Of course, it wouldn’t be Mortal Kombat without blood and gore, and while the new movie is actually notably less violent than the hilariously gruesome games themselves, there are absolutely some gnarly fatalities that will no doubt make fans smile with macabre glee and others gasp in shock. The special effects that achieve this level of violence are great too, and what’s especially notable about the fights is that they’re not built around digital razzle-dazzle, but rather it’s used to enhance the brutality of the actual martial arts. And in that way, it’s extremely effective. The music is notably less memorable than the incredibly catchy soundtrack from the 1995 movie, but it at least cheekily throws in that iconic theme at the best possible moment.Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the fact that because there are so many characters, several notables are used in ways that squander their potential. The biggest casualty is Mileena (Sisi Stringer), who is reduced to little more than a henchman with just a handful of lines, a couple of fights, and absolutely no backstory. It’s a job that feels like it could have been filled by literally any other character, and putting Mileena – a key and fan-favorite player in the Mortal Kombat games – in that role feels like a waste.
That disappointment, though, is counterbalanced by some truly excellent fight scenes that make up the last third of the nearly two-hour movie. This is an all-star cast when it comes to martial arts, and Joe Taslim and Hiroyuki Sanada, in particular, do an incredible job in bringing the classic rivalry of Sub-Zero and Scorpion to life through their intensely physical fights. In addition to just being an impressive display of one-on-one combat, they are also jam-packed with both subtle and overt references to the games that work wonderfully as little bits of fan service.
Comparing the two movies is a bit tricky because the Mortal Kombat games have changed so much between 1995 to 2021. W.S. Anderson’s Mortal Kombat movie was fitting for what the series was at the time, while McQuoid’s is appropriate for what it has become. Overall, though, McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat feels like a more well-rounded film and ends on a tantalizing note that – I sincerely hope – should lead to sequels that turn out better than the dreaded Mortal Kombat Annihilation.