Look, I could’ve just copy and pasted my opening statement from my Godzilla vs Kong review in here because, just like with that film, people are going into this one expecting something they clearly are not going to get. If your main takeaway from a Mortal Kombat film is that the writing wasn’t the best, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s the equivalent of me eating McDonalds every day, then complaining that it has no nutritional value. People don’t go to see a movie based on a fighting video game expecting stirring, thought-provoking dialogue. They go to see it for the fights, and the fights here, they’re pretty neat.
Right off the bat, I am gonna go ahead and contradict myself and talk about the dialogue, because pretending the issues don’t exist doesn’t help anything either. I just think that hating on this movie because of the dialogue is kind of a weird choice. The dialogue in this is mostly a vehicle to deliver exposition to the audience, mostly those that don’t play the games, to let us know what is happening or who characters are whenever a new one appears on the screen. They didn’t put that dialogue in for us real fans, because we know what’s going down and who each person is. Not all the dialogue is a waste though. In fact, Kano, played expertly by Josh Lawson, delivers a multitude of genuinely hilarious lines. The cinema I was in was nearly a sell-out and whenever he spoke, the whole room was laughing.
The casting was something I found to be hit and miss. I was not a fan of Ludi Lin, who played Liu Kang, or Ng Chin Han, who played Shang Tsung. I’m not sure if it was how the characters were written or the actors themselves, but I found both to be lackluster. I found the likes of Jessica McNamee, Mechad Brooks and Max Huang (Sonya, Jax and Kung Lao respectively) to be fine. Not spectacular but not overly terrible either. But I had four casting choices that I really liked; Tadanobu Asano as Raiden (although I have to admit that it may be because I am a fan of the actor rather than his performance), the aforementioned Josh Lawson as Kano, then the two best parts of the entire movie; Joe Taslim as Sub-Zero and Hiroyuki Sanada as Scorpion. Just be warned that the latter is not in the film for that long, but when he is, he is amazing. Now that leaves Lewis Tan, who plays the all-new character, and our movie’s protagonist, Cole. I don’t understand why they needed to create a character when there are SO MANY awesome characters in the MK Universe, but he wasn’t as bad as I thought he would be. I can say with 100% certainty that Tan’s performance was good but the material given to him just wasn’t that great and that’s why I am indifferent on him.
But you aren’t reading this wondering about the casting, are you? You want to know about the fights. Well, there are a lot of them squished into the sub-2 hour runtime, which is impressive. And a couple of them really stand out, mainly the first and last ones. There are none that are outright bad, but a couple of them have some weird editing decisions. What I mean by that is there is a lot of choppy quick cuts, going back and forth between the fighters instead of showing us the entire fight in a wide-shot. That’s not a knock on the director as I think overall, this is directed fairly well. There is some underrated cinematography in here and the pacing is pretty tight. But those decisions are questionable.
To sum up, this is a film that is pretty basic in nature, which may surprise you with the game’s deep lore. But the issue there is, if you go into all the deep lore with all the different realms and whatnot straight away, then casual viewers would get confused and this would be accused of being unnecessarily convoluted. But yes, it is a very basic story driven by some very, very simple dialogue. But if you, like me, want to watch it purely for the ultra gory fights (and there are a couple of beautifully violent fatalities sprinkled throughout) and the cool little easter eggs (my favourite is the reference to people who spam the leg sweeps) then this is the movie for you.