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Review: James Wan and Simon McQuoid’s Faithful Adaption Of ‘Mortal Kombat’

Director: Simon McQuoid

Writers: Greg Russo (screenplay by), Dave Callaham (screenplay by)

Stars: Lewis TanJessica McNameeJosh Lawson, Joe Taslim, Mehcad Brooks, Hiroyuki Sanada

Producer: James Wan

I was luckily enough to attend the Perth, Western Australian premiere of Mortal Kombat, with the films actor Josh Lawson (Kano) and the films director Perth’s own Simon McQuoid, courtesy of Warner Bros Films. With 3 decades of history behind this game, it was a big task taking this film on considering the previous efforts have failed to do this game justice. The premiere was a Q&A with both Lawson and McQuoid. One thing McQuoid was adamant about being loyal in depiction to the both the stories and the characters of the Mortal Kombat universe.

I’ve always been a fan of James Wan’s work since he brought us ‘Saw’, and seeing the first trailers for the MK film it was one of the movies I was most looking forward to seeing this year. With an R rating you can only imagine the fatalities and the fight sequences are going to be just as gruesome as the game. The one factor which I was uncertain about was the casting, some of the faces in this film are known for smaller roles on TV and Film, and some are unfamiliar. Gaming fans can rejoice though at the fact the films showcases some of MK’s most famous fatalities, catch phrases and fights, most notably Subzero vs Scorpion, the most iconic characters of the gaming franchise.

In “Mortal Kombat,” MMA fighter Cole Young, accustomed to fighting for money, is unaware of his heritage—or why Outworld’s Emperor Shang Tsung has sent his best warrior, Sub-Zero, a Cryomancer, to hunt Cole down. Fearing for his family’s safety, Cole goes in search of Sonya Blade at the direction of Jax, a Special Forces Major who bears the same strange dragon marking Cole was born with. Soon, he finds himself at the temple of Lord Raiden, an Elder God and the protector of Earthrealm, who grants sanctuary to those who bear the mark. Here, Cole trains with experienced warriors Liu Kang, Kung Lao and rogue mercenary Kano, as he prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions against the enemies of Outworld in a high stakes battle for the universe.

One of the most challenging aspects of Mortal Kombat which was clearly evident in the previous adaptations, was trying to take a very simple story of a 1 vs 1 fighting game and expand it into a film story. The basic premise of the universe in which Mortal Kombat takes place is that there is a competition known as “Mortal Kombat” which pits fighters from Outworld, a hellish expanse, against fighters from Earth. Outworld has won the first nine out of 10 scheduled tournaments, and a 10th win will grant them the right to invade and conquer Earth.

The inclusion of character Cole was obviously a way that the writers were able to develop a storyline that they could work with and create a franchise out of and a film that could last a duration of 2hrs. That was the only downside for me, but I do understand just how hard it would be to try adapt this game. At the premiere when McQuoid was asked if there would be a sequel he couldn’t give a definitive answer, but recently we have all learnt that there will be at least 3 more films in a franchise.

The diverse international cast reflects the global nature of the brand, with talent spanning the worlds of film, television and martial arts. The ensemble includes Lewis Tan (“Deadpool 2,” Netflix’s “Wu Assassins”) as Cole Young; Jessica McNamee (“The Meg”) as Sonya Blade; Josh Lawson (“Bombshell”) as Kano; Tadanobu Asano (“Midway”) as Lord Raiden; Mehcad Brooks (TV’s “Supergirl”) as Jackson “Jax” Bridges; Ludi Lin (“Aquaman”) as Liu Kang; with Chin Han (“Skyscraper”) as Shang Tsung; Joe Taslim (“Star Trek Beyond”) as Bi-Han and Sub-Zero; and Hiroyuki Sanada (“Skyscraper”) as Hanzo Hasashi and Scorpion. Also featured are Max Huang as Kung Lao; Sisi Stringer as Mileena; Matilda Kimber as Emily Young; and Laura Brent as Allison Young.

While some of these names aren’t household names I was pleasantly surprised with their extreme talents, especially in some of those fight sequences. Stand out for me on every level was Joe Taslim as Subzero, from the fighting, special effects, to the characters story, like the games; Subzero by far is my favourite part of this Mortal Kombat film, he’s out of this world good.

I also loved how faithful this film was to the backstory of some of the characters and there origins. Like how Scorpion became Scorpion, or how Jackson Briggs became Jax. While only a short exploration it was truthful to the story mode in the games.

Bringing the hugely popular property to the big screen, McQuoid led a team of Australian and U.S. filmmakers, including director of photography Germain McMicking (“True Detective,” “Top of the Lake: China Girl”), production designer Naaman Marshall (“Underwater,” “Servant”), editors Dan Lebental (“Spider-Man: Far From Home”) and Scott Gray (“Top of the Lake,” “Daffodils”), visual effect supervisor Chris Godfrey (“Hacksaw Ridge”) and costume designer Cappi Ireland (“Lion,” “The Rover”). The music is by Benjamin Wallfisch (“Blade Runner 2049,” the “IT” films). Some of the people who worked on set in this movie were also from my home city of Perth.

In all the movie adaptions of Mortal Kombat, the source material have almost invariably turned out to be, at best, substandard. Simon McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat does not fully lift that curse, but for the fans of the series, it more than delivers on its promise of being a faithful, entertaining Mortal Kombat movie that fans truly deserve after all these years of fighting.

What do you think?

Written by Neill Frazer

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