The following is a movie review for the 2021 film "Mortal Kombat" and may contain information that could be spoilers.
I am generally a person who loves watching movies, whether they're flops or cinematic masterpieces. I'm most interested in the writing and the dialogue and what characters say about each other.
The video game franchise Mortal Kombat's most recent film adaptation made me throw my favorite aspect out the window. I love meaningful dialogue, but I knew going in this wasn't going to be one of those movies where I would say, "the writing was so good."
I had a new phrase: "The fighting was so good!"
I'll be honest: I had no experience with Mortal Kombat in any fashion until within the last year when I finally played Mortal Kombat 11.
I also had the advantage of never seeing any "Mortal Kombat" movies because the opportunity never presented itself, and I never sought to see them. Since my main fighting game to play is Tekken, I had no knowledge of Mortal Kombats franchise lore going into this.
All these factors had me see the movie not as an adaptation of a video game but as a regular movie.
It's not that I blocked out the fact that the film was a video game adaptation. Even before playing Mortal Kombat myself, I loved reciting its intense phrases, my favorite being "FINISH HIM" whenever Beast holds Gaston out over the ledge in Walt Disney's 1991 animated film, "Beauty and the Beast."
I mean this in that I had no expectations about what the film was or was not going to be. My lack of lore didn't allow me to compare and critique the movie's storyline outside of "does the plot flow? Is it entertaining?"
The answers to both of these are "kind of" and "yes," respectively. I thought the movie's editing was choppy in some places. The dialogue between characters was weak in some places, but since the movie is adapted from a fighting game, I didn't have high expectations in the writing department to start.
The entire cast did an excellent job in their roles. Even though the writing overall was weak for the movie, incorporating various Mortal Kombat phrases fit nicely into the script. Many memes make the joke Josh Lawson's Kano carried the movie, but I disagree. Kano was a scene-stealer, but to say he carried the movie undermines the entire cast who put everything they could into these roles. A fighting game has a diverse cast of characters with varying personalities, and "Mortal Kombat" had no trouble translating that for characters onscreen.
Cole Young was not a strong protagonist but with so many characters, he didn't have to be. He shared the scenes and screen more often than he was alone, but in a fighting game film adaptation, that was okay. He was a small piece of the much bigger puzzle of the Scorpion versus Sub-Zero ultimate showdown.
The movie was, in some ways, inspired by the older fighting game film adaptation. Even though I had never seen a Mortal Kombat movie, I have seen my fair share of martial art/kung fu movies. Ludi Lin's portrayal as Liu Kang automatically made me think of this movie genre because of the way he spoke, dressed and moved during his fights.
It wasn't a terrible portrayal in my view, though unfortunately, my first reaction when watching the movie the first time (I watched it twice) was to laugh at Liu Kang's character. I knew the callback to those older movies was inevitable, but I laughed less and took him more seriously in my second watch-through. Liu Kang was a very shocking character to me, especially on the second watch.
As he relayed his story of how he got the dragon mark to Cole, I had to google what "purveyor" meant the second time watching because I assumed from the way he spoke that the man he killed was selling children; maybe for slavery, maybe for more nefarious things. It's not specified in the movie, but this is the curse of not-good-dialogue: always leaving me wanting more from conversations.
As an action-fighting movie, "Mortal Kombat" delivers. It has a B-movie charm with an A-movie budget. If you're looking for this to be in any capacity a video game film adaptation that stays true to its source material and the franchise's lore, it will leave you wanting.
I think everyone should watch the movie at least once because of all the fighting game movies that have ever been released this one is by far the best in terms of cinematography, fighting choreography and special effects.