Mortal Kombat (2021)
April 30, 2021 7:30 PM - Subscribe

Washed-up MMA fighter Cole Young, unaware of his heritage, and hunted by Emperor Shang Tsung's best warrior, Sub-Zero, seeks out and trains with Earth's greatest champions as he prepares to stand against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.

There's kombat. It's mortal (is it ever!!!). There's not a lot of other mainstream films showing in theaters at the moment.
posted by praemunire (20 comments total)
 
I loved the Bi Han and Hanzo scenes. They were definitely the most visually stunning and exciting of the movie. Sub Zero stole every scene he was in. Everything else, though, kind of fell apart.

I somehow came out of this feeling like there wasn't enough fighting. I think the issue actually is that the fight choreography was consistently built around positioning pieces for specific fatalities. Western martial arts films often do this thing where fights don't help characterization. Compare Ip Man's elevator fight and what you learn v. getting my butt kicked has unlocked a superpower. The fighting felt bland, and largely pulled from the same well just with different weapons.

Oddly, the sub zero/bi Han scenes didn't have this issue. I'm a huge fan of the fight callback, and Sub Zero catching Scorpions spear in round two was glorious.

That said, I'd love to see a sequel where magical powers are assumed and we're not burning screen time rationalizing. There are some good bones in this film to build on.
posted by bfranklin at 4:59 AM on May 1 [1 favorite]


I will appreciate this movie for making me lose it when, after all that Bi Han monologuing in Mandarin, Hanzo simply replied in Japanese that he didn't understand anything Bi Han just said. What a terrible, no-good day he had.
posted by cendawanita at 9:04 AM on May 1 [6 favorites]


Bi Han was the only person who really seemed to understand how to use his powers other than to bludgeon his opponent directly. Also his outfit in the opening sequence was quite snazzy.

Weirdly, I felt like the people writing this particular cheesy action film lacked an understanding of the standard tropes of cheesy action films that create a little more narrative and emotional coherence (at the expense of...let's call it originality). What stakes does Cole have distinct from the general one of not having Earth be conquered and his family be killed, which is fine as a credible motive for everyone but doesn't leave him much characterization? The film didn't even bother with deploying one of the bog-standard responses to learning that you're the Chosen One. It felt like there were these atavistic remnants of the pieces ordinarily used to build one of the cliched progressions of action films (why is it, actually, that Cole was a great fighter but is now totally washed-up, something they make a point of telling us?), but they didn't know what they were for.
posted by praemunire at 9:44 AM on May 1


(Also, I'm sorry, I know he's canon, but the guy with the superpowered hat did make me laugh.)
posted by praemunire at 9:49 AM on May 1


Well, uh, that existed. The choreography was fine to good but the editing ranged from fine to really bad, which took the bite out of what could have been some pretty cool fight scenes.

The best parts by far were the opening and the training section. I agree with everything bfranklin and cendawanita said about Hanzo and Bi Han, and the first 10 minutes are the one part where they got do solid work without the movie's overarching flaws weighing them down. The scenes in the temple had cartoonish characters bouncing off each other in fun ways, especially that bit with Liu Kang sweep-kicking Kano over and over -- genuinely one of the smartest nods to the source material I've ever seen in a video game movie.

My biggest complaint after the action editing is that the whole ending just doesn't make a damn bit of sense, and in a really distracting way. Mainly because on the movie's own terms there is no reason at all for Cole's "let's split up" plan to work -- okay, you divide up the heroes, and that allows you to dictate which villains come after them.....how, exactly? Why didn't Team Outrealm just keep operating as a unit and kill each of the chosen in five-on-one fights? It goes from that to Cole summoning Hanzo/Scorpion, again pretty much just because, which leaves the supposed main character as a bystander in the climax. I mean, Hiroyuki Sanada is great, not complaining that he gets the big fight, but narratively it's a mess.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:48 PM on May 1 [3 favorites]


Is it true that they made a Mortal Kombat movie, but saved the existence of an actual tournament for a sequel?
posted by StarkRoads at 12:56 PM on May 1


Yeah, that was also weird.

To be more specific, Shang Tsung's evil plan is to kill all the Earthrealm fighters before the tournament actually starts, so Outworld will win in a forfeit. He can do this because the gods who supposedly set up the whole thing are, and this is a direct quote, "too lazy" to bother with enforcing the rules. Except Raiden, of course.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:00 PM on May 1


okay, you divide up the heroes, and that allows you to dictate which villains come after them.....how, exactly? Why didn't Team Outrealm just keep operating as a unit and kill each of the chosen in five-on-one fights?

I think they were having Raiden teleport people to set up one-on-one matches? The bad guys weren't sticking together in a group so in theory, moving quickly, you could pick them off.

To be more specific, Shang Tsung's evil plan is to kill all the Earthrealm fighters before the tournament actually starts, so Outworld will win in a forfeit.

I had a weird respect for this strategy. So often when you have the high-stakes tournament story, it's not clear why (besides plot necessity) the bad guys respect the rules of the tournament, or cheat only in specific limited ways. "Let's just kill them all before they even get to the tournament" seems like a more realistic bad guy strategy.
posted by praemunire at 1:10 PM on May 1


I think they were having Raiden teleport people to set up one-on-one matches? The bad guys weren't sticking together in a group so in theory, moving quickly, you could pick them off.

It seemed to me like the villains were coming to them, but on second thought I might have jumped to that conclusion from the part where Kano is stalking Sonya in her home?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:28 PM on May 1


Was she even in the house when he walked in, or did she zap in following him? I admit I wasn't paying the closest of attention.
posted by praemunire at 2:01 PM on May 1


She zapped after, he really was already looking for her in the trailer.

And don't judge me because I watched it twice, but i mentally checked out at the exposition at the trailer so I'm still unclear why exactly is Sonya Blade the Fox Mulder/Lone Gunmen of this movie?

Damn waste of Ludi Lin's Liu Kang too.
posted by cendawanita at 2:10 PM on May 1


...wait, now I'm having a Futurama "that just raises further questions!" moment. Cole said he wanted to force Team Outworld into one-on-one fights they didn't want, but they were already split up and looking for the good guys?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:36 PM on May 1


I would expect Kano, being Kano, was going looking to start some shit with her on his own initiative. Seems like the kind of thing he'd do.
posted by praemunire at 9:38 PM on May 1


So, that was bad.

Basically a bunch of boring set pieces, most which end with our heroes needing to go 2 on 1 just to survive.

Really disappointing that they didn't let Sonya Blade win on her own merits, but instead luck into a dragon mark by getting her butt kicked and then conveniently finding a weapon.

Also, Christopher Lambert is the only Raiden we need.
posted by madajb at 11:57 PM on May 1


Really disappointing that they didn't let Sonya Blade win on her own merits, but instead luck into a dragon mark by getting her butt kicked and then conveniently finding a weapon.

She beat Kano handily in a fair fight before Kano got his powers--she could've killed him then. She was only losing round two because he now had a friggin' eye laser, and it's made very clear throughout that non-arcana fighters will usually lose against arcana ones. She improvised using resources from the fight setting, which is definitely part of the rules of engagement in this universe, and became the only known non-arcana fighter to beat an an arcana fighter. And she had the best kill! What is more flawless than a garden gnome to the eye socket.
posted by praemunire at 9:48 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]


This was gorier than I expected, but comically so. I only know Mortal Kombat as a pop culture reference/video game so it was nice to go into this cold, yet armed with a knowledgeable partner to fill in gaps.
posted by Kitteh at 4:59 PM on May 2


Is it true that they made a Mortal Kombat movie, but saved the existence of an actual tournament for a sequel?

Hollywood's evolved from "everything needs to be a franchise" to "everything needs to be a cinematic universe".
posted by Apocryphon at 1:07 PM on May 3


My computer decided to do a lengthy update around about the invisible lizard fight in the trailer park / junkyard? and I am not going back to finish watching, so my sole opinion on this movie is that Sub-Zero had a real big problem with clearing areas of all survivors (just left without taking care of that baby - pretty sure he didn't even check the house) and making sure his opponent was, ya know, actually dead (take a second Mr. Zero and make sure the guy whose arms you froze off and then knocked off a ledge has no pulse.)before he waltzed off to the next "kill".
posted by Julnyes at 1:55 PM on May 6


All I know about this film is that it apparently has a very expensive four point car hoist in one scene that a friend of mine obtained for not much more than the cost of hauling it away after photography wrapped. I look forward to watching it intently looking for the hoist’s cameo!
posted by MarchHare at 3:03 PM on May 7


I have watched a "best of Kano" clip on YouTube this morning which was mostly funny, and I think that is sufficient experience with this film.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:54 PM on May 9


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