Mortal Kombat (2021)

I’ve seen so many reviews of this movie that seem to take great enjoyment making fun of it and saying things like, “Who cares about a Mortal Kombat movie?”

Well, I do. I’m the exact audience for this movie, someone who fell in love with the game, saw both of the original films in the theater and have purchased more than my fair share of the multiple sequels and all the DLC that goes with them.

So while these holier than thou critics snicker their way through their reviews, please know that this is someone hoping Stryker would show up and someone that grinded to get multiple Scorpion outfits in Mortal Kombat 11.

That means that when I mention all the moments why this movie didn’t work, it’s with sadness.

That’s because I’ve been waiting — as have many fans of the game — for this movie for a long time.

And this isn’t what I was waiting for.

Now, there’s the blood and gore that some see as the true heart of Mortal Kombat, but for me, the true joy of the games is the opportunity to be part of a wuxia movie. That would seem to be an incredibly simple idea to take and make a movie of — hey, they did it right the first time — and yet, this doesn’t seem to do it.

Yes, the Mortal Kombat tournament doesn’t happen in every game, but the story has always revolved around it. Much like every shared universe attempt, this is a movie trying to make the sequel instead of worrying about making the first movie rock.

The other critical error this movie makes is that outdated thought that we need a set of human eyes to view these events through, someone we can relate to. That would be Cole Young, a struggling MMA artist who has a family bloodline that ties to Scorpion. This is also kind of like how old comics thought that I needed a child sidekick to better identify with Batman. Nope. I’m just fine with wanting to be the hero and even better with unworldly characters that allow me to escape the world of normlacy.

Speaking of the gray ordinary world, this movie seems content to have the action take place outside a farmhouse than taking us to the Outworld or really anywhere that isn’t drab. Look, I’m not expecting this to be Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain, but come on. The beginning at least flirts with bright colors and great fighting. And then…

That said, I kind of liked that Tadanobu Asano — Kakihara from Ichi the Killer — was Raiden, even if he doesn’t get all that much to do. Josh Lawson’s Kano is one of the few other bright spots, even if this version just has a red eye and isn’t a cyborg. And I’m always happy to see Kabal.

But you know, the first film in what may be a new series gets rid of Goro and Sub-Zero before we even get to the tournament, while tickling us with a mention of Johnny Cage. It’s the inverse of Patton Oswald’s joke about the Star Wars prequels — “Don’t show me how the things I love started, show me the things I love!” — and like some weird edging thing where they withhold the sure thing in the hopes of getting you to care more about a movie that might never get made instead of the one you paid to watch.

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