Mortal Kombat (2021)

It’s my opinion that the key to enjoying this new adaptation of “Mortal Kombat” is to largely forget the prior 1995 adaptation, which doubled down on the ‘brainless fun’ aspects of the storyline and delivered a light, entertaining crowd-pleaser. Here, director Simon McQuoid goes in the exact opposite direction: It’s clear that McQuoid (as well as co-screenwriters Greg Russo and Dave Callaham) has done his homework, and his reverence for the source material is all over the screen. There’s a sense of trust that the viewer manages to develop with McQuoid early on, largely thanks to the poignant, impressive opening sequence, which successfully sets up the movie’s internal universe as well as its narrative focus. Additionally, there’s no denying that the movie looks just absolutely great: The color schemes are striking, the special effects are first-rate (note the exaggerated blood spurts that resemble the game’s own sanguine geysers), and the music manages to add a certain ‘oomf’ that makes the whole thing feel like an event movie instead of a rushed, half-assed video game adaptation (which has often been the case with this genre). But really, what ultimately seals the deal and makes the movie come together as well as it does is its extraordinarily likable cast. There are no “name” actors around (at least not known to me), but each casting decision is a home-run: In particular, Josh Lawson radiates sleazy energy as the charismatic Kano, while Mehcad Brooks (as Jax) and Lewis Tan (as Cole Young) both share similar appeal as natural born leaders. If you liked recent ’90s IP reboots like “Power Rangers” and “Goosebumps,” you should seek this out because they all share the same respect for the source material and deliver terrific movies that should have bigger audiences.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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