‘Mortal Kombat’ Review: A Dash at Flawless Victory

We should open, as this movie does, with a fight scene, but Mortal Kombat spoils us with gainly impressive options, enough to leave us awestruck and overwhelmed, too dazed to make any choice that captures the essence of any fight scene without betraying the perfectness of all the other equally brilliant fight scenes from the movie. We should open, as the movie does, with the quietly poignant story of Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) aka Scorpion, leader of the Shirai Ryu clan, as he loses all he holds dear—his wife, his son and his clan—to the murderous pillager, Sub-Zero (Joe Tashin). But this too would potentially negate the gorgeous opening fight sequences. It would fail to express that a Mortal Kombat movie seamlessly delivers on violence and storytelling on equally qualitative measure.

Official poster. Image via Warner Bros.

    The opening fight scene, accompanied by a blood-pumping techno sound effect, pits Scorpion and Sub-Zero against each other in a clan rivalry fueled battle. Sub-Zero brutally murders Scorpion who promises the former he would have his revenge someday, no matter how long it takes him. Sub-Zero maintains this streak of invincibility throughout the movie, setting himself up as a devastatingly effective villain. He practically destroys everyone he comes across until his fated rematch with Scorpion. Yet even with backup, Scorpion still struggles to battle him. While for some time, the movie distracts us from Sub-Zero’s chilling ice rage, we have no doubt that every time he appears on screen, he has either arrived as ruin itself or a prelude to ruin. Accompanied by a ghastly tune, Sub-Zero is an impressive villain, arguably more potent than Shan Tsung, especially with viewers oblivious to the source material.

    Although the movie has numerous characters and materials to cover, it never forgets the strain its story began with, which is Scorpion. Through other characters, the story maintains the importance of Scorpion’s revenge to the Outworld and the survival of the Earthrealm itself. Scorpion’s revenge is kept alive in flashes, and his evolution is depicted likewise. As Sub-Zero pillages further, and the story evolves between them, Scorpion becomes the powerful demon gamers know him to be, the carrier of hellfire, leading us into a nerve-racking final showdown between both characters. The plot and subplots are all in preparation for the gory battles in this movie, exactly as a Mortal Kombat film should be experienced: with as much violence as possible. 

    These characters, to the avid gamer, would be immediately resonant, and to the greenhorns, the costume each character appears in must certainly mark them indelibly. In this department, again, all characters neatly line up behind Sub-Zero and Scorpion: with those dazzling quasi-technic masks that brighten up both characters’ eyes, the fine, fiery and dour lines on their respective apparels, the visually silky feel of their hoods, and by all means, a return to the flexible effectiveness of their masks—both characters are pleasing to the eyes. Perhaps Lord Raiden (Tadenobu Asan) comes next in costuming, with his apparel coloured as quietly as his role in the movie. Mileena (Sisi Stringer) is frighteningly accurate with her makeup, and Kung Lao (Max Hung) shines as the hat swinger and the only character to deliver the most coveted line in Mortal Kombat history: “Flawless Victory”.

Image via Warner Bros.

    Nothing goes to waste here; everything is as neat and orderly as a monk’s abode. But there is Kano, played by Josh Lawson, annoyingly jarring but grudgingly lovable; that nuisance at a party who never shuts up but is forgiven because he is funnier than he is irritating. Sonya Blade pales because of the actress who played her, Jessica McNamee. Deadly Special Ops graduate, future wife to Hollywood actor, Johnny Cage, she sidles through the movie with questionable depiction. But Sonya is effective when she needs to be, and this forgivably points to some level of skill. By and by the movie floats—impressively—until the fated rematch between Scorpion and Sub-Zero, and here, there is need to rest, because a word written of that final battle would be a disservice to its excellence, and perhaps, by extension, to the movie itself. It can only be witnessed to be rendered meaningful in its entirety, without sacrificing one element for another.

Rating: 7/10

Side Musings

  • The fight scenes are well choreographed. Liu Kang’s pyrokinesis, Kung Lao’s boomerang hat, Kano’s laser eye, and the new kid on the block with a lovely force-repelling body armour; all the characters are aptly equipped with their powers.
  • While there are hundreds of characters in the Mortal Kombat universe, the characters introduced here, particularly the villains, are popular ones, and now with an obvious teaser for a sequel, there is an expected curiosity about the villains and heroes to be introduced in subsequent installments. Johnny Cage has been teased as a definite addition, but Bi Han, aka Sub-Zero might return as Noob Saibot as his origin story from the game.
  • The signature Mortal Kombat tune will always be delightful to hear on any day.

Mortal Kombat is currently in cinemas worldwide and available on HBO Max for 30 days.

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