DISCLAIMER: There are definitely spoilers ahead for Warner Bros Mortal Kombat. You’ve been warned.
What is better, the original or the reboot? We have all either had or heard this conversation at some point in our lives. Some feel that the originals hold more nostalgia and did it first, so they are inherently better. In contrast, others feel that reboots can fix the things the original failed to accomplish due to either shotty film work or lack of budget/technology. And both sides aren’t wrong. There are plenty of films that fall into either category. So where does Warner Bros reboot for Mortal Kombat fall? Clearly in the reboot is the better category.
Now before anyone attacks me about how the originals are a classic, know that I absolutely love them. I grew up on them and have spent my life watching the original films and playing the video games. It’s hard not to admit that the film franchise had its flaws with subpar acting and cheesy dialogue. But looking back, it is still one of the best video game adaptations of its time. With Simon McQuoid directing from a script by Greg Russo and David Callaham, I promise you that the reboot takes things to a whole new level.
Warner Bros shared a clip showing off the first seven minutes of the film to introduce fans to the rivalry between Bi-Han/SubZero (Joe Taslim) and Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada). It then rolls into the present day to Cole Youn (Lewis Tan) showing off his MMA fighting skills before all hell breaks loose. In Shang Tsung’s (Chin Han) attempt to win the 10th Mortal Kombat tournament before it has even begun, he sends his fighters to pick off Earth’s fighters who have been marked by the dragon. This leads to Jax (Mehcad Brooks) losing his arms, Cole searching out Sonya (Jessica McNamee) and our introduction to the foul-mouthed crimelord Black Dragon Kano (Josh Lawson).
After barely surviving a lizard assassin, it becomes clear they are going to need more help. The group seeks out Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) for additional training. Raiden refuses to help Sonya since she doesn’t have the mark and Cole struggles with unlocking his powers. However, with unconventional help from Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang), Kano unlocks his special powers. Cole eventually returns home when Raiden deems him unworthy of training and this is when Shang Tsung decides to unleash his attack.
Things don’t go so well for Earth’s fighters, thanks to Kano doing what he does best – lending his support to the highest bidder. Beaten down, broken and having lost their strongest fight, things don’t look so good. But the group refuses to go down without one more fight. Thankfully at this point, Cole has unlocked his arcana thanks to Goro (voiced by Angus Sampson) nearly killing his wife Allison (Laura Brent) and daughter Emily (Matilda Kimber) and Jax has a new set of arms. In the second round of fights, we are thrown back into the action.
Mortal Kombat ties up with what is easily becoming one of my favorite fight scenes between a newly ripped from Hell Scorpian, Cole and SubZero. Watching as two very distant generations of the Hasashi clan duke it out with one of the franchise’s most iconic heroes was exhilarating. The connection between Cole and Scorpian also helps to tie the film’s brand new character into the franchise. With SubZero dead (supposedly) and the Earth realm safe, it’s time for a new group of here’s to be trained. The film closes out with Cole heading out to Hollywood searching for the first man on Raiden’s list. While they don’t say it aloud, the poster of Johnny Cage sure does give me the chills.
While trailers and press for Mortal Kombat may have you feeling like Cole Young or Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion are the film’s main characters, it isn’t necessarily true. Yes, the film does open with Hanzo Hasashi and Bi-Han going toe-to-toe, thus creating the greatest ninja rivalry our world has ever known. And yes, we get a bit more focus on Cole as he undergoes his training, finds his hidden arcana and uncovers his connection to the Hasashi bloodline. But, each of the other characters gets their chance in the limelight as the film goes on which makes sense since Mortal Kombat is a game with no true main character.
One of Mortal Kombat‘s strengths is that with so many characters, it doesn’t get lost in backstory and exposition. These characters have been around for years and those who are familiar with the franchise will know who they are right off the bat. For those new to the franchise, the film still does a great job of supplying enough backstory to explain why they are there, so viewers don’t feel lost. The cast does a great job bringing these iconic characters to life. While sometimes the dialogue may seem a little cheesy and over the top (Kano I’m looking at you), altogether it is a great watch from beginning to end.
My favorite thing about the Mortal Kombat reboot has got to be the fighting. Martial arts are a form of art and the films that deal with them should treat them as such. Well choreographed fight scenes are my weakness and these left me wanting so many more. And believe me, the film is packed from beginning to end with them. I mean, it is an entire film about a fighting tournament based on a fighting game. The attention to detail in the moves and form reminds me of old school Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Bruce Lee films and what I hope we will get in Marvel’s upcoming Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings.
The fights in Mortal Kombat also feature something I always felt the original film lacked – gore. Those who have played the video games know how violent they can be. I mean, each character has their own fatality move when they win, which features decapitations, spine removal and even a recent one where Sonya Blade sends her enemies into the air to get ripped apart by a helicopter blade. Flawless victories. So the gore and over-the-top deaths felt like they really fit into the film, but I will say if you get queasy because of blood, I’d suggest maybe looking away every once in a while.
Overall, Mortal Kombat is one of those reboots that tops the original in so many ways but still feels like its own film. The story is something we have all seen before but still feels fresh. The performances by the cast feel good and the attention to the fight scenes is so satisfying. And if you are worried about the lack of nostalgia, know that aside from Earth’s fighters, we also get to see Mileena (Sisi Stringer), Nitara (Mel Jarson), Kabal (Daniel Nelson) and Reiko (Nathan Jones) in action too. You should really do yourself a favor and check this film out and join me in hoping that we will get to see more of these gruesome, gritty fight scenes.
Mortal Kombat releases in theaters and on HBO Max on April 23, 2021.