Connor Bynum // Film Critic
MORTAL KOMBAT (2021)
Rated R, 110 minutes.
Director: Simon McQuoid
Cast: Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Matilda Kimber, Laura Brent, Tadanobu Asano, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Max Huang, and Hiroyuki Sanada
Available today on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital HD.
Films based on video games have certainly come a long way since 1993’s SUPER MARIO BROS. With recent releases like 2018’s TOMB RAIDER and POKEMON: DETECTIVE PIKACHU proving that these adaptations can be far from disasters when in the right hands, it seems that Hollywood may, in fact, be learning from its mistakes. 2021’s MORTAL KOMBAT is the latest film adapted from a popular video game. And if you missed its theatrical run or didn’t stream it on HBO Max earlier this year, I definitely recommend you give it a look on 4K UHD.
Movie Grade: C+
From our theatrical review:
“The latest MORTAL KOMBAT may not totally surmount the long-fabled video-game-turned-movie curse, but it sure as hell gives audiences a bloody good, rip-roaring thrill ride in its attempt. It’s also one of the better cinematic entries in the franchise, worthy of its warrior spirit. Director Simon McQuoid instills his adaptation with engrossing character dynamics, a clean-lined, epic saga and beautifully stylized hyper-violence simulating gameplay.
Entrusting a massive series reboot like this to a first-time director proves a risk that yields robust rewards. McQuoid’s vision frequently juxtaposes beauty and brutality in each of the major action set pieces. Each of these is aesthetically distinct, assigned an identity not solely by their locations and fighters but also through the capably crafted fight choreography, Germain McMicking’s cinematography and Scott Gray and Dan Lebental’s music video style editing. All three in glorious chorus give the picture undeniably snappy energy. There’s even room for poetic, poignant subtext, like fresh rain hitting the blood-stained leaves in the Japanese garden or the climactic frozen location directly informing Cole’s internal and external stakes.
Still, there are a handful of weak spots. For all the good it does giving Cole, Jax, Bi-Han/ Subzero and Hanzo/ Scorpion enthralling journeys and arcs, Liu Kang, Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) and Shang Tsung are dealt short shrift. There’s an abundance of exposition. Frequently the narrative’s logic and rules are sacrificed for the benefit of fandom and nostalgia. It unabashedly deals in nonsense, specifically when it comes to the particulars of Sonya’s heroic ascendance and the filmmakers’ insistence on keeping her hands clean. Predictable things happen with Kano, who logically should’ve been vanquished early on. His inclusion is ultimately forgivable as his acerbic jabs at his colleagues and expansive pop-culture knowledge are part and parcel of the picture’s levity.
Despite the problems, there’s positive messaging residing in the film’s margins. Strong sentiments about courage, family and legacy, as well as nuanced lessons on confronting and healing from trauma, give some of the story’s hollow points a better sense of balance and weight, so those punches pulled will land sufficiently.”
Video/Audio Grade: B+
MORTAL KOMBAT is presented in a native 4K resolution and is a generally solid UHD viewing experience. The film’s heavy use of practical sets and effects wherever possible are greatly enjoyable with the increased resolution over the standard Blu-ray. Moments like Kung Lau’s delightfully gory fatality featuring practical fake blood spattered across the actor’s face are made all the more enjoyable with greater visual detail. The practical sets like Hanzo Hasashi’s family estate or the climactic MMA gym frozen over with ice are also simply gorgeous to behold, especially when thousands of tiny particles of ice break off from the chain-link fence of the octagon. However, the same can’t be said for the fully computer-generated elements of the film. These moments are by no means poorly crafted. Liu Kang’s flaming dragon fatality is perfectly fine in 4K. But other elements such as Nitara’s wings definitely could have used some extra work, and the heightened visual fidelity only make the film’s relatively low budget of $55 Million more noticeable.
The disc’s inclusion of HDR10 is simply fantastic. The darker sequences, such as Cole’s fight with Goro, feature very little sign of crush or noise and elements like the deep orange of Liu Kang’s fireballs and the green Shang Tsung’s soul-sucking finishing move are much more vibrant next to the Blu-ray.
The Dolby Atmos audio track is excellent during fight scenes but can be a little spotty during dialogue-heavy scenes, with the voices coming in a little soft at times. But aside from that, the audio presentation is mostly solid. The side and rear channels are used in various fun ways, such as having the sound of Scorpion’s kunai fly in from the rear and through the room as he returns to challenge Sub-Zero.
All extras are found on the included 1080p Blu-ray and the 21 minute documentary “From Game to Screen: The Making of Mortal Kombat” is filled with reverence and genuine love for the legacy of the original video game. It also sheds some light on the heavy use of practical sets and locations used for the film whenever possible and really drives home the idea that everyone involved was trying to make the best film that they could. The remaining features, while shot and edited with polish, often only scratch the surface of the subject and definitely leave more to be desired.
A full list of features can be found below.
- Deleted Scenes (4:13 total)
- Extended Cole Nightmare and Longer Kano Plane Story
- Sea of Spikes
- Kung Lao and Liu Kang Meet with Raiden in Chinese Garden
- Sub-Zero Confronts Shang Tsung
- From Game to Screen: The Making of Mortal Kombat (21:30)
- Mortal Kombat: Fan Favorite Characters (16:51 total)
- Cole Young
- Sonya Blade
- Lord Raiden
- Shang Tsung
- Liu Kang
- Kung Lao
- Fight Koreography (9:05)
- Intro the Krypt: Easter Eggs of Mortal Kombat (4:11)
- Anatomy of a Scene (11:57 total)
- Hanzo Hasashi vs. Bi-Han
- MMA Fight: Cole vs. Ramirez
- Sonya vs. Kano
- Scorpion vs. Sub-Zero
- Reiko vs. Jax
- Kabal vs. Liu Kang
- Mileena vs. Cole
Final Grade: B-
When it comes to breaking the dreaded Video Game to Film Curse, MORTAL KOMBAT is by no means a flawless victory. But it sure is a step in the right direction and a bloody good time in 4K UHD.