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Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

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Mortal Kombat (2021)

Time: 110 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & offensive language
Cast:
Lewis Tan as Cole Young
Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade
Josh Lawson as Kano
Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden
Mehcad Brooks as Jax
Ludi Lin as Liu Kang
Chin Han as Shang Tsung
Joe Taslim as Bi-Han/Sub-Zero
Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi/Scorpion
Director: Simon McQuoid

Hunted by the fearsome warrior Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim), MMA fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds sanctuary at the temple of Lord Raiden (Tadanobu Asano). Training with experienced fighters Liu Kang (Ludi Lin), Kung Lao (Max Huang) and the rogue mercenary Kano (Josh Lawson), Cole prepares to stand with Earth’s greatest champions to take on the enemies from Outworld in a high-stakes battle for the universe.

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I have played Mortal Kombat 9, 10 and 11, I’m a fan of the series but I wasn’t confident in the upcoming live action adaptation. Video game movies aren’t known for succeeding that well, and although the Paul WS Anderson Mortal Kombat movie in 1995 was one of the better video game movies, I wasn’t sure that it would be anything beyond just okay. Despite the mixed reactions, I decided to check it out, and I’m glad I did. It had plenty of issues, but I had fun with it.

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Many people expected this already, but the story isn’t great. There are plenty of things that don’t make sense, there’s some conveniences, and there’s a ton of explosion that is given by multiple characters. However I was constantly entertained by what was going on that it didn’t really matter. The first act is introducing characters and the story, and the third act is the climax with a lot of fighting, the weaker link is the second act. During this the pacing suffers and the movie can drag quite a bit. In the movie, a tournament is coming that could decide the fate of earth, so the main characters have to prepare to be Earth’s champions for said tournament. In a sense, that means that this movie is a more of a setup to the coming tournament, which will actually happen in the sequel. It does mean that the climax of this movie does feel like it is missing something at the end, even if it is enjoyable. This movie definitely has sequel bait, however I’m actually interested in a sequel so I guess it works.

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Now about the tone. I can see some people saying that this movie has a dark take and is actively trying to avoid being cheesy. While it certainly is more serious than the 90s Mortal Kombat movies, I was constantly entertained for what it was. So many of the dialogue and moments were so cheesy and silly that it still felt reasonably self aware. There’s so many things that were here that were really silly and ridiculous that for most of the movie, I couldn’t take it seriously (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing). The one confusing aspect with regard to tone is with its opening scene. This scene is a flashback involving the character Scorpion, and it’s actually the best scene in the movie. It is dark in tone, it’s shot and performed greatly. It feels like a genuinely great martial arts movie with some fantasy elements. Then that scene ends, and the tone switches and doesn’t change again. It legit felt like a different director was brought in to do that scene, or that it was from a completely different movie entirely. So in a way that’s a positive and a negative. Mortal Kombat is pretty faithful to the video games they are based on, more so than the 90s film at least. There are plenty of references to the lore, the world and other characters that fans will recognise. There’s also moves, lines and other references which fans will really appreciate. There’s particularly a rather meta joke involving Liu Kang and Kano during a practice fight which I loved. If you’re not a Mortal Kombat fan you could probably still enjoy the movie but you won’t quite get the full experience that fans would have. Also it might just be me, but with some of the absurd things that happen in this movie I just thought that it was very typical for Mortal Kombat, which is why I was willing to go along with them.

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The acting for the most part isn’t great, but they are decent, and they were cast to almost near perfection. There’s a surprising amount of iconic Mortal Kombat characters in here, including Sonya Blade, Jax, Kung Lao, Liu Kang, Raiden, and Kano. The villains were also greatly done here with Kabal, Mileena, Kabal, Shang Tsung, and Sub Zero. This movie particularly did a great job of showcasing them, showing off their powers, fighting styles and overall characters and personalities greatly. The standouts out of all of the characters for me were Scorpion, Sub Zero, and Kano. Hiroyuki Sanada isn’t in the movie a ton as Scorpion, but the casting is great and he’s really good when on screen. Joe Taslim as Sub Zero is the closest thing to a main villain for this movie (even though Shang Tsung is really the big bad), and he was a great screen presence. Kano was the biggest surprise though. Josh Lawson is effortlessly entertaining, charismatic and hilarious in this role and a scene stealer for sure. Would love to see him in a Mortal Kombat sequel. There is just one issue with the actors and characters, that being Lewis Tan as the lead character Cole Young. Cole is actually an original character and not from the video games, which is fine if the filmmakers wanted to bring something new to the Mortal Kombat universe. However, he is really the audience surrogate character who is there to ask a whole lot of questions and has a lot of exposition dumped on him. Beyond Tan’s rather average performance, Cole is just not an interesting character. All there is to him is that he has a family he wants to defend, he has some hidden power with him which he discovers by the end, and that’s literally it. There is no other characteristic or personality trait that he has, and he especially suffers when just about every other character is at least memorable in some way.

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This movie is directed by Simon McQuoid. This is his first feature film, with his past work being from working on commercials. For a filmmaking debut, it’s decent enough. One thing that does hold the movie back a bit is that the budget is at $50 million which is pretty low for a blockbuster, especially one from Warner Bros. In some ways with the way things are shown, it does feel like a high budget fan film, but I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. People are here for fight and action scenes, and they absolutely deliver. They are violent, choreographed well, and energetic and exciting to watch. Speaking about violent, one of the notable differences between this and the 90s movies is the blood and gore, with this version having an R rating. The Mortal Kombat games are known for the over the top level of violence from the fighting and especially the fatalities. This movie has the freedom now to represent that on the big screen. At the same time, it was done with the right balance. It’s definitely a priority to include that, but it didn’t feel forced, and they also knew when to hold back, if only to space them out a bit. So people hoping for some brutal kills will be satisfied here. The visual effects aren’t that great (something brought down by the lower budget), but I thought they were good enough for this movie, especially the ice effects. Something that does bring down the action scenes a bit was the editing. Thankfully it wasn’t in a Taken 3 sort of way where it has 10 cuts within 4 seconds of an action scene. It was more like that sometimes it quickly cuts from one fight to another fight, it does this a bit too much and it just felt jarring. Benjamin Wallfisch composes the score, and while it isn’t as memorable or iconic as the music from the 90s movie, it still works well enough here.

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Mortal Kombat is not a great movie, I would not confidentially call it a good movie either. It’s a bit of a mess in many areas including the story and even some of the technical aspects. With that said, I enjoyed it quite a lot. The fight scenes are energetic and satisfying, the Mortal Kombat characters are portrayed well and enjoyable to watch, and the silliness really added to the whole experience. If you are a fan of Mortal Kombat, I do think that you’ll have some fun with this. If you aren’t a fan but enjoy action movies and don’t mind them being a bit messy, I think you’ll at least like some of it. I’m actually looking forward to a sequel, I just hope they learn the right lessons from this movie.

Power Rangers (2017) Review

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Dacre Montgomery as Jason Scott/Red Ranger
Naomi Scott as Kimberly Hart/Pink Ranger
RJ Cyler as Billy Cranston/Blue Ranger
Becky G as Trini/Yellow Ranger
Ludi Lin as Zack/Black Ranger
Bill Hader as the voice of Alpha 5
Bryan Cranston as the voice of Zordon
Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa
Director: Dean Israelite

Five ordinary teens must become something extraordinary when they learn that their small town of Angel Grove – and the world – is on the verge of being obliterated by an alien threat. Chosen by destiny, our heroes quickly discover they are the only ones who can save the planet. But to do so, they will have to overcome their real-life issues and before it’s too late, band together as the Power Rangers.

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I never grew up with the Power Rangers, I definitely heard about it and knew it existed but I didn’t know that much about it. Honestly I wasn’t looking forward to watching the 2017 live action movie, it just didn’t look that good at all. It looked like a generic kids film riding on the popularity of a known kids series. However, Power Rangers actually surprised me, it wasn’t great by any means but for a kids movie its actually reasonably okay.

For a Power Rangers movie, you don’t actually see the main characters in the suits that often, and you’d think that this would really make the movie bad. However, surprisingly that segment (by segment I mean most of the movie) was actually the best part of the movie. We get to explore and learn about these characters and their lives and problems and the movie really focusses on them working together as a team. That part surprisingly worked quite well, which is helped by the chemistry of the actors (which I’ll get into later). Towards the end when the characters are full on Power Rangers and wearing the suits, I actually really started to lose interest plotwise, you might be entertaining by the ridiculous over the topness, but as a story it really felt flat in comparison to the first two acts. This movie is very cheesy and silly but from what I can tell its more serious than other versions of Power Rangers, so credit to the filmmakers for making it somewhat watchable for adults. You have to really keep in mind that this is a kids movie, I went in knowing this and I had a good time. But I can see someone going in expecting something a little more serious or mature and end up finding the whole movie to be incredibly obnoxious. If you’re going to watch Power Rangers, know that you’re going to watch a really cheesy kids movie.

What makes this movie work is the main actors and their chemistry. The leads, Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin, on top of being a diverse cast are good and work great together, they share great chemistry. Some of their line deliveries at time don’t work so well, and they do have their fair share of occasional not-so-great acting moments, but for the most part it works. Elizabeth Banks plays the villain and to be perfectly fair to her, the character she is playing, Rita Repulsa, isn’t that good, she’s radically over the top, cartoonish and one dimensional, there’s really not much to her. To Banks’s credit though, she is having a ton of fun in this role and is going all out crazy here, which is honestly the only way that anyone could play his role. Bryan Cranston is in it but doesn’t really do much, he served his purpose fine enough, though there really wasn’t any point casting him in the role.

The direction by Dean Israelite was fine overall, nothing spectacular but it worked well enough for a Power Rangers movie. The action is reasonably entertaining but the special effects range from being okay to being really fake looking. They looked particularly goofy and basic in the climax, and with a reasonably large enough budget I’m not sure how the effects looked that bad. Then again the worst of the effects was in the climax, which as I said already was the least interesting part of the movie anyway.

Although it’s not a really that good of movie, Power Rangers surprised me and was far better than what I thought it would be like. The cast and their chemistry really worked. It’s just the cheesiness and the noticeably weak last act which does bring the movie down a bit. With that said, I wouldn’t mind if a sequel ended up happening. If it does happen, I hope the filmmakers can learn from the first movie and make the Power Rangers as interesting and entertaining in the suits as they are without them.