Video game adaptations are notorious in the world of cinema and not for the right reasons. While the medium itself has advanced immensely in a short amount of time, the translation to film didn’t have the best start. Director Paul W. S. Anderson has a strong relationship in this sub-genre, most successfully in giving the world his version of Resident Evil across several films that have made plenty at the box office, but remains divisive among fans. Gamers also know him as the guy who gave us the first cinematic version of MORTAL KOMBAT in 1995. Although dismissed by critics, the box office said otherwise and young fans like myself watched that VHS dozens of times. This was a time when it was rare to see video games on the big screen and the movie embraced its violence even with a PG-13 rating. While it was far from a perfect movie, it had a charm that made it fun to watch along with a crazy addictive soundtrack. The same cannot be said for the 2021 reboot.
In his directorial debut, Simon McQuoid gives MORTAL KOMBAT a new vision that has more misses than anything. The film introduces an original character Cole Young (Lewis Tan) as a washed-up MMA fighter who is attacked by an assassin named Sub-Zero. He survives and is recruited by ex-military Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). They advise Cole of a tournament fought by warriors that will decide if the realm of Outworld will take over Earthrealm.
The plot is silly, but that’s ok. The 1995 film embraced this and threw all the best elements on the screen with trademark fight sequences. While the 2021 version shows off some bloody fatalities, there are too few to cheer for as the script forces the audience to endure long sequences of exposition that do nothing for character building. The only exception to this downfall is Kano (Josh Lawson), the Australian mercenary with a smart mouth. Kano speaks for the audience and has the self-awareness the movie needs. Everyone else in MORTAL KOMBAT is way too serious for a movie game adaptation, where the goal is to slaughter each other in the most gruesome ways possible.
Some of the fights are impressive and, thankfully, bloody, but some are also disappointing. Sonya Blade is the only female lead here despite several female fighters in the game and is given only one real fight to impress. That fight, however, is dimly lit and makes it hard to tell what is actually happening. Yes, the movie does give us a demonic Mileena and Nitara, but both are given very little screen time in favor of a character who wasn’t even in the games. I’ve watched the movie twice now and still can’t tell what Cole’s special power is supposed to be.
Luckily, Warner Bros has given fans a somewhat exciting home video release. The 4K disc offers a visually appealing UHD experience. MORTAL KOMBAT embraces vibrant special effects and set pieces and this release makes it pop that much more. In terms of special features, there are several mini-documentaries focusing on characters and easter eggs (hardcore fans will find them very easily already), but the main attraction to tend to is “From Game to Screen: The Making of Mortal Kombat.” Although only a twenty-minute runtime, it offers a decent look at how the filmmakers approached each character and what was paid special attention to from the games.
While MORTAL KOMBAT isn’t a movie to brag about to fellow gamers, the 4K release is a pretty sight to see for home video enthusiasts. The MORTAL KOMBAT 4K Blu-ray is now available for purchase! To learn more about how the team brought MORTAL KOMBAT to life onscreen, go here.