Mortal Kombat has always been an intricately dumb idea from a mythology standpoint, which is not a bad thing, and this new movie adaptation takes that dumb material far too seriously.
Director: Simon McQuoid
Summary: MMA fighter Cole Young seeks out Earth's greatest champions in order to stand against the enemies of Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe.
Ever since Mortal Kombat came onto the video scene in 1992, it has been a completely ridiculous and stupid series in the best possible way. This not a dig at the series in any way, shape, or form; it's a fighting game with some stupid mythology to prop up the fighting game, and that is what it's here for. The problem that this adaptation and any adaptation of this series runs into is that people do not play Mortal Kombat for the story; they play for the fights, and that's about it. They don't really care why the people are fighting; they just want to get to the fight so they can do the fatality and see someone's spine get ripped out. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that; this series wouldn't be pushing 30 if there wasn't something there. However, the problem that these movies have run into is the same problem that so many other video game adaptations have run into; the adapting part.
A game that isn't here for the plot is even harder to adapt than a story-heavy game like Uncharted, which is due to come out eventually. Now you're not only fighting against the change in medium and going from an interactive to an inactive one, but you're also going from something where the story doesn't matter to something where the story kind of has to matter because of how we watch and consume movies. That's not to say there wasn't some way to lean into all of this and make a good movie, but Mortal Kombat seems to be under the impression that its lore is something worth exploring, so they spend roughly half of the movie explaining it. The entire second act is almost all explaining with few training montages. We didn't come to a Mortal Kombat movie for long talks about lore; we came to watch someone brutally murder another person in an absolutely buck wild fight.
The moments when the movie stops trying to make us take all of this seriously are the only times when it really shines, but, unfortunately, those moments are few and far between. The fights aren't bad to watch; they are all well choreographed with lots of stupid-looking characters using magic powers at each other, and it's fun when the movie decides that it wants to be fun. Someone actually says the words "flawless victory," and anyone over the age of 30 is probably going to have war flashbacks to being a kid playing the original at the house where the parents didn't really pay attention to what games their kids were playing. The prologue and one of the final fights feel like they are taking place in completely different movies and not really in a good way. They are weird bookends to a movie that doesn't seem to really know what it wants to be in the end.
Mortal Kombat doesn't embrace the fact that it is a movie based on the Mortal Kombat video games. This is a movie that could have leaned into being cheesy and over the top but instead tries far too hard to take itself seriously. Perhaps, if they had pushed a bit harder, they could have spilled over into full-blown camp, but they are too restrained to do so. No one goes into Mortal Kombat for the lore, they are here for the fights, and there isn't enough fighting in this movie based on a fighting game. It isn't dumb enough to be fun, but it isn't completely terrible either. This is a movie that's going to benefit from the hybrid release; the fans that were going to see a Mortal Kombat movie in theaters are going to go see it regardless and enjoy it [hopefully safely, wear a mask, get your shots, don't be dumb, no movie is worth your health]. As for the rest of us, there are worse ways to spend a Friday night at home if you already have an HBO Max subscription.
FINAL SCORE: 3.5/10