird attachment to. Not a sacred cow like Superman, but I was there when Mortal Kombat took over the world as a video game. You were either a Street Fighter guy or a Mortal Kombat guy… and I was definitely a Mortal Kombat person. I was there when the first movie came out… and became widely considered the first good video game movie. I still have great affection and nostalgia for it. Yeah this new film is good. In fact it may objectively be a better film than the original… But do I like it better?
When the first Mortal Kombat film came out it was at the height of the franchise popularity. They really could’ve done anything that they wanted and slap that label and characters into it and been successful. I mean, just look at the success of that dreadful cartoon they half heartedly put together. But for the live action, they chose to basically rip off Enter the Dragon… And if you’re going to copy, steal from the best. They created a fun buddy cop sort of film with the relationship between Liu Kang and Johnny Cage, with it being very much a martial arts tournament movie. That’s where the new film really diverges. The fighting, the tournament, it’s all secondary. We do get some one on one matches, but their montage and we blow through them surprisingly quickly. The focus here is more on an almost superhero fantasy.
The big problem with the new movie is there’s no story. They drift from set piece to set piece, and the narrative is a very weak string that ties it all together. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie, Star Trek first contact, arguably considered the best of the next generation films, is very similar. Light on story, heavy on spectacle. That’s what this is. The characters look great, most of them looking very much like they should.(I’m a little unnerved to see scorpions real face… And not just a skull) There is an attempt to really build some drama and pathos between the subzero and scorpion story, something that was missing from the original film. Back then, I remember liking the fact that those two are the only ones who look like they should, but simultaneously being pissed that they were on the same side. Definitely not a mistake they make here. There’s some influence that’s obviously been taken from the Mortal Kombat Legacy DVD we talked about earlier this week, and really, it would’ve been nice if they brought Michael Jai White over as Jax. Casting Mechad Brooks from Supergirl instead… Yeah, I just don’t buy it. However the rest of the roles feel right.
One of the things I kept thinking was “they could’ve done this in the original if they just had the technology”. The original Mortal Kombat makes innovative use of CG and puppetry, cutting edge at the time but limited by today’s standards. The new film really leans into the FX for the powers… Especially with Subzero. The ice effects are brilliant, and they genuinely look good. Ice is a tough sell, but they manage to nail it every time.
At the end of the day, I’m really pleased with this movie. It’s not necessarily my Mortal Kombat. It feels less like a comic book, it takes itself way more seriously, but I enjoy the fact that it’s harsh and bloody… Delivering on the promise that we got from the original video game. I’m eager to see more, and I hope that they’ll actually throw more money at the sequel. The greatest downfall of the original Mortal Kombat is that they slashed the budget for the sequel, going direct to video and devolving into what looked like a weekday afternoon kids show – Power Rangers or VR troopers. Mortal Kombat Annihilation just fails to work on most levels, not to mention killing one of your main characters in the first scene is always a downer from the word go. The new franchise hopefully has learned from the missteps of the past, with the promise of more characters from the franchise to come.
For the moment, I’ll just leave you with this bit of snark. (It made me laugh)