'Mortal Kombat' wages grim, vapid battle in film adaptation

  • MMA warrior Cole (Lewis Tan) joins the Earthrealm team in "Mortal Kombat."

    MMA warrior Cole (Lewis Tan) joins the Earthrealm team in "Mortal Kombat." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

 
 
Posted4/23/2021 6:00 AM

"Mortal Kombat" -- ★

If you base a feature film on a violent video game in which fighters pull out their opponents' hearts and rip the spines out of their bodies, the least you could do is make it fun.

 

Not "Mortal Kombat."

The tone of this edited-to-death, dramatically flat action fantasy falls somewhere between placidly grim and cooly vapid, prompting the Joker's rhetorical question, "Why so serious?"

The generic, personality-challenged characters in "Mortal Kombat" have been cast with athletic, but uniformly bland actors, except for Josh Larson's Kano, a robustly over-the-top Australian mercenary who leaves none of the other-worldly scenery around for his fellow thespians to chew.

The action heats up for Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) in "Mortal Kombat."
The action heats up for Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) in "Mortal Kombat." - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

The non-plot of the original video game (celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2022) involved martial arts fighters gathered for the eventual purpose of removing each other's aforementioned body parts.

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The movie, a joylessly efficient directorial debut by Simon McQuoid, supplies an elaborate backstory about fighters from Earthrealm (where we live) squaring off with the villainous "heels" from the Outworld, who apparently will rule the planet if they win their 10th consecutive tournament coming up.

An MMA warrior named Cole Young (Lewis Tan) eventually joins -- and leads -- the Earthrealm team, foretold by the dragon symbol he carries on his chest. Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), in charge of supplying feminine appeal and lots of much-needed exposition, joins him, along with her pal Jax (Mehcad Brooks) and their supernatural trainers Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang).

Supernatural trainers (Ludi Lin, left, and Max Huang) join the Earthrealm team in "Mortal Kombat."
Supernatural trainers (Ludi Lin, left, and Max Huang) join the Earthrealm team in "Mortal Kombat." - Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Those naughty Outworlders, led by the sorcerer Shang Tsung (Chin Han), intend to pre-emptively capture the hearts and spines of their enemies by dispatching Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), a literal cold assassin with the power to generate deadly bombs and blades made of ice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Fans of the "Mortal Kombat" video game may well embrace this suspenseless movie, that is if spurting geysers of blood, women being cut down the middle and lengthy, over-edited fight scenes meet expectations.

• • •

Starring: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Joe Taslim

Directed by: Simon McQuoid

Other: A Warner Bros/New Line Cinema release. In theaters and on HBO Max. Rated R for language, extreme violence. 110 minutes

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