It’s Monday and time for Ask Kotaku, the weekly feature in which Kotaku-ites deliberate on a single burning question. Then, we ask your take.
This week we Ask Kotaku: Did you like the new Mortal Kombat movie? As you’d expect, spoilers abound below.
Bit of a controversial opinion here, but I liked all the Mortal Kombat movies. Yes, that includes Annihilation and this new reboot. I am a little miffed that I was promised Mortal Kombat and got a couple of low konsequence skirmishes. However, I do understand that this was a movie designed to establish the world, and following movies will hopefully give me the bloody tournament arcs I krave. The movie itself was fine. I appreciate the de-emphasis on Liu Kang in favor of a new hero, though I wish they would have gone with a hero that players would be familiar with, like Cassie Case or Jacqui Briggs. The Kombat Kids in the later Mortal Kombat games have been some of the best developments of the franchise, and it would have been nice to see them get their big-screen debuts.
One last thing: I’m going to be mad as hell if Hiroyuki Sanada isn’t in all future Mortal Kombat movies. Find a way. I don’t care.
Goodness, I liked it. Total surprise. Usually I’m first in line to get all bothered over stupid nonsense like magic tattoos and whatever the fuck was going on with Jax’s arms, but somehow this hot mess of a Mortal Kombat flick more or less worked for me, warts and all. It’s dumb fun, not afraid to be completely over the top, and...well, look at my screenshot. Utterly ridiculous. I love it.
Let’s talk MVPs. I adored Sonya, incredible casting, and it’s hilarious that she’s basically an MK/Outworld truther who’s never heard of cloud backup. Kung Lao, of course, such sass. Kabal’s voice was fantastic, though they didn’t showcase his fighting well. Scorpion and Sub-Zero were both very well cast too. A little unfortunate that Scorp had to share the spotlight with new third wheel Cole, but shit, even he wasn’t actively bad. Just a suckyboi doin’ the best he can.
They made good use of Reptile, normally one of the most boring characters. I’m open to Niu Kang’s more ethereal nature, which seems a good approach if he’s not gonna be top dog. Feel similarly about nu-Rayden. I had the hardest time getting used to Shang Tsung; he did okay but has the unenviable job of succeeding human charisma factory Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The bad guys didn’t get much to work with script-wise.
I rewatched the 1995 movie beforehand, and it’s fun but also showing its age, with mostly shitty fight choreography and Sonya’s sexist characterization/damselization. Incredibly, I like 2021 just about as much as the classic. Each has different strengths. Polygon’s interview with screenwriter Greg Russo showcases his love for the material. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually hyped to see where this madman takes us next.
Joe Taslim, who plays the hero of Mortal Kombat (Sub-Hero), starred in a show called Warrior, which aired for two seasons on Cinemax before it was canceled last year. Fact: Warrior is the best TV show. Based on characters and a story treatment created by Bruce Lee, Warrior is set in 1870s San Francisco and largely focuses on Chinese immigrants. Taslim—who is 39 years old and has twice that many abs—plays Li Yong, an enforcer for one of the city’s more powerful tongs. All Li Yong does is kick ass. I mean, just look at this fight! Or this one! Or, holy shit, this one! Joe Taslim doesn’t technically “get top billing,” but c’mon, he plays the star of the show.
So, Mortal Kombat. Pretty much the second Taslim showed up on-screen as the hero I was, like, “Okay, this is gonna rule.” And then, the film proceeded to focus on everyone but the main character for the next hour-and-a-half. What’s worse, every time Taslim did show up, the film portrayed his character as some sort of villain, which just felt needlessly rude. And then, in the final fight, he gets freaking killed?! I don’t know about you, but I prefer my stories with a satisfying conclusion, one where the hero isn’t murdered in cold blood during a completely unbalanced two-on-one cage match. Bad film. (Sub)zero out of ten.
Anyway, the moral of the story here is that Warrior, which is currently streaming on HBO Max, was recently picked up for a third season by HBO.
Short answer: I mostly liked the new Mortal Kombat film even though the writing is bad, and the only reason most folks will rewatch this is to see the cool fights again.
Longer answer: The fights were great. Kano was a fun asshole, and I liked the intro and ending a lot. But all the bits in-between the fighting and the gore sucked. There were lots of bland info dumps and boring conversations that all take place in like two sets, making the movie feel cheap in a way that it’s very much not. If we do get the teased sequel, I hope we get more adventure, more action, and less dumb plot elements like teleporting birthmarks.
Very short answer: Lol, they put fucking Reiko in this movie. *Fart noise*
I was the perfect audience for this film. I love good fantasy movies. I love bad fantasy movies. It seemed like, either way, I was the person to enjoy it. What I was not expecting was such an astonishingly boring fantasy movie.
The opening is so good! It’s beautifully shot and impressively calmly paced. And yet, within this gentle, Crouching Tiger-like serenity, it had the outlandish silliness of martial arts movies where ice sticks out of people’s hands and buckets of blood splatter everywhere. I could totally see why they let this scene out for early previews as it had people rightly excited to watch.
The shift in tone, pacing, cinematography, lighting, writing, and—hell—probably the available craft services after the titles ran gave me whiplash. It was like it had been made by an entirely different team with a suddenly extraordinarily buff Jimmy Olsen gamely swapping woeful bon mots with Shatterstar until his arms are unceremoniously amputated. But at least it was still kicky, punchy action. Suddenly, there was an invisible lizard monster, and OK, fine! It wasn’t the movie the opening promised, but I can make peace with this nonsense. Except, then came approximately 400,000 years of absolutely nothing.
Honestly, it might have only been 10 minutes, but it was such an excruciatingly tedious stretch that I struggled to keep my eyes on the screen, let alone pay attention to what any of the deeply unlikeable, utterly undeveloped characters were saying. They went on a plane, they met a racist cliché in a desert, they talked and talked and talked about nothing at all, and I turned it off to finish The Falcon and the Winter Soldier instead.
I’m sure if I’d stuck with it, there would have been some more chopping, hitting, and spilling of blood, and it would likely have been distracting enough. But I couldn’t run the risk of having to sit through another section of dialogue. I’m going to die one day. This isn’t forever. I cannot reach my deathbed and know I wasted any more of it sitting through another Mortal Kombat conversation.
I already wrote a full review for this movie, and trying to trick me into doing it again is a real Shang Tsung move. All I will say is that the movie’s massive flaws make me happy as they give me something fun to ridicule. Freakin’ magical laser eye.
Kotaku’s weighed in, but what do you think about the new Mortal Kombat movie? Flawless victory, total humiliation, or somewhere in between? Have your say! We’ll be back next Monday to deliberate and debate on another nerdy issue. See you in the comments!