“Mortal Kombat” is a Fatal Flop

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The third movie adaptation of the video game “Mortal Kombat” does not deliver. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Noah Osborne, Staff Writer

1992 was the biggest year in the gaming world. “Mortal Kombat” took arcades, pizza shops and teenage boys’ rooms by storm with its revolutionary gory graphics and absurdly violent fatalities, which saw characters disemboweling their opponents. Although the video games have been revived and continue to eviscerate expectations, the 2021 “Mortal Kombat” movie notably scars the franchise’s legacy and leaves it wading in a bloody bath of embarrassment.

The 2021 film is not the first “Mortal Kombat” failed adaptation, as there have been other notably bad releases in 1995 and 1997, but neither of those are as bad as the 2021 reboot. Even with the revamped special effects, there is nothing special about the nearly two-hour travesty that is the “Mortal Kombat” movie. The film’s general premise at least attempts to maintain the integrity of the blockbuster video games, as fighters from Earthrealm are assembled to participate in Mortal Kombat, a fight for the fate of the universe. After Earth loses the tournament nine consecutive times, Outworld and its ruler, Shang Tsung, seek to invade and conquer Earth. At least, that’s what the premise was supposed to be until viewers watch the most basic and borderline ridiculous plot devolve into an unrecognizable mess simply not worth following.

The film follows Cole Young, a punchy and washed-up young MMA fighter desperate to recapture his early days and provide for his family. This was one of the worst directions the film could have taken, as Cole is by far one of the most generic protagonists in film history and his presence throughout the film contributes nothing but predictability in an already predictable film.

Cole has been selected for Mortal Kombat, sporting the dragon seal on his chest which verifies he has been chosen to fight. From this point forward, the film seems to be in “Kombat” with itself, as it can’t seem to figure out if it wants to be faithful to the movies or blaze its own bloody trail. When it tries to blaze its own, it’s often a trail that leads nowhere.

One instance of this would be the choice of who gets to participate in the tournament. Traditionally, Raiden, the elder god, would choose his fighters to defend Earthrealm, yet Cole was chosen to fight as per his dragon seal. If Cole were killed, he would lose his seal and his killer would gain it and undeservingly qualify for the tournament. This removes the prestige and urgency present in even being chosen by Raiden to fight for Earth.  

Another instance would be who was “the chosen one” to fight for Earthrealm. Throughout all of the films and past video games, Liu Kang was seen as the man to win the Mortal Kombat tournament and save Earth. Yet in this film, his “cousin” Kung Lao is the chosen one, an utterly pointless change as the film does not provide enough time for the constantly overshadowed shaolin monk to shine. 

Then, there’s the preposterous dynamic between Special Forces leader Sonya Blade and Black Dragon criminal Kano. In previous adaptations, these mortal enemies produced some of the most entertaining moments with their feud. But in this film, their relationship is like one between an older sister and an annoying little brother, as the two unnecessarily traded jokes, fought and even teamed up. Seeing Kano, one of the most ruthless characters in the game, reduced to overused and cringe-inducing juvenile comic relief getting slapped around is a heartbreaking disappointment for a character who has seen so much gradual growth throughout numerous games. 

The movie resorts to its classic cast of Kombatants, yet the use of these characters does not do the games or the characters themselves any justice. Sonya Blade lacks the aggressive edge to be considered an actual threat, fan-favorite Mileena is not nearly as ravenous as she has had a reputation for being throughout the games, Raiden seems less wise and more stubborn, Kano is a cannon-fodder clown and Scorpion lacks the dominant characteristic of his dynamic with Sub-zero. Coupled with derivative combat sequences containing barely any actual fatalities from the games, what was supposed to be a fun adaptation for fans became a disservice to fans and the entire franchise. 

Fans of the “Mortal Kombat” franchise must skip this film, as choosing to watch it is a fight the viewer cannot and will not win no matter how much they adore the superior video games. Nearly 25 years later, this film unequivocally proves “Mortal Kombat” is best enjoyed as a video game, not as a live-action film. The 2021 adaptation serves as a Scorpion-sized spear through the heart of a rich franchise that evolved beautifully from the ’90s. Fatality.