The Mortal Kombat reboot is simply marvellous. First, it’s like critic kryptonite—you just know those fedora-wearing human hamsters will be fuming once they see it. And second, the filmmakers actually tricked Warner Bros. into giving them a big budget to make a B-movie action feature.
Yet, here’s the thing: This was the only way to make a Mortal Kombat movie. It needed to be removed from the current Hollywood blockbuster system to succeed. If Warner Bros. had seen it as the next billion-dollar franchise, guaranteed that it would’ve turned out much more like a gas station hot dog.
Instead, this is a film that captures the magic of ’80s action flicks. You know exactly what you’re getting yourself into before you even decide to watch it. It isn’t Oscar bait or trying to convince you that Richard Gere is a good actor (he isn’t). It’s a paper-thin story that folds itself into several pieces and allows you to slice the hell out of anybody who pisses you off. In short, it’s a glorious ode to the days when giants like Van Damme, Chan, Stallone, Norris and Rothrock dominated video store rentals and stole our hearts.
Mortal Kombat is the movie you reach for after you’ve had a hard day at work and want to unwind with characters you give a crap about, rather than pretend you actually watch Paul Thomas Anderson movies in your spare time. You collapse into your couch as you watch Sub-Zero use ice in a more dangerous way than edgelords do their Twitter accounts. You bounce up and down as you wonder what your arcana would be—sadly, eating raw noodles doesn’t count. It’s comfort, it’s exciting, but it’s also inspirational in the sense that you, too, could beat the living snot out of the next anti-masker who challenges you.
Ultimately, though, Mortal Kombat is a lesson about hope. It’s a movie where talented performers are cast because they deserve to be there—not because they’re the nephew of some studio exec. This is why you have Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden instead of someone like Armie Hammer, who’s being given his twentieth second chance in Hollywood to succeed. We’re seeing real martial artists and real actors from around the world receiving an opportunity to star in a global franchise. That’s true diversity. And that’s how you make it mean something.
The question is, will we be able to appreciate a film like Mortal Kombat right now or will its legacy only be felt years down the line? Modern society tends to develop a knee-jerk reaction to new releases—it’s either the greatest thing or the worst, with zero nuances allowed. We’ve witnessed numerous movies being received divisively open arrival, only for opinions to change about them a year or two later.
A big-budget B-movie like Mortal Kombat might not survive the negative response. Most theatres are making less money than anyone who bets on Tottenham Hotspur to win the Premier League. If this film doesn’t make money and receives a critical slaughtering, the reboot might be finished before it’s started—and that would be crueller than Goro in a Speedo.
The world needs more Mortal Kombat. As Lord Raiden stated in the 1995 classic: “The essence of Mortal Kombat is not about death, but life.” For action aficionados, Simon McQuoid’s directorial feature debut is a reminder that we haven’t been forgotten just yet. There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon that the genre isn’t dead. Hopefully, Outworld and Earth will get a chance to break some limbs and spill more blood in the future.
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