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Cakes Takes on Mortal Kombat (2021) (Movie Review)

Caila went to Meremac-STL for journalism and has been writing for most of her life.

Mortal Kombat!!!

The promotional and theatrical release poster for the film, Mortal Kombat!

The promotional and theatrical release poster for the film, Mortal Kombat!

Back in the day, there were a few franchises that MADE video games in the 90's. Super Mario and his mushroom trips in the Super Mario games, Sonic the Hedgehog and his speedy adventures in Sonic Adventures, catching little pocket monsters in the Pokemon games, fights with the extremely hard Devil Jen in Tekken, Ryu's bum ass wandering the world for fights in Street Fighter, Solid Snake sneaking around in Metal Gear, and the gory Fatalities of Mortal Kombat! Of all the games that were popular in the 1990's, none were as controversial and became more popular because of its controversy, than Mortal Kombat!

This game has become a staple in fighting games and has transcended its own medium and gone into film, tv shows, comics, other video games, and even cartoons! Arguably one of the best video game franchises of all time, MK has always updated itself and the storyline to continue the game's successful run over the years. It is known for its messy, extreme, and bloody kills called Brutalities and Fatalities, which have only become more brutal and gruesome over time. It was SO bad that a game rating system was launched in the 90's just to warn gamers and parents about how violent the game was and also been banned in numerous countries.

The 1990's also brought us the Mortal Kombat movie, its first transition onto the big screen. While insane and over the top, this movie had personality and did not take itself seriously at all. I do not think it has aged very well, especially compared to our technology now, but it is still a good adaptation of the franchise and its stories throughout the early series. Our imaginations took over in the 90's and helped to make their technology and effects better because it was all we had. We made the movie good with our minds. Now, we have the CGI and the practical effects to make the movie better. We have writers who should know the story of Mortal Kombat and take it in a good direction to give us a great plot... right?

A Feud that Transcended the Video Game World

Scorpion and Sub-Zero in their classic ninja garb from the Shirai Ryu and the Lin Kwei.

Scorpion and Sub-Zero in their classic ninja garb from the Shirai Ryu and the Lin Kwei.

Get Over Here!!!

We start the story with what should ALWAYS be the focus of the Mortal Kombat series, the beginning of the feud between Hanzo Hasashi and Bi Han (Scorpion and Sub-Zero)! It is a quick entrance into their feud, without reason, in 1617 in Japan, but we do get from this opening scene one of the best fight scenes in the movie! It's so good! The story, while basic so far, is still compelling because at this point, we want to know who is going to win between the two most famous ninjas in Mortal Kombat and if Scorpion will get his revenge for the death of his wife and child at the hands of the Lin Kwei clan and Bi Han.

The fans know how this goes as does every origin of Scorpion and Sub-Zero goes. Bi Han wins the fight, kills Hanzo's family, his clan, and Hanzo is sent to the Netherrealm for his afterlife, while still swearing revenge. From there, the movie's pace falls tremendously. We are introduced to a brand new character to the franchise, Cole Young, who is a descendent of Hanzo Hasashi through his one hidden away, surviving child, years ago. He is the CLEAR and OBVIOUS audience character choice. He has a wife and child, competes in MMA style fights, and is immediately introduced to Jax. Thank God, because Cole is essentially a bore and an unneeded character overall.

Quickly, the story proceeds to introduce famous characters from the game and their purposes. We get Sonya Blade, Kano, and Jackson Briggs! They are scouting for fighters with the MK logo dragon marking on their bodies, although they are not sure if the story of Mortal Kombat is true or not. They are soon confronted by Sub-Zero and others and are almost completely outmatched. Sonya Blade knows of the Mortal Kombat tournament and Kano states that he can take her to the tournament after their run ins with the other competitors. From here we meet Liu Kang, Kung Lao, and Lord Raiden who are preparing to train the competitors for Earthrealm's struggles against Outworld, who have won 9 MK tournaments in a row and are threateningly close to overtaking Earth by their 10th win! The characters learn that they have to unlock their arcanas (a creation of the film) in order to release their true powers from the video games.

The film does have good, not great, fight scenes, except for the first fight and the very last fight of the movie, and good CGI, but it does not make up for the boring middle filled with video game and MK references, and needless exposition. Shang Tsung is cheating from the very beginning of the movie up until the middle and you realize that this is a prequel movie to the tournament itself eventually. Everyone is receiving their arcanas in the dumbest and laziest (writing) ways you could think of: with the power of belief, basically, and it becomes very childish in a sense. Characters are introduced and killed off within minutes of being brought onto the screen and without pushing the overall plot forward whatsoever, or explaining who they are and where they come from or how they came to be in the Mortal Kombat tournament. There were countless characters in the movie, as there are in the game over time, but the stories hardly connect or make much sense, and as they go on they get less and less impactful as they are brought onto the scene.

By the end of the film, everyone has unlocked their powers, including the boring main character, Cole Young. The crew defeats Shang Tsung and his men, and Raiden gets involved although he says he can't, to banish the sorcerer back to Outworld. We are at the climax of the film and the stakes could not seem lower. The fatalities are not particularly earned with the fight scenes. There are 4 or 5 fatalities in the movie all throughout and maybe 2 of them feel like they go with the story. By the end of the film, we get another epic fight with the now spectral Hanzo Hasashi, who has officially taken up the name of Scorpion and the power of Hell Fire, and Sub-Zero, his foe, who killed him and his family centuries beforehand. This time Cole is in on the action as well. We get amazing hand to hand choreography, along with great practical and special effects in this fight. This is what I had been waiting on from this movie all along and even this fight seemed more lackluster than what I was expecting. Also, yes, that's right! Scorpion, the face of MK and the production company, Netherrealm, is only in the movie for about 10-15 minutes total at the very beginning and the end. It all ends with Cole Young leaving to go to Hollywood in order to find Johnny Cage, along with the other warriors going their separate ways with Shang Tsung and his men either killed off or gone back to Outworld with him. Clearly they are aiming for a sequel, because most fans did not even get what they wanted with this movie!

The MK Crew

The classic characters of Mortal Kombat!

The classic characters of Mortal Kombat!

The Characterizations

The best and the worst parts about the movie, to me, were the characters! Some of the fighters were not much like their video game counterparts, whether it be how they receive their powers or their personalities. Raiden was one of the things that I hated most about this movie. To me, he was nothing like his personality in the game. In the video game world, Raiden is usually upholding of his Elder Gods' rules and keeping the peace between the realms while protecting Earthrealm. He usually plays the role of the cheerleader for Earth's heroes, gives them wisdom to keep pushing forward, and has a tortured soul as he is confined to his rules from the Elder Gods to not be involved in the actual MK tournament or its proceedings because of his limitless Thunder powers. In this film, he is very much a hard ass and a tough guy giving the team tough love. The very first time we see him and he speaks, he literally asks Kung Lao and Liu Kang if this is all that Earthrealm has to offer him for the tournament. While the situation they are in (9 losses to Outworld) is dire, I do not feel like this is the time for Raiden to be uptight and a bully to the other characters really, bringing down their morale. He also ends up breaking the rules set by the Elder Gods by the end of the film anyway.

Spoiler Alert: Kung Lao is introduced and dies by the end of the film. Hopefully this leads into the revenant storyline instead of just killing off one of the main characters of Mortal Kombat. Although he dies, he does get them one of the best Fatalities in the whole movie with his buzzsaw hat by killing another disposable character, Nitara. There are other very disposable characters in the movie as well, which is a downfall because they could've just as easily not have been there at all and it would have still been the same film. I thought it was a very bad idea that they did not focus the story solely on the feud of Scorpion and Sub-Zero and the behind the scenes going-ons that pinned them against one another in the first place.

Having so many characters to get into, with so many backstories and interesting lore that goes with Mortal Kombat, leaves this movie at a disadvantage because of the lack of what they choose to focus on in the storyline. Cole Young being the main character was a grievous mistake for an audience character, which is what the movie was going for. Cole is your general audience avatar as he makes his way through this crazy world of Mortal Kombat. This is dumb because that is usually Johnny Cage's role in the movies and the games to be the odd one out and confused. So now, I do not know what is going to happen with Johnny's character, who is now set for the next film with the tease the ending dropped. Johnny would have pulled this role off so much better because he has a funny personality and a sense of excitement about him, whereas Cole's character really was a stick in the mud holding the movie back.

The producers of the film have released a statement saying that because Kano was such a big part in the film and had such a charismatic role, it would make no sense to make him and Johnny clash on camera for the funniest character in the movie right now. This, I think, was a great idea! Who wants two of the same people in the room? It would have been annoying to constantly hear both of them all movie long, however, had they replaced Cole Young with Kano's experience in the MK world or replaced Cole's entire storyline with a better storyline like Hanzo Hasashi, it would have made the film SO much better! This probably confused the general even further than just sticking to the classic MK storyline from the first few games and new iterations of the game's story.

My Final Thoughts

My overall feeling about the movie is that it fell a little flat. They let me down. I had high hopes from the trailers that I had seen. The stunts, the choreography, the costumes and everyone that they chose in the roles of these iconic characters from the franchise, all looked amazing!!! They drain any ounce of great out of this movie and handle it with mediocrity meeting mild gore. The carnage did not even come across entirely as a Mortal Kombat actions and felt watered down from what they could have been. I have seen TV shows with more gore and violence in it. The fighting was not a drag, but it was not the best either. Everything that this could have been with the update in technology and the many storylines that Mortal Kombat has to offer a film, this was a letdown indeed. For a general audience fan, this may be a good adaptation and good action for them, but for a Mortal Kombat diehard fan or even just a casual fan, you may be disappointed in what they chose to do with everything. The beginning and the ending both hold up as the best parts of the film, but the rest in the middle is dismissible and you would end up in the same spot you were in that you started in. The only difference is that Scorpion got his revenge at the end of the day, but nothing else changes really. This movie is not something to go rush and see when it comes to the plot, but I would tell anybody to see it just for the spectacle that it is and has become over the years.

Actors, Actresses, and Production!

The actors, actresses, and production teams and companies that went into putting this Mortal Kombat remake together for 2021!

Actors/ActressesProduction TeamsProduction Companies

Lewis Tan

Ed Boone (Video Game Creator)

New Line Cinema (Production Comapny)

Jessica McNamee

John Tobias (Video Game Creator)

Atomic Monster Productions (Production Company)

Josh Lawson

Simon McQuoid (Director and Producer)

Broken Road Productions (Production Company)

Mehcad Brooks

James Wan (Producer)

Warner Bros. Pictures (Distribution Company)

Ludi Lin

E. Bennett Walsh (Producer)

Chin Han

Oren Uziel (Story Writer)

Max Huang

Greg Russo (Story and Screenplay Writer)

Hiroyuki Sanada

Dave Callaham (Screenplay Writer)

Benjamin Wallfisch (Music)

Germain McMicking (Cinematographer)

Dan Lebental (Editor)

Scott Gray (Editor)

The Ninjas of Mortal Kombat

The many different ninjas and the colors of their clans over the years since their introduction into the franchise.

The many different ninjas and the colors of their clans over the years since their introduction into the franchise.

Mortal Kombat(2021) (Movie Review)

This movie is a Diamond in the Rough...

Money! Money!! MONEY!!!

The pandemic has really set movies and theaters back for years! It still is not clear whether or not things will ever be the same for movie-goers or the people who help to make them. While this movie did have a budget of around $55 million to throw on itself, at the three week marker it has grossed $67 million as I write this. Even though I do not feel like this movie has a plot that is worth the cost of what they spent to make it, I would suggest it to anyone who is looking for something to watch on HBO Max (for a while) and is even mildly interested in Mortal Kombat. I do feel like people should see what they did with the money! They did do a good job with the money, as far as what they put into the film, while not amazing, it was still good enough to check out. They have made back what it took to make the film, but the pandemic of course has set sales back for everyone at this time in the theaters.

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