The opening sequence in 17th century Japan is saturated in an orange glow and a bloodied red both colours mingling in a display of martial arts skills, brutality and compassion that looks like a choreographed ballet as the archvillain Sub-Zero (Joe Taslim) executes Hanzo and his family. To call the opening of Mortal Kombat a visual feast would be no exaggeration. Sadly the hypnotic prelude makes way for contemporary times. We meet freelance fighter Cole Young (Lewis Tan) and the prelude is cleverly played out again in a contemporary setting, with Cole’s family being attacked by Sub-Zero.
There is a fiercely psychedelic feel and flavour to this fight, with Cole being whisked by a government agent who loses his arm but gains legendary status. Clearly, the colour palates used in the two opening fights, one in 17th century Japan and the other in futuristic America, reveal the hands of a director who knows how to mix bouts of bloodshed with lots of flamboyant colours and lights that beam down on a world that’s about to end unless Cole gathers together other like-minded combatants who can save the world from Sub-zero.
From this point onwards I stopped trying to make sense of the unnecessarily tangled plot. The zigzag of location and action is mind-boggling. The best way to enjoy Mortal Kombat is to go with throw…and I do mean throw. The characters get tossed around in time zones separated by centuries exchanging sword swipes and blade attacks until they land up in the temple of Raiden (Tadanobu Asano) who trains the champions to fight Sub-zero.
But before that there is so much relentless action, the narrative seems to creak and groan under the strain of emphatic set-action pieces designed to set the adrenaline racing. In truth, the screenplay suffers from nervous exhaustion, or perhaps I mean nervous exhilaration piling on the plot developments with an anxious energy that monkeys exhibit during the mating season. There is way too much happening on the screen at any given moment. So you can kiss that loo break goodbye. Speaking of kisses, there is something slurpy happening between Cole and the delectably spunky Sonya Blade (Jessica McNamee). The romance never gets a chance to breathe freely.
This is the kind of action film that squeezes the life and breath out of every character and emotions until we are left watching a drained-out stunt spree where the action speaks louder than words. And makes more sense too. All said and done the third part of the Mortal Kombat series is far better than the first two films as long as you don’t figure out which world is dominating in the game of one-upmanship and what that tattoo mark on the combatants’ arms are meant to be, and why films about martial arts continue to enthral audiences decades after Bruce lee died. While the plot inhabits martial arts temples, Shao Lin trembles.
Directed by Simon McQuoid, Mortal Kombat gets 2 stars!
Image Source: Instagram/mortalcombat2021_, youtube/ign
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