The New Zealand Herald
New Mortal Kombat: Victory or fatality?
Mostly flat remake ends up being too silly yet too serious at the same time
Twenty-five years after the mildly beloved first Mortal Kombat film, a reboot of the video game-derived franchise arrives with a rating that allows for swear words and gore that promises to live up to the graphically violent modern versions of the game.
Lewis Tan stars as Cole Young, an MMA fighter who discovers he is one of Earth’s chosen champions for a long-running, inter-dimensional martial arts tournament that will determine the fate of our realm.
At a magical mountain training facility with other competitors — including special forces veteran Sonja Blade (Jessica McNamee) and foul-mouthed Aussie mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson) — various gruesome opponents stage a preemptive attack and everyone must FIGHT!
The 1995 Mortal Kombat film is highly goofy, but at least it has a consistency of vision. This new take is wildly uneven, awkwardly trying to ground itself with weighty motivations amidst a ridiculous mythology that it never quite sells.
Although the cast is game, the character and set aesthetics can’t commit to either gritty reality, colourful fantasy or edgy sci-fi and end up looking mostly flat.
A surfeit of grand proclamations generate a self-important tone, and although Lawson’s petulant Ocker jerk Kano is a major exception to this, the genuine (and welcome) laughs he offers seem out of place with the rest of the movie.
The competent fight scenes look expensive, but none is especially inventive or memorable. Even the gruesome “fatalities” seem underexploited. Indeed, the film laboriously builds up to its three or four big fanservice moments (either dialogue or gore-centric) then seems overly pleased with itself when they finally arrive. It also falls prey to the worst modern franchise crime: Feeling more like a preamble to something bigger yet to come.
You wouldn’t call this film boring. But you wouldn’t call it awesome, either.
Verdict: Somehow both too silly and too serious at the same time.