An evil wizard wants to conquer earth and must do so through punching and kicking.
Directed by Simon McQuoid
Starring Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, and Hiroyuki Sanada
Review by Jon Kissel
Every head shot and limb removal in modern video games owes its existence to Mortal Kombat, the bloody arcade fighting game that my young self was always too intimidated to try. It was transgressive to peek over an older kid’s shoulder and hope that he knew the special combination at the end of a victorious match, resulting in a dramatic fatality involving this or that body part being removed. In the many iterations of the game ever since, the violence and gore has only gotten more visceral and cartoonish, and, surprisingly, the story has gotten pretty decent, too. The franchise has decades of lore to lean on, and the recent games have fun relitigating these nonsensical events. For a movie adaptation, however, the lore is unestablished and the franchise has to return to the basic, very stupid plot surrounding a tournament between various worlds. Simon McQuiod’s film keeps the exaggerated violence that has made the modern games most notable, but the built-in weaknesses of this endeavor are present in every scene, to say nothing of the naked attempt at franchise construction that is this whole movie. Though it’s a foolhardy thing to bring expectations to Mortal Kombat, one can’t help but imagine a version that keeps the brutality and sheds the idiocy.
As will sound familiar to the readers who’ve been taking in my reviews for a long time (and I thank the many thousands of you), I can’t help but put any movie I watch from Scandanavia into one of two boxes. Either it confirms the stereotype of cold and humorless or it rejects it by showing them as the hearty, back-slapping descendants of Vikings. I have to assume this is Simpsons residue, because I’ve seen far more of the latter kind of Dane or Swede on film than the other kind, and therefore the hard-drinking Baltic beauties might be closer to something like the truth. Thomas Vinterberg’s Another Round would certainly subscribe to this, as the true nature of his four middle-aged protagonists needs some high-proof rocket fuel to break free from their deadened carapaces. This story of men who are by turns boring and reckless transcends any narrow preconceptions this viewer might have and locates both halves of an ill-considered dichotomy within individuals, and then attributes both to some kind of chemical imbalance. It does this while also being compelling and affecting, both in its emotional weight and catharsis and in how badly it made me want a drink after watching.
The Disney Star Wars trilogy is a real head-scratcher. JJ Abrams kicked it off with a general rehash of the 1977 Star Wars, but then Rian Johnson’s Last Jedi scrambled everything up and made a decades-old franchise feel exciting. Abrams got the last section back, however, and undid everything that was unique about The Last Jedi in the most boring way possible. How does a studio invest a billion dollars in something and not have a coherent story plan? Well, with the Monsterverse as a counter-example of shoddy planning, maybe I’m not giving Disney enough credit. The Godzilla and King Kong threads of Warner Brothers’ sloppy monster-fighting franchise unite in Godzilla vs Kong, the fourth and probably last entry thanks to expiring rights. The only thing that’s remained consistent across this quadrilogy is the complete miscalculation of why anyone would want to see a movie where giant beasts punch each other.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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