Yeah, yeah, I know that I’ve not watched Nomadland and yet I sat down with this movie for a couple of precious hours but I thought I might save Chloé Zhao’s Disney+ Oscar winner for when the cinemas reopen next week. Or maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it, okay? Or or, oh shut up, I’ll watch what I want okay!
It’s not that I didn’t suspect that Mortal Kombat would be a rubbish movie; the two other films based on this console game are famously bad. It’s like they decided to have a go at revamping Norbit, or as if they thought it would be a good idea to repackage some other terrible movie like Mariah Carey’s Glitter, or Justice League. Still, fuelled like those before them by the hubristic belief that there is a good film in this story somewhere they have motored on and here we are.
The reason why there are so few quality movies adapted from computer games is clearly because they are all about playing not watching. That is true more than ever of fighting games and the only way they can deal with this is to come up with some incredible hand to hand combat scenes which they have not done. Films like John Wick, The Raid and The Villainess have recently moved things forward in this area, and even Godzilla vs Kong managed to pull something out of the bag in this respect when it needed to. Sadly the smackdowns in Mortal Kombat are a little pedestrian. It is recognisable as combat but just not quite what we are use to. Appropriately I guess, it is like spelling the word with one wrong letter.
I have to say though, that even with the ridiculous plot that without invention in the fight scenes this film is overly dependent on, the movie does have an earnestness and commitment to its material that I quite admire. I mean, it is all stupid for sure but they are refusing to be held back by this and good for them. They have this plot with wizards and mysticism, monsters, swordplay, ancient feuds and characters who are fated to be heroes, and I believe some of the people involved might have actually thought they were making Lord of the Rings. I choose not to laugh at them for this but to respect their vaulting ambition.
Curiously the thing this most reminded me of was Enchanted. Let me explain. The first scenes show a caricatured 17th century Japanese warrior in a wood having to defend himself and those he loves from magical attackers and then we switch to a struggling young contemporary cage fighter striving to provide for and protect his family. Quickly these different strands combine and everybody gets sucked into the cartoony world of epic prophecies, magic and different realms and the two conflicting realities have to then exist side by side. Perhaps I didn’t wander so far from Disney properties with my viewing choices here after all.
At its heart Mortal Kombat is total trash. It includes lines like “I have risen from Hell to kill you.”, it has characters that can breath fire but decide not to use this skill in battle until there is a need for a big finish and it is underwritten, corny, nonsensical and predictable. Also if you’ve ever wondered exactly how silly it would be if Captain America’s shield had actually been a hat then your oblique curiosity will here be rewarded. For all this though, even if I can’t quite say I liked it, I didn’t hate it. It wanted to be a hard edged fantasy epic but it is actually just a Saturday morning kids cartoon with violence, blood and swearing. For all its silly Kung Fu, I didn’t want to kick it for that.
The Ripley Factor:
There are a number of women among the fighting champions, probably more so than when the game debuted in 1992 and definitely less scantily clad. The bad guys actually do better with the gender balancing as the heroes only have Sonya Blade on their team which is a classic demonstration of the The Smurfette Principle. The most violent death goes to a lady too which is kind of misogynistic and in a film like this kind of equality at the same time.
For me though the real Ripley is Allison, the wife of protagonist Cole Young, who at one point, despite having no superpowers or training, goes at a four armed battle orc with an axe. Mums are the true heroes once again. Give her a poster.