This could have been good. That sentence is the best summary of the new Mortal Kombat movie. It had the budget ($100 million) and technology is at a point in which the effects could have been spectacular. With the right actors, writing and direction, it could have been a great movie. What we are left with is another mediocre and forgettable video game adaptation that will anger longtime fans and bore newcomers.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Mortal Kombat is a long-running video game series that centers around a wide cast of characters engaging in hand-to-hand combat among two fighters. Underlying that simple description is a truly stunning amount of background and worldbuilding that can best be described as labyrinthine. What makes this level of detail more astounding is that one can play through most of the games while barely noticing it. This matters with regard to the movie because it seems far more interested in educating its audience on this lore through endless exposition-dumps rather than exploring any actual plot. While a certain level of exposition is to be expected and even necessary any time a film attempts to adapt dense source material, there are ways to address this without hammering the audience over the head with it. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is an example of adapting dense source material well. This movie is an example of adapting dense source material poorly.
The movie’s obsession with its source material would be more forgivable if it had not chosen to introduce an entirely new character with no connection to the source material to center its story around. This too would be forgivable if said story was not both poorly-written and overly full of itself. The movie refuses to embrace the inherent silliness of its concept, taking itself so seriously that it becomes unintentionally funny. It also forgets that most people know of the Mortal Kombat series not for its lore, but rather for its delightfully visceral combat. When fight scenes do occur in the movie, they are suitably brutal although the editing is overly choppy. In spite of this, one would expect more fighting in a movie based on one of the most iconic fighting games of modern history.
2 out of 5.