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Watching ‘Mortal Kombat’ in theatres: go for the nostalgia, stay for Kano’s one-liners


Hey, Hollywooders! What’s Good in the ‘Wood?

My friend really wanted to see Mortal Kombat on opening day, one of the many new movie releases out now in movie theaters. I agreed since, ya know, I write about movies for a living.

Here’s the honest truth: I barely know anything about Mortal Kombat. I have played the video game over the years––most recently in a bar filled with vintage arcade games in Philly––but I haven’t seen the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie or the 1997 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. My friend said the 90s movies have horrible acting and less sophisticated effects, but fantastic fight scenes. I’ll take his word for it.

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As writers do, I did some preliminary research that I’ll share here in case you’re as ignorant about Mortal Kombat as I was. If you’ve already taken Mortal Kombat 101, skip ahead a few paragraphs.

What’s the 2021 Mortal Kombat movie about?

Inspired by the popular video game series, director Simon McQuiod brought the Mortal Kombat characters to the big screen with Lewis Tan as MMA fighter Cole Young, who thinks the marking on his arm is a birthmark, not knowing he’s a descendant of Hanzo Hasashi. He also doesn’t know why he’s being hunted down by an otherworldly Cryomancer (Sub-Zero, played by Joe Taslim). The movie also stars Jessica McNamee as Sonya Blade, Josh Lawson as Kano, Tadanobu Asano as Lord Raiden, Mehcad Brooks as Jackson “Jax” Briggs, Ludi Lin as Liu Kang, Chin Han as Shang Tsung, and Hiroyuki Sanada as Hanzo Hasashi and Scorpion.

Watch the trailer here: 

What was it like to watch Mortal Kombat in an IMAX theater?

I went to my local AMC movie theatre to watch Mortal Kombat in IMAX for a 4:00 p.m. movie showtime. While the screen was quite large, the seats were standard, which made me realize how spoiled I was watching Godzilla vs. Kong in luxurious lounge seats. Still, I had my go-to movie theater snacks: Diet Coke, m&ms, and movie theater popcorn, so I can’t complain.

Once the movie started, I realized I should have done a lot more research into the Mortal Kombat world before watching this movie. Luckily, my friend Kevin was the perfect movie companion and filled me in anytime I was confused. 

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Initial impressions of Mortal Kombat from a real fan

My friend Kevin kindly agreed to share his impressions of the 2021 Mortal Kombat movie. Unlike me, Kevin played the Mortal Kombat video games a lot as a kid and remembers watching the original movies back in the 1990s (probably while I was rewatching Rugrats episodes).

He wanted to see Mortal Kombat for “the nostalgia” but overall, found the movie to be underwhelming. Still, there were some redeeming moments. Some of the fight scenes were entertaining regardless of your Mortal Kombat knowledge, although some of the 2-on-1 scenes were confusing since that’s not something you can replicate as a player. 

We both agreed that the ending was kind of anticlimactic. We won’t spoil it for you, but it’s definitely filled with the gore and well-loved characters that Mortal Kombat fans expect to see in the movie version, it just seemed like an underwhelming way to end it.

Another thing we both agreed on: Kano was hilarious. He had a lot of good one-liners and kept us entertained throughout (even if you don’t know anything about his character). One line had the whole theater laughing and honestly, it feels so good to share a laugh with a group of strangers. That is something I 100% missed during the pandemic. Laughing alone in your living room just doesn’t compare.

Kevin made a great point that Mortal Kombat is intentionally gory and over-the-top (in his own words, “people getting thrown in acid and sh*t”), which might be way too much for fellow outsiders like me. 

Still, this is something that I’ve missed about going to the movies. Sometimes, your friend, significant other, family member, etc. really wants to see a movie that you don’t care about as much, but you go for the experience. If we decided to watch it on HBO Max at home, I probably would’ve tuned it out and started playing Sudoku on my phone. Instead, I was engaged throughout the entire movie.

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So, should you go see Mortal Kombat in theatres?

You might just have to see for yourself. CNET claims it’s “by far the best live-action cinematic Mortal Kombat adaptation we’ve ever seen.” Variety says it’s “well suited to the big-screen experience” especially because the video game “has always been unique among games in that it could be just as fun to stand over the players’ shoulders and watch.”

If you’re familiar with Mortal Kombat and appreciate good action scenes, you’ll definitely be entertained. If you’re like me and tend to stand over a players’ shoulders and watch, you’ll be entertained too (even if you tend to close your eyes during the gross parts like me lol).

Since Kevin was underwhelmed by the ending, I asked him if he regretted going to see it in theatres.

His response: “No I had to see it for the culture.”

Are you going to see Mortal Kombat at your local movie theater? Let us know on Twitter.

Buy movie tickets for Mortal Kombat here (for the culture!!). 

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