This is far from a good movie, but you probably aren’t expecting (or even demanding) one from an adaptation of a video game known for violent fatalities. The movie is aware of this, too, as its characters serve largely as action figures for a ‘plot’ that exists purely to reach the next fight. While I could sit here all day and talk about how lifeless the acting is, how terrible the dialogue is, or how inept the story structure is, it’s refreshing to have a blockbuster that is (somewhat) willing to be stupid instead of overstepping its boundaries. Perhaps the main reason I’m as lenient as I am is the action scenes. In contrast to loud, empty CGI bonanzas of skyscraper destruction that I’ve grown increasingly numb to, there is some impressive (if over-edited) martial arts choreography present here alongside some gloriously violent kills. Your mileage will probably vary depending upon your relationship with the game, but the very casual fan in me had fun seeing characters go head-to-head, even if I wish the final fight had a more climactic ending.
Still, make no mistake: everything else is incredibly rough. The movie makes too much of an effort to juggle different characters from the game, with nobody outside of Kano really getting their fair due. I’m also not sure who thought it would be a great idea to center the movie around Generic Action Man instead of a beloved character from the game, while also featuring no actual Mortal Kombat…in a movie called Mortal Kombat? They might as well have stripped away any pretense of a story whatsoever and just delivered a series of fights with characters trash-talking each other before each round. Regardless, the action scenes are frequent just enough that I never entered ‘space out until the last third of the movie’ mode, which is more than I can say for the recently released Godzilla Vs. Kong.
Towards the end of the movie, there is a moment where a character shows up — with little-to-no explanation, mind you — and delivers a stupid one-liner before doing something really cool. This moment is the movie in a microcosm; if it sounds terrible, then Mortal Kombat isn’t for you. Perhaps this is the part of me speaking who is just happy to be shoving popcorn in my face again at IMAX showings, but I found this moment — as well as some other parts of Mortal Kombat — to be fist-pumpingly stupid in a fun way. Will I ever watch it again or defend it as a good movie? Will it save video game adaptations or demand your return to the theater? The answer to these questions is ‘absolutely, positively not,’ but I don’t need Flawless Victory in a movie where somebody could get killed by a hat.