The popular fighting video games receive a new film adaptation in Mortal Kombat. Cole Young () is a past-his-prime MMA fighter, who learns from Major Jax Briggs () that the dragon-shaped birthmark on his chest makes him chosen to participate in an ancient tournament called Mortal Kombat. Pursued by Sub-Zero (), sent by the Outworld sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) to eliminate Earth's champions, Cole is sent by Jax to his Special Forces partner Sonia Blade (), who has also apprehended marked arms dealer Kano (). Kano leads Sonia and Cole to the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), where they are trained by fellow champions Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) and taught to unlock their inner power.

More than 25 years after the 1995 film adaptation by Paul W.S. Anderson, the Mortal Kombat series of fighting games receives a new reboot co-produced by James Wan and directed by first-time filmmaker Simon McQuoid. Unlike the original film and its 1997 sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, which opted to de-emphasize the gory violence of the video games, this new Mortal Kombat film goes all-in with the bloody R-rated fatalities. The story of the film kicks off in 17th century Japan, where Shirai Ryu ninja Hanzo Hasashi, played by renowned Japanese actor (RinguThe Twilight SamuraiSunshine), is attacked by the Lin Kuei assassin Bi-Han. The two are better known under the names of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, with the prologue detailing the origins of their rivalry. However, the main plot of the film centres around the character of Cole Young created for the film, who learns that he is destined to be a part of the Mortal Kombat tournament.

On a stylistic note, there was obviously great care taken to make the characters that appear in Mortal Kombat faithful to their video game counterparts, which includes recreating many of the games' gory fatalities. However, aside from the aforementioned backstory of Scorpion and Sub-Zero, the story of Mortal Kombat is as soulless as the victims of the antagonist Shang Tsung. The original Mortal Kombat video game was first released in arcades in 1992 and has spent nearly three decades developing very detailed mythology. However, this new film opts to ignore most of that in favour of a stereotypical hero's journey centred around the uninspiring created protagonist of Cole Young, while the video games' actual protagonist of Liu Kang takes a backseat in a supporting role. In addition, while the film sports some familiar characters such as Mileena (Sisi Stringer) and Kabal (Daniel Nelson), Mortal Kombat also decides to include more obscure characters from the games, such as Reiko (Nathan Jones) and Nitara (Mel Jarnson), while absolutely wasting the iconic four-armed villain Goro, who appears for a single set-piece.

While Mortal Kombat is far from the worst film in the franchise, that title still belongs to Mortal Kombat: Annihilationit is still a dull and uninspiring reboot more concerned with looking cool than being respectful to the mythology of the games. That said, the climactic battle between Scorpion and Sub-Zero still delivers, though I wish I could say that about the rest of the film.

Mortal Kombat is now available in select theatres and on Premium VOD


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