“Mortal Kombat” is directed by Simon McQuoid and stars Lewis Tan (Deadpool 2, Into the Badlands), Jessica McNamee (Sirens, Battle of the Sexes), Josh Lawson (Superstore House of Lies), Tadanobu Asono (Thor, 47 Ronin), Mehcad Brooks (Desperate Housewives, Supergirl), Ludi Lin (Aquaman, Power Rangers), Chin Han (The Dark Knight, Skyscraper), Joe Taslim (Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek: Beyond), and Hiroyuki Sanada (The Last Ship, The Wolverine). This film is based on the iconic video game franchise of the same name and is another attempt at possibly kickstarting a big screen “Mortal Kombat” movie franchise.
This film centers around an MMA fighter named Cole Young who seeks out Earth’s greatest fighters to defeat the enemies of Outworld with the fate of universe potentially at stake.
As I mentioned in my reviews for prior “Mortal Kombat” movies, I am familiar with the “Mortal Kombat” games even though I have barely played them. I know about the bloody nature and vibe, the rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion, and the fact that it has spawned a couple of the more iconic utterances in video game history. Having seen the prior “Mortal Kombat” movies and having known what I know about the games, there was potential for this movie to be really good.
Buuuuut… One thing stood in the way. Actually two things. A first time writer and a first time director.
Now, the first time writer, otherwise known as Greg Russo, is technically accompanied by other experienced people who have writing credits, but still, it is a cause for concern. But the director of this film, Simon McQuoid, has literally nobody else by his side, nor does he have any credits for prior extended content.
“Mortal Kombat” is according to IMDb, Simon McQuoid’s (left) feature-length debut. The only other credit he has is for the video short titled “The Night-time Economy.” I’d be less concerned if the film I am talking about was less expensive or not based on any iconic property, but here we are. This is a reimagining of a popular video game intellectual property and it is being done by a couple of people who may clearly be passionate about what they’re doing, but with fewer credits to their name than I would desire.
Having seen “Mortal Kombat,” let me just start off by saying that I really enjoyed the movie. BUT… My concerns were met. In fact that’s not all! Not only are the directorial and written efforts for this film a cause for concern, but I will also add the editing is mediocre at best!
I have not seen all the “Bourne” movies. I have watched the first two from start to finish, started three, never finished it. Anyway, having seen those first two, I just remember both of those happen to be one of those action flicks that occasionally thinks fast pace can sometimes be taken too literally. Every other second, there is a cut during an action scene that shows us one thing, part of that thing happening again from a different angle, maybe some shaky cam is inserted here and there, and it does not give the viewer as much time to breathe. Do not get me wrong. Fast pace is everything to me. But if you watch movies in recent years like “John Wick,” you’d notice that they sometimes avoid reliance on quick cutting for the sake of showing an overload of information at once. They let a certain shot play out for a decent amount of time, that way the viewer can determine what is going on without needing to go somewhere else in terms of an angle. In “Mortal Kombat,” while I will say, I do not find the editing *as bad* as other people have confirmed it to be, it is still sometimes distracting and despite this being a fast-paced movie, there could have been a greater effort at cutting it together. At least those are my two cents.
For all I know, this may be on the director, because again, Simon McQuoid has not had much experience when it comes to filmmaking compared to other people. He has done this film, one short, and that is about it. In fact the editors on this film are experienced. Scott Gray has credits going back to the 1990s and Dan Lebental has done a ton of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films ranging from “Iron Man” to “Spider-Man: Far from Home.” So if anything, I do not know how much blame I can put towards them. I think Simon McQuoid, who I imagine is a nice guy, may have something to do with how the film turned out in the edit.
Despite the technical difficulties, I will point out, as a 21-year-old, who really has he mind of a 12-year-old sometimes, I enjoyed myself immensely watching this movie. It is not Shakespeare, the only Academy Award I could see this film going for is for visual effects, maybe costume design, but this is a vastly entertaining adaptation of “Mortal Kombat” and frankly better than the 1995 version. It is not much better for some reasons I already stated, but better nevertheless.
When it comes to recent movies based on video games, I do think it is slightly better than “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu” but not as fun as “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I will say though, it may end up being almost as rewatchable as the latter. Simply because of the fun this film provides as it goes for the edge, kind of like the games. Seeing gross, bloody finishers are sometimes simply satisfying. If I want eye candy, I would definitely watch this movie again.
But what about characterization? Would that make me watch the movie again? Hard to say. Yes, the movie does have a ton of the iconic characters from the games and gives a lot of promising details in terms of world-building and establishing identities, but sometimes the characters themselves are somewhat forgettable as someone who has barely played the games.
The main character of Cole Young is not that bad. He serves his purpose in the film. There is nothing that I can really say about him that is negative, but to call him the most memorable character of all time would be a lie. I understand the need of changing or adding something to material that already exists, but at the same time, Cole Young is not the holy grail of characters. I did not go see “Mortal Kombat” strictly for Cole Young, and as I stayed in my chair, I was interested in his journey, but his charisma was not as high as I would have wanted it to be. Although I do like one moment where he is learning about Mortal Kombat and points out that the word “Kombat” is not even spelled right. I don’t know, it got a laugh out of me.
Although the real scene stealer in this film is Kano.
Kano. Kano. Kano.
Kano is played by Josh Lawson, who owns his particular role because of his rugged voice, Australian accent that shines all the way through, and how his character is basically written to be the wise-cracking nutjob of the bunch. He’s almost got the personality of Deadpool or a Disney sidekick comic relief if such a character took a few drugs and enjoyed the ride. Safe to say, he is easily my favorite character of the movie and I would watch a film specifically centered around him as long as Josh Lawson is playing the role! He is well-written and realized perfectly for this bloody extravaganza!
In the end, “Mortal Kombat” is not a bad film, but it is also sadly, another example of why video game movies have yet to break this rock solid barrier. The film does a good job at establishing the world in which our characters roam. Unfortunately, characterization and filmmaking techniques leave a little to be desired. Again, this is Simon McQuoid’s feature-length directorial debut and it shows. It is also Greg Russo’s writing debut, and that shows as well. I can tell that there are elements of this movie that feel like they come from people who have played the games, which is one of the major strengths that comes with it. But passion is not enough. There also has to be talent, and there is unfortunately not enough brought to the table. Maybe if they got different people or a co-director with some experience, things could have worked out. But I don’t know. I am just hoping McQuoid and Russo move up from here. I am rooting for them. Until then, I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat” a positive grade of 6/10.
I decided to give it this grade because despite not being the best film in terms of craftsmanship, even though there are various shots, effects, and costumes that looked pretty neat, it is also one of the more entertaining films I have seen in some time. If you are at the movies and are looking for something to watch, give this film a chance. You may enjoy it. I also want to see a sequel. Although if that’s the case, maybe a different directorial or writing crew would make the film better. At least that is my assumption. Again, I am rooting for McQuoid and Russo in their careers, but they personally were not off to the best of starts. But hey, we all get our starts somewhere!
“Mortal Kombat” is now playing in theaters and is also currently available for a limited time on HBO Max for all subscribers.
Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Four Good Days” starring Glenn Close and Mila Kunis as a mother/daughter duo. The mother in particular tries to help the daughter escape her drug addiction and turn her life around. Stay tuned for that review and more great content on Scene Before! Follow either with an email or WordPress account, and also like the Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat?” What did you think about it? Or, which movie is better? 1995 “Mortal Kombat” or 2021 “Mortal Kombat?” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!