“Oh great, here we go, another video game adaptation that’s going to be terrible” you will probably be thinking at this moment. But hold your horses here, because in the cinematic plethora of video game adaptations, Mortal Kombat has had the biggest success of them all. Granted by today standards the 1995 Paul W.S. Anderson film is terrible, however everyone who has watched it has over time developed a soft spot for it. Of course, it’s 97’ sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation is still one of the biggest abominations to be put to cinema and made the franchise as dead as a doornail. With it now being back, has it learned from the lessons of the previous two film? Well no, not really, but it is a step in the right direction in terms of fan appreciation.
This film is definitely much closer to the video game series that the other two films put together. If you’ve ever played a Mortal Kombat game, or even if you’ve just heard of the name, you’ll probably most associate it with big, bloody violence and over the top finishers that make the gore in any horror torture film look tame. It will still take people by surprise to know that the action is incredibly bloody, it’s possibly the main reason why this film is rated 15 in the UK. This is undoubtable a good thing because for a video game series that made its name because of how it pushed boundaries, the worst thing you could do is give it PG violence. Plus, it doesn’t skimp out on the gruesomeness of the fatalities as fans will be pleased to know that many iconic fatalities make their way into the film. A strong stomach is highly recommended.
During the absence of cinema, I did spend a bit of time contemplating how critical should certain areas of film be, one easy target of this is special effects. Then I asked myself if I should judge the effects in a film depending on the films budget. Certainly, in life, getting the most out of little in a commendable feat so I decided to put this into action with Mortal Kombat. All things considered, looking at it’s not so large budget, the special effects aren’t half bad. It may be on the heavier side when there are characters like Goro and Reptile who do look very out of place, but for the smaller effects such as Kano’s laser eye or Liu Kang’s fireballs it pretty convincing.
For some the close resemblance to Mortal Kombat violence will be enough to ensure a great time and money well spent. However, that’s not how we do things on SMReviews and I have to first talk about a few grey areas that are purely down to your own perspective. Absolutely, right of the bat, you can tell that this film was made by fans of the games. This is director Simon McQuoid’s feature film debut and after doing some research, he made his name as a TV advert director, he even did an advert for Halo 3 and PlayStation so video games aren’t foreign territory for him. His work isn’t too special but it’s not bad either. However, I believe it is in the writing where the issues become clearer. Now there’s nothing wrong with filling a film with references to the source material, but they shouldn’t be a screenwriting football to throw around here and there, and unfortunately, that seems to be the case here.
Another big grey area is the tone and pacing of the film. The opening sequence is something quite serious, it’s a setup that certainly makes you want to go further, and the film follows on for a while with this serious and slow tone and pace. But soon enough, once you insert the inclusion of other realms and unlocking “arcana”, you get a tone that eerily resembles the previous two Mortal Kombat films. I think I can pinpoint this change to when Kano is introduced. Played by Josh Lawson, he is the foul mouthed, temper prone Australian with a magazine of quips to spout and you start to wonder if the filmmakers wanted this stereotype on purpose. I will say one thing, for all the clichés this character represents, he does do something that is very uncliched. You know the formula well enough to think he’ll do one thing, but then does the opposite which is in keeping with his character. At least the film isn’t as shallow as I though.
Moving on to the pace, as previously mentioned it starts off pretty slow, but it does eventually increase when the tone demands it to. But as the film progresses, the pace starts to become almost like an out-of-control treadmill. It becomes too quick for its own good and eventually it will completely jump over places that need explanation. It goes from something everyone can watch to something you can watch, but only if you’ve played the games. It’s pretty baffling how the writer couldn’t see that they would alienating certain audience members DURING the film.
At the end of the day though, Mortal Kombat is not a film where you should be looking into the writing, the performances, the characters etc. You watch this film because you want to see fights with blood and gore, just like the games. If that how you feel then Mortal Kombat is money well spent, but this is a shallow water film, it’s only enjoyable as long as you don’t go too deep. Because this film also sets up a sequel at the end, I’d ask to see more world development and a bigger commitment to one tone and pace.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen Mortal Kombat? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Cruella