I really didn’t know what else to expect here. It’s dumb, it’s gory, it’s cheap looking- it’s a video game movie, you get what you pay for. Never in the history of forever has there ever been a movie based on a video game that has even been anywhere near decent, and Mortal Kombat is not going to affect that trend at all. You could certainly pull a few fun thrills out of it, but it’s still got the same uninteresting characters with horrible acting that doesn’t make the few exciting moments worth it.
There is one thing though I did not expect upon going in: the immense amount of blood, and how creative it got with its kills. I’m talking Quentin Tarantino and John Wick levels of gore, except the violence isn’t played for laughs nor is it put in alongside stunning cinematography and sound design. It’s just there for the sake of being really bloody. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, I’m sure the fans of the video game can handle someone getting their head sawed in half with their brain in noticeably clear view. But what about others? This could shut them out easily, or make them so squeamish they wouldn’t want to watch any further. Or even worse, this could make people desensitized to violence and feel way less sympathetic to scary stuff seen in the news. Now, I’m not going to be one of those idiots who says that video games cause violence and school shootings, but when it’s so excessive and glorifying toward the murder of someone else, it’s hard not to think that it’s leaving a dangerously negative affect on the viewer.
But the blood aside, the action at times is actually pretty cool to watch. You can tell that these actors are really doing these stunts, which in turn makes for a fine tribute to older martial arts films. There’s a fight in the woods, a fight in the rain, a fight in a little arena, and, ooh! This one is the coolest- quite literally- a fight in a room encased by ice! Even when there isn’t any punching and kicking of each other, there’s some landscape views that are honestly quite stunning, and even look rather unearthly. They’re the types of shots you would see in an epic like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and look way too good for a dumb video game adaptation like this.
Don’t get the wrong idea about these small moments of genius though, because this movie as a whole is still more on the ugly side. That goes in particular with the sets and costumes. I mean, just look at the icicles- all of which are clearly not made of real ice and were constructed out of artificial material! It doesn’t look anywhere near as bad as the rubber and plastic in Batman and Robin, but it’s within that territory. The same goes to the rock around the caves, which make it so distractingly clear that it’s not a real location but a studio set. Then going from the sets onto the costumes, they are so inauthentic it’s not even funny. It doesn’t help that the film’s prologue is set in the early 17th century (which was a waste of time anyway- if the whole prologue were taken out nothing would have been affected). When you got a period setting like that, it’s mega important to make sure you do your research to get the culture and clothing just right, otherwise people from that part of the world will most likely feel insulted. You could tell there wasn’t even an effort on that end for cultural respect.
The awful look goes onto the actors’ makeup as well—so many bad prosthetic effects that don’t even know how blood works! The tint of the red on the blood is too bright, and it’s not shiny enough, like how fake blood looked in movies made back in the 90s. But then there’s the CGI… oh good golly the CGI. It’s got to be the worst you’ll see all decade. One of the characters has glowing eyes, yet the glow doesn’t even leave any kind of light bounced off the visor of his hat; also, the lightning effects I would go as far as say look like they came right out of the other Mortal Kombat films from the 90s.
Then there’s the editing, sound, and cinematography holding the film together, or should I say, trying to hold it together with scotch tape and Elmer’s glue. There are too many shots, even outside the combat scenes, that last less than a second, and the recording of the dialogue is so uneven. You may not be able to tell now but twenty years later, you will not be able to unhear the choppiness of the sound quality. And of course, as tradition to any action movie that feels obligated to shorten their cuts to the length of Bohemian Rhapsody’s outdoor table scene, the shaky cam is used way more frequently. I get the intention here is to make you feel as confused and nauseous as the characters fighting, but there still needs to be some level of comprehensibility. And in turn, if every movie like this one is going for that same technique in filming, none of them will stand out.
All other issues with the film are just the usual for this type of cheap popcorn entertainment: lousy characters you can’t root for even if you tried, no character growth at all, no real message, plot convenience after plot convenience, hope left in the end for a sequel that probably will never be made, and ultimately just being super forgettable in how much it’s trying to be like everything else out there. I swear, you could tell someone that this movie was eventually going to tie into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it would not sound crazy at all. It’s got all the same issues, in fact, even more issues than those other mega hits.
But you may think, “but is this movie at least so bad it’s good?” Well, hehe, in considering that question, I like to think back to Mortal Kombat: Annihilation’s icon line, “Mother… you’re alive!” “Too bad you… … … WILL DIE!” Accidentally funny moments like that make that awful film an entertaining watch in the most ironic sense possible. There really isn’t much like that in this new addition to the franchise, other than the cool bloody action.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!