Movies and Video Games have moved on a long way since the mid-90s. Technology offers sights that minds couldn’t previously imagine. Attitudes also evolve, what once was shocking quickly become tame, and impressive feats of strength and technology become commonplace. In 2021, the infamously violent video game franchise, got a film release worthy of its blood-soaked nature, as newer fans got to see the rebirth of Mortal Kombat.
Cole Young was an M.M.A. fighter with all to show for it is a dragon birthmark and a loving family. His fate gets upended when an ice-wielding ninja, is seemingly relentless with his pursuit of Cole. Fleeing the frozen assailant, Special Forces agent Jax sends Cole on a path to Sonya Blade. That birthmark is a ticket to the next Mortal Kombat tournament, one that can only be transferred by killing the current holder, Earthrealm has been on the losing streak for a while now, and one more defeat would allow Shang Tsung free rein to attack earth. Meanwhile, Shang Tsung impatiently plots and schemes, determined to gain an unfair advantage by murdering all the eligible contenders beforehand. While at Raiden’s temple, rigorous training begins for the gruelling tournament. Can this ragtag collection of recruits save Earthrealm from destruction?
Mortal Kombat wisely does not try to follow Mortal Kombat’s story beat for beat. Instead, taking healthy artistic liberties with the story. There is a very fun Terminator aspect as our hero is pursued by the overpowered ice assassin Sub Zero that feels in spirit with the 80s actions films that the franchise loves to bask in. Regarding its mythos, every character’s unique backstory and, for lack of a better word gimmick, is explored here. While the first film tuned down the gore to make it a more universal experience, 2021 does not skimp on the bloodlust. Fans can now rejoice with glee at the inventive blood splattering that 2021, mutilations punctuate the dramatic moments and more than add a little spice to the action.
This reboot reworks reams of the lore to tell its own story and stand tall. Johnny Cage’s presence is noticeably absent from the film, although quips being amply substituted by Kano’s ostentatiously Australian roughish charm, with Kano making it much further in this instalment than in 1995. I like Sonya reworked character, who has dedicated her life to a cause that may not even exist. The rivalry between Scorpion and Sub Zero is also explored in the film, particularly in a sequence at the beginning that highlights the decades of emotion between the characters. As much as I will miss Raiden’s raspy delivery, it is good to see a Japanese actor, Tadanobu Asano, playing a Japanese thunder god. Though it is Cole, an entirely original character, that serves quite well as an audience surrogate, it is peculiar as compared to the established names, he does seem a little underwhelming compared to the other more established characters, but he has room to develop if squeals emerge.
For all its modern aspects, its more liberal depictions of gore and violence, and a more mature story, at Mortal Kombat 2021’s core, it is surprisingly retro. Thankfully so, as fans have been clamouring for a more mature entry to champion the franchise’s rightful claim, as an entertaining blockbuster in any medium. The brutality of the games is here, and the precise depictions of the moves feel respectful to the franchise’s creative history of carnage. If you accept its lore-based reshuffling there is a lot of fun to be had with this modern retelling. After a long wait, Mortal Kombat is a mercy for the fans.
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