It’s a decent adaptation, which means it cleared the previous bar by a mile.
In the 1600s, ninja Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) was murdered by rival ninja Bi-Han (Joe Taslim). In the present, Hasashi’s descendant, MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan), discovers that he’s being hunted by Bi-Han, who now goes by Sub-Zero. He’s saved by Special Forces Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) who reveals that Cole has been selected to take part in an interdimensional fighting tournament with the fate of the Earth on the line. Cole is assisted by the Earthrealm guardian Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano), warriors Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang), as well as Special Forces agent Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) and, surprisingly, captive mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson). They have to work together to stop the sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han) and his minions from sabotaging Earth’s chances at the next Mortal Kombat.
It first struck me as weird that in an adaptation of Mortal Kombat, a series that is absolutely overloaded with characters, they had to come up with a new main protagonist character. Eventually I got over it and focused on the film, but I’ll admit that it’s weird to just throw a new guy into the spotlight and, moreover, have him being a failed fighter. They also added the element that apparently Earth’s competitors in the tournament are marked by a tattoo (the MK dragon), which you can either get by killing someone with it or by being born with it. It’s a weird element and one that screws over at least one main character in the film.
The upside to this film is that, unlike the two previous Mortal Kombat films, this movie is actually pretty damned violent. The fight sequences are pretty brutal, if unevenly choreographed. Seriously, some of them are awesome, some of them are mediocre, but almost all of them are bloody. The moments when you see a fatality are pretty great, because watching a person actually being bisected vertically is exactly what I wanted out of this adaptation. Trying to take the blood out of Mortal Kombat is like trying to do a Street Fighter movie where no one can throw projectiles: Something we already saw and it mostly sucked (exception: Raul Julia).
The downside is that it is a little rushed at times and, honestly, the plot actually makes less sense than Mortal Kombat’s already ridiculously complicated storyline. It’s not that it couldn’t make sense, in fact much of it does in retrospect, but it feels like they cut out a number of the scenes where stuff was given a moment to breathe, and where the audience could have caught up, in favor of more weird dialogue and punching. If you aren’t familiar with some of the elements before watching the movie, then you probably got lost a few times. The fact that they switched the associations of a few characters and the power structure of the bad guys doesn’t help.
Overall, it’s still worth watching, just accept that it’s going to be a lot of over-the-top violence and try your hardest not to ask why stuff is happening. Also, no, Chun-Li is not in it.
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