Mortal Kombat: The BRWC Review

Written by Alif Majeed – Given how divisive the Mortal Kombat movies have been, fans have been curious to see what the new reboot brings to the table. The first movie is often listed among the better video game adaptations, while the sequel is easily counted among the worst. So the question is, does the film live up to the expectations? The answer would depend on who you ask.

The makers have foregone the original movies’ campy nature of the mid-90s and took the Batman Begins reboot route from a decade later. Only this time, Batman butchers and brutalizes in true Mortal Kombat style. 

The story is pretty faithful to the video games, or rather, as much as it could afford to be. It starts with a rather detailed prologue involving the characters of Sub-Zero and Scorpion set in Japan a few centuries ago. The movie moves to present day, where the forces of Outworld (read EVIL in bold letters) and Earthrealm (as in the good guys) have been duking it out in the Mortal Kombat tournaments for a long time. As they need to win one more tournament to conquer Earthrealm, Outworld warlock Shang Tsung (Chin Han) orders his fighters to kill all the Earthrealm fighters living on Earth to ensure that they don’t have any champions left by the time the next tournament starts. 

All this makes more sense in the games, but it sounds somewhat convoluted in the movie. The prime reason for that is also the ban of most origin stories: too much exposition. By making the lead character Cole Young (Lewis Tan), a new character created for the movie, the makers use that to overload him with information and, by default, on us.  

The byproduct of all that data dump is that too many characters spend a good chunk of the movie explaining the tournament and the universe’s rules, and the movie then rushes towards its ending, leaving a lot of debris behind. The abrupt way the movie tries to end the proceedings feels like a setup for a future series rather than a sequel.

But this is clearly a movie made by fans, for the fans of the game franchise. Often slavishly so, as they have gone into great detail to show how each character gets their powers, scars, even metallic arms and the likes. They are trying to be as faithful to the games as possible with as many references and callbacks, including many of its catchphrases and fatalities. It was amusing to hear a couple of guys in the theatre hoot in excitement when a character proclaims “Flawless Victory” after defeating another fighter.

They also really went to town with the violence. All the skull smashing and spine crushing and bodies getting sliced through metallic hats are all there from the games. Blood doesn’t just get spilled out here, but also does a crazy tribal dance before falling to the ground. 

But it might also disappoint some of the same fans that for a film titled Mortal Kombat, the titular tournament is pretty non-existent, which is shocking (saved for the sequel perhaps). Some of the notable characters from the games also become mere sideshows at the expense of an expansive role for the new character who is not from the games. 

Among the cast, Joe Taslim is pretty effective as Sub-Zero and scores significant points for rolling along with the movie’s more absurd parts. That could be because he is one of the few characters who doesn’t spend most of the film spewing reams of exposition. Also, Josh Lawson, (going the Jay Courtney route in Suicide Squad to play up the Crazy Australian stereotype to over the top glory), is the only guy who is trying to have fun with what he has.

It is a movie that is bound to make a lot of fans of the series happy. It is violent, gory, and remains faithful to the games to a fault while being hampered by too much exposition and very little of the titular tournament.

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