MORTAL KOMBAT begins in 17th Century Japan, when a team of assassins led by Bi-Han (Joe Taslim), attack the village of warrior Hanzo Hasashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and members of his ninja clan. Hanzo is killed by Bi-Han and then Hanzo’s spirit is taken to the Netherrealm, a place which is sometimes known as Hell.
In the present day, our world, Earthrealm, is in grave danger of being invaded by another realm known as Outworld. They have won nine death-match tournaments over generations and winning the tenth, will allow them to conquer and merge with Earthrealm. The only thing that can possibly save our world is discovering new champion fighters including one who is of Hanzo Hasashi’s bloodline.
The forces of Outworld are scouring the Earthrealm to find these champions and destroy them even before they fight. Unfortunately, the knowledge of the different realms and the tournaments, known as Mortal Kombat, has been largely forgotten and turned into myth and legend on our world. However, Jax Briggs (Mehcad Brooks) and Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee), are both ex-Special Forces, and they have an idea that the old stories are true. They are using their training and experience in searching for Cole Young (Lewis Tan) an MMA fighter, whom they believe might carry the mark of a Mortal Kombat champion. Along the way, they meet up with bad guy mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson) who knows more than it first appears about Mortal Kombat.
Mortal Kombat is a media franchise that began life as a 1992 video game from Midway. It spawned a series of further games and has been considered one of the greatest video games of all time. The franchise’s popularity has been consistent over almost thirty years. Part of its popularity was its controversial reputation as one of a number of violent video games in the early 1990s. It was the graphic violence plus the lethal finishing moves of the victorious fighters and their catch phrases, that were beloved by fans.
There have been two previous films based on the franchise, MORTAL KOMBAT (1995) and MORTAL KOMBAT:ANNIHILATION (1997). The first was a financial success, the sequel less so. The new film does not connect to directly to these and is a reboot. Many Mortal Kombat fans hope this new movie will be a better adaptation of how they see the game, its violence and its characters.
First time feature director, Australian Simon McQuoid has taken a script by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham and approached it with the effort necessary to make a workable movie adaptation of the games franchise. In a market where the films of Marvel Cinematic Universe set the bar of fantasy and action, a certain level of story, performance and special effects is necessary. Which is not to confuse this with a superhero film, but what movie-goers require for this material is far more than back in the 1990s. Fans of game franchises are constantly disappointed by the movie versions, so there was a certain amount of hope riding on this.
It seems likely that MORTAL KOMBAT fans will find much to enjoy here. Director McQuoid says that he was in consultation with the writers and the producers about the lore of the franchise; how much material to aim purely at game fans and how to appeal directly to those new to this story. Gamers will enjoy waiting for particular fatalities and catch-phrases; those who enjoy soundtracks will note that composer Benjamin Wallfisch has woven in parts of the original game music into the score.
Performances are a mix. Lewis Tan is decent as Cole. Jessica McNamee and Mehcad Brooks carry the more emotional lines of the main part of the story. Indonesia’s Jo Taslim (THE RAID: REDEMPTION) as Bi-Han is as terrifying as one might expect of an actor with his martial arts background. Singapore’s Chin Han (who plays Shang Tsung) and Japan’s Hiroyuki Sanada are both well-credentialed veterans of their industries and it is good to see them cast here. Hiroyuki Sanada is key to the introduction and is the chief reason that the audience will care about the bloodline of Hanzo Hasashi.
For people just getting acquainted with this material, and especially if those people are Aussies, Josh Lawson’s performance as Kano will be a particular highlight. Lawson is well-known in this country for his abilities with comedy, however here he has worked out and taken on the role of a psychotic villain with a strong comedic streak. McQuoid and Lawson makes sure all of Kano’s Aussie slang and attitude is spot on. The premiere audience got lots of laughs from his bad guy character.
McQuoid and Lawson were on hand for the Perth premiere and did a short and entertaining Q&A session beforehand. McQuoid let us know there was a considerable amount of practical fake blood on set, rather than just the computer-generated variety. Lawson was both amusing and no B.S. when he described how dealt with the fight scenes. He was more than happy to leave much of the physical stuff to what he described as the excellent stunties. The whole thing was shot in South Australia and some of the real-world landscapes used are stunning.
The MORTAL KOMBAT team have done a good job is creating a movie that will appeal to fans of the game and newbies. The film is rightly rated “R” for the gory fatalities. The computer-generated visual graphics are good, the fight-action is well-done and the hacked-off prosthetic limbs are first rate. Audiences looking for an exciting ride with plenty of comedic hit points should be entertained by this movie.
Duration: 1hour and 50 minutes. Rating: 7/10
You can also watch Darran’s Interview with Kano himself Josh Lawson, here.