When it comes to doing a 'Mortal Kombat' film "right" (in my opinion), you need a few key ingredients to mix into your fatality fudge cake. You'll want a generous helping of blood and gore, a few sprinkles of one-liners from the game, plenty of recognizable fight moves, the appropriate characters, and make the tournament take place in some kind of grand arena. The only thing I felt like I didn't get here, however, was that final ingredient.
The film opens in feudal Japan, where Bi-Han, aka eventual Sub Zero (Joe Taslim), and his Lin Kuei assassins attack their rival ninja clan, Shirai Ryu, including the wife and son of Hanzo Hasashi, aka eventual Scorpion (Hiroyuki Sanada). Bi-Han emerges from the fight, triumphant, but misses one member of the family; Hanzo's infant daughter. This is when Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) shows up to rescue the child and take her under his protection. As centuries pass, the Hasashi bloodline continues, and eventually falls to Cole Young (Lewis Tan); a former MMA champion, and no one we've ever heard of in any of the games. In my opinion, a somewhat bold move on their part, but an interesting one nonetheless.
Cole, his wife, Allison (Laura Brent), and daughter, Emily (Matilda Kimber), are soon attacked by Sub-Zero, but they are intercepted by Special Forces Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs (Mehcad Brooks). Jax directs the family to Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee) who has further information as to why Sub Zero is attacking them. Cole finds out that it all has to do with his birthmark, which turns out to be a mark several people have (including Jax), basically branding them to represent Earth Realm in a major tournament called "Mortal Kombat". Currently, the realm of Outworld is about to take it all, with only Earth to have to get through, so Sonya and Cole set out to find the Earth Realm Temple to prepare for the fight ahead.
The character that is perhaps most worthy to mention through the film is probably Kano (Josh Lawson); a mercenary who Sonya makes a deal with to help them, and who also has a mark. He provides a lot of the comedy relief, but does so with a dark sense of humour that's very fitting for the film. However, I might suggest that most of the characters here are actually a little bland. We eventually come across Liu Kang (Ludi Lin) and Kung Lao (Max Huang) who add a little something as well, but I have to admit that I found these characters pretty one-note, and there just isn't quite the same charm we got from the '95 version. Call it a guilty pleasure, if you will, but I had a more fun time with the '95 film than I did here. However, this wasn't without its dark charm that lied elsewhere.
For those of us who came here to see good fight scenes, complete with fatalities, we do get a fair share of it. When these fighters fight, it's quite a show, and they do a good job at not sparing us the blood we crave with a movie like this. Having said that, this did a much better job here with gore than the '95 version. So one could say that opinion between the two all depends on what you're looking for. If you want the R-rated blood and cuts, go for this one. If you just wanna have some nostalgic fun, go with "MK 95". They're both in the realm of "just okay", and neither is very mind-blowing, but there's no real reason for me to think they simply can't be enjoyed by fans. At the end of the day, it's 'Mortal Kombat', and it was never to be taken too seriously.
I found that I enjoyed this, but it wasn't without a few things I really didn't like. The thing that stood out the most to me was, I'm sad to say, Sonya's character. She could have been a bit more interesting, but they mostly just use her for reaction shots, and to give exposition about the tournament she's been researching. It didn't help that the camera was constantly flipping over to her for no real reason. One could make a drinking game out of all of the "Sonya reacts" shots. Her reaction is always the same, deadpan look too. To be clear, I don't blame the actress, it seems to be bad direction and bad editing combined with just giving her nothing to do, at least not until the very end, which even then provides no surprise as to where she ends up.
I liked a few of the Easter eggs scattered throughout the movie, and I enjoyed the tail end of it, but things are left wide open for a sequel that I wonder will even come to pass. If it does, it needs to be a bit better than this, perhaps actually taking place in Outworld as opposed to it mostly being characters from Outworld coming to visit us. A few things irked be just the same; for example a fight in the famous "Pit" that does not involve the uppercut/impaling fall. I thought it was a total waste. I might consider that a personal nitpick but WHY have the Pit if you're not going to use it? Anyway, that aside, I think if I had to pick one to be "better", I might just stick to the '95 version, if only because I had more actual fun with it. But hey, if you're more of a gore hound, this might be the better route. All I know is this; at least this wasn't on the level of 'Mortal Kombat: Annihilation'!