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Mortal Kombat Reviews Praise Bloody Action, Critique Lackluster Story

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The Mortal Kombat reboot is finally here, and its critical reception is a bit mixed. Reviewers are praising the film’s stylish fights and expert stunt work, while also critiquing a story many have described as lackluster and unoriginal. The movie still seems to be a fun and bloody ride, however, especially for longtime fans of the video games.

Starring an ensemble cast led by Lewis Tan, Joe Taslim, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ludi Lin, Max Huang, Jessica McNamee and Mehcad Brooks, Mortal Kombat is the first theatrical adaptation of the popular video game franchise since 1997’s Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Like the games, the new movie tells the story of the titular martial arts tournament between Earthrealm and the evil Outworld, the winner of which determines the fate of the world. Many of the series’ classic characters appear throughout the reboot, including Liu Kang, Sub-Zero, Sonya Blade, Scorpion, Kabal, and Jax.

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RELATED: Mortal Kombat Explained: What You Need To Know Before The Movie

At the time of this writing, Mortal Kombat holds a 54 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. That may not sound like a great sign, but the reviews themselves are a bit more nuanced. The film’s action has been widely praised, as has the casting of numerous skilled martial artists in leading roles. Reviews also point to a film that’s very loyal to its source material, and which many are calling a noted improvement over the 1995 film. The story and overall writing have been heavily critiqued, but that’s to be somewhat expected from a movie based on a game about punching people’s legs off. Check out what critics are saying about Mortal Kombat below.

Rollin Bishop, ComicBook

“If you're looking to watch some excellent supernatural fights, there are far worse ways to spend your time, but if you're looking for nuance and meaningful character development and exploration, well, what are you doing watching Mortal Kombat?”

Jake Cole, Slant

“In spite of its occasionally engaging displays of gnarly brutality, the film too often feels like an adaptation of a player select screen.”

Rosie Knight, Nerdist

“The action is always impactful and the crew get to show off their immense talents. This is the kind of mainstream Hollywood action movie we rarely ever get. Talented stunt people like Huang are suddenly center stage.”

David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“This "Mortal Kombat" is more broadly watchable than the 1995 version ever was, but it's hard to shake the dull sensation that video game movies are now playing us.”

Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

“This is an unapologetically violent video-game-turned-movie, filled with gore and also brimming with flat dialogue, whether it’s big-picture speechifying or mostly lame attempts at snappy, action-movie banter. One might reasonably surmise longtime fans of “Mortal Kombat” would have a better time playing the latest version of the game than watching this origins story.”

Jordan Hoffman, TV Guide

"A successful movie if you measure success by how many gruesome ways one person can murder another in battle."

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post

"Every time one of these silly old properties gets remade, the audience sits in fear that it’ll be turned into an allegory, or a statement on US politics, or the realization of some aging geek’s dark vision. 'Mortal Kombat' is none of those things. It’s just plain, unrepentant fun."

Benjamin Lee, Guardian

"Mortal Kombat would have benefitted from a number of things - a sharper sense of humour, a more coherent script, some tighter editing, less techno music - but its sheer manic energy might just about be enough for some."

Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times

"The wooden dialogue and indifferent performances aren't bugs so much as features of a corporate mindset that sees IP fidelity and imaginative storytelling as mutually exclusive aims."

Andrew Webster, The Verge

"Playing Mortal Kombat is brutal and bloody, but it's also a lot of fun - the movie is missing out on much of the latter."

Bob Strauss, San Francisco Chronicle

"Fights are imaginatively conceived and presented with gratifying punch, framed and edited in ways that showcase the athletic choreography. And there's no obfuscating '90s quick-cutting to ruin these sequences."

Bernard Boo, Den of Geek

"It's both a loving homage to the arcade classics and a savage, devilishly fun martial arts flick. The film is actually so effective in the latter regard that it transcends the "video game movie" category completely."

John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter

"While gaming die-hards may enjoy this riff on familiar characters and kills, Kombat looks pretty rinky-dink when compared to the thrill rides Marvel cranks out on a regular basis."

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap

"I was entertained by Mortal Kombat more often than I wasn't, but I can't guarantee that I had the kind of good time that the filmmakers intended to create."

The history of video game movie adaptations is littered with failures, so it should be a considered a success simply that Mortal Kombat delivers solid action and stays true to the source material. Like Warner Bros.’ last action blockbuster Godzilla vs. Kong, few viewers will come to MK expecting a groundbreaking story. With that in mind, it sounds like the film has hit high on the parts that matter – the action, the characters, and the blood.

It’s also worth noting that Mortal Kombat has largely been pitched as a proof-of-concept for the franchise’s return to the big screen. Director Simon McQuoid and producer Todd Garner have spoken openly about their ambitions for Mortal Kombat sequels and spinoffs, which could become a reality if the film does well. Ultimately, Mortal Kombat's success will be judged by its viewers, who can now catch the film in theaters or on HBO Max.

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