“Mortal Kombat” comes with a built-in contradiction. The most accepting demographic for this movie is probably young male humans between the ages of 10 and 15. However, the film is so bloody that the R rating will keep those same young folks from attending without their parents. Good luck getting the parents to watch this.
Film production company Atomic Monster Productions made its reputation by pumping out popular, profitable low budget horror flicks like “Annabelle,” “Lights Out,” “The Nun,” and “The Curse of La Llorona.” I use the word profitable deliberately. “Annabelle” cost only $6.5 million to make but brought in over $250 million at the worldwide box office. For “Mortal Kombat” Atomic Monster teamed up with a Chinese company with deep pockets. The film cost a shocking $95 million to make.
The choice of Aussie Simon McQuoid as the director should intrigue us enough to watch how the first-time director handles such a big project. (He does fine. The film flaws stem from its genesis, not misdirection.)
The two leading actors have something of a list of credits. Englishman Louis Tan has played for several seasons on the TV show “Into the Badlands,” a series that highlights martial arts fighting. The leading lady is another Australian, actress Jessica McNamee. We just saw her in another Chinese-funded film, “The Meg.”
The film opened with a scene in the 1600s in Japan. That part of the film was really first-rate, good direction, well thought through camera shots, beautifully filmed, all good. But the movie as a whole has some problems. The acting, in general, is stilted, wooden, and not convincing at all. The story, such as it is, doesn’t even bother to be logically consistent within its own conventions and assumptions. Things happen at random if the visual can be arresting enough for the audience. It makes for frustrating movie watching when we have the hero about to be killed by the hundreds of years old super baddie only to have a guy who has been roasting in Hell for 500 years show up to take out the bad guy. There is no preparation for that, no foreshadowing, no nothing. That is just cheating, or as “Deadpool” said in another context, “That is just lazy writing.”
Fans of the video game will overlook the film’s flaws. Others of us find the flaws so monumental that the enjoyment we might take in the film just dissipates until the joy is all gone.
“Mortal Kombat” runs for one hour and 50 minutes nearly two hours of some of the most violent fighting scenes anyone could want. For the blood and bashing the film gets an R rating. R means adults only. Parents will want to know about the bad language as well. Still, fans of the genre will want to see this lavish if stupid two-star film.
Has there been a genuinely good film produced from a game? “Resident Evil” comes to mind and “Doom,” and especially “Jumanji” but “Mortal Kombat” does not make that cut.