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Mortal Kombat (2021 film)

2021 film directed by Simon McQuoid

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Mortal Kombat
Official promotional poster
Directed bySimon McQuoid
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Oren Uziel
  • Greg Russo
Based on
Starring
Music byBenjamin Wallfisch
CinematographyGermain McMicking
Edited by
  • Dan Lebental
  • Scott Gray
Production
companies
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • April 8, 2021 (2021-04-08) (International)
  • April 23, 2021 (2021-04-23) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget~$95 million[1]
Box office$19.4 million[2][3]

Mortal Kombat is a 2021 American martial arts fantasy film directed by Simon McQuoid (in his feature directorial debut), from a screenplay by Greg Russo and Dave Callaham and a story by Russo and Oren Uziel.[4] It is based on the video game franchise of the same name created by Ed Boon and John Tobias, serving as a reboot to the Mortal Kombat film series. The film stars Lewis Tan, Jessica McNamee, Josh Lawson, Tadanobu Asano, Mehcad Brooks, Ludi Lin, Chin Han, Joe Taslim, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

Following the critical and commercial failure of the 1997 film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, a third Mortal Kombat film languished in development hell for a period of nearly two decades. In late 2010, Warner Bros. Pictures (whose parent company acquired the franchise from Midway Games in 2009) began developing a new film, with Kevin Tancharoen serving as director from a script written by Uziel in the wake of their Mortal Kombat: Rebirth short film. James Wan was announced as a producer in August 2015 and McQuoid was hired as director in November 2016. Production took place at Adelaide Studios in Adelaide and at other locations in South Australia. Principal photography occurred from September to December 2019.

Mortal Kombat was released by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema internationally on April 8, 2021, and was released in the United States on April 23, simultaneously in theaters in 3D and on the HBO Max streaming service. The film received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the violence and faithfulness to the games but criticism for the screenplay.

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Intro articles: 21

Plot

In 17th century Japan, Lin Kuei assassins led by Bi-Han attack and kill members of the rival Shirai Ryu ninja clan and Hanzo Hasashi's wife and son. Hasashi himself kills the attackers before falling to Bi-Han and taken to the Netherrealm. Raiden arrives and takes Hasashi's surviving infant daughter to safety.

In the present, the realm of Outworld has defeated Earthrealm in nine of ten deathmatch tournaments called "Mortal Kombat", intending to conquer Earthrealm. However, an ancient prophecy is uncovered, stating that the "blood of Hanzo Hasashi" will unite a new generation of Earthrealm's champions to prevent Outworld's victory. Aware of this, soul-eating sorcerer Shang Tsung employs warriors to kill Earthrealm's champions, identified by a distinctive dragon mark, before the next tournament begins. Meanwhile, Cole Young, a former MMA champion, and his family are attacked by Bi-Han, now known as Sub-Zero. However, Special Forces Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs rescues the Youngs, directing them to safety and to seek out his partner, Sonya Blade, while he stays behind to fight off Sub-Zero, who freezes and shatters his arms.

Cole tracks Sonya to her hideout, where she is interrogating a captive mercenary named Kano. She reveals that she and Jax have been investigating Mortal Kombat's existence and that the dragon mark can be transferred to anyone who kills the original bearer. The hideout is attacked by Shang Tsung's assassin, Reptile, but Cole, Sonya, and a reluctant Kano defeat him, with Kano killing Reptile. They then travel to Raiden's temple and meet Earthrealm champions Liu Kang and Kung Lao before being brought to Raiden himself, who is critical of the newcomers. They are joined by Jax, who Raiden rescued and fitted with a set of mechanical arms. Shang Tsung attacks the temple alongside Sub-Zero and Mileena, but Raiden erects a shield to stave them off.

While Sonya trains and encourages Jax to fight despite his condition, Cole and Kano train with Liu Kang and Kung Lao to unlock their "arcana", a special power unique to all dragon mark bearers. During an argument with Kung Lao, Kano awakens his arcana while Cole is unable to awaken his despite his persistence. Disappointed with his lack of progress, Raiden allows Cole to return to his family, revealing that he is a descendant of Hasashi.

Shang Tsung gathers Sub-Zero, Mileena, Reiko, Nitara, Goro, and Kabal for another assault on the Temple. Learning that Kano is among Raiden's champions, Kabal convinces Kano to defect and remove the shield, allowing the Outworlders to attack. Concurrently, the Youngs are attacked by Goro, but Cole awakens his arcana and kills him before returning to the temple to help repel the attack. Shang Tsung and Sub-Zero are infuriated when Raiden discloses Cole's bloodline before he teleports most of the Earthrealm fighters to the Void, a safe space between realms. Kung Lao, however, sacrifices himself defending Cole from Sub-Zero before Shang Tsung takes his soul.

After mourning Kung Lao's death, Cole proposes a plan to force Outworld's champions into single combat with Earthrealm's champions before neutralizing Sub-Zero together, forcing the tournament Shang Tsung tried to prevent. Agreeing with this, Raiden gives Cole Hasashi's kunai before transporting him and his allies to their targets. Liu Kang and Jax slay Kabal and Reiko while Sonya kills Kano and acquires his dragon mark and her own arcana, which she uses to help Cole kill Mileena. However, Sub-Zero appears, having abducted Cole's family to lure him into a one-on-one fight. Initially overpowered, Cole's blood ends up on the kunai, releasing Hasashi from the Netherrealm as the vengeful specter Scorpion. Recognizing Cole as his descendant, Scorpion helps him overpower Sub-Zero and free Cole's family before burning Sub-Zero to death with hellfire.

Thanking Cole for freeing him and requesting that he look after the Hasashi bloodline, Scorpion departs as Raiden and the other champions arrive. Shang Tsung also arrives, vowing revenge as he sends his dead champions' bodies back to Outworld before Raiden banishes him. Raiden then declares he is creating a new list of warriors in preparation for the next tournament and assigns his champions to recruit them. With this information, Cole departs for Los Angeles in search of Hollywood superstar Johnny Cage.

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Plot articles: 20

Cast

Production

Development

James Wan, Todd Garner (on the photo above), E. Bennett Walsh, and director Simon McQuoid serve as producers for the reboot.

In 1997, Robin Shou's original Mortal Kombat contract was a three-picture deal,[12] and Threshold Entertainment's production on a second sequel was initially scheduled to commence shortly after the release of Annihilation, but it was shelved due to Annihilation's poor reception and disappointing box-office performance. Attempts to produce a third film since then have remained stuck in development hell with numerous script rewrites and storyline, cast, and crew changes. A November 2001 poll on the official Mortal Kombat website hosted by Threshold asked fans which characters they believed would die in the third movie.[13] The 2005 destruction of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina greatly affected one of the film's planned shooting locations.[14] In June 2009, a bankruptcy court lawsuit saw Lawrence Kasanoff suing Midway Games while mentioning that a third film was in the works. Warner Bros. Pictures (which became the parent of New Line Cinema in 2008, after over a decade of both operating as separate divisions of Time Warner) ended up purchasing most of Midway's assets, including Mortal Kombat.[15]

In 2010, director Kevin Tancharoen released an eight-minute short film titled Mortal Kombat: Rebirth,[16] made as a pitch to Warner Bros. Pictures of a reboot of the Mortal Kombat film franchise.[17] In September 2011, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. announced that Tancharoen was hired to direct a new feature-length film from a screenplay by Mortal Kombat: Rebirth writer Oren Uziel,[18] with the intention of aiming for an R rating.[19] Shooting was expected to begin in March 2012 with a budget projected at between $40–50 million[20] and a release date of 2013.[21][22] However, the project was ultimately delayed due to budget constraints, and Tancharoen began working on the second season of the web series Mortal Kombat: Legacy until problems with the film had been sorted out, but he quit the film production in October 2013.[23]

James Wan signed on as the film's producer in August 2015.[24] Simon McQuoid was hired as director in November 2016, marking his feature directorial debut, with Greg Russo writing the script.[25][26] Russo tweeted in February 2019 that the film's script was complete.[26] In May 2019, it was announced that the film had entered pre-production and would be shot in South Australia,[27] with a release date of March 5, 2021.[28] Russo tweeted in July 2019 that the film would indeed have an R rating and that the games' Fatalities would "finally be on the big screen".[29]

In April 2021, McQuoid revealed that the film came "quite close to the line" of getting an NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association, saying in full, "What we had to be a bit careful of was... you can get to NC-17 territory pretty quick. It's different in a video game when it's not real human beings. When you move this across to reality, a different set of things start to happen in your mind, and you get rated slightly differently. So there were certain things that are in the game that would mean the film would be unreleasable. And none of us wanted that. … So we were balancing that stuff all the time. And there's some stuff that you will see that really gets quite close to the line because we didn't want people to go, 'Meh. Seemed kind of lame.'"[30]

Casting

Joe Taslim was the first actor cast for the production in July 2019, as Bi-Han, the first Sub-Zero.[31][32] In August, Mehcad Brooks, Tadanobu Asano, Sisi Stringer, and Ludi Lin were cast in the roles of Jax, Raiden, Mileena, and Liu Kang respectively.[33] Later that month, Josh Lawson, Jessica McNamee, Chin Han and Hiroyuki Sanada were cast as Kano, Sonya Blade, Shang Tsung and Scorpion respectively, with Lewis Tan in the role of Cole Young, an original character created for the film.[34][35] On September 16, 2019, it was announced that Max Huang had been cast as Kung Lao.[7] Stuntwoman Elissa Cadwell was announced as having been cast as Nitara on November 11, 2019.[11] However, in the film she is actually played by Mel Jarnson. Matilda Kimber was cast as Emily on December 4, 2019.[36]

Filming

Production took place at Adelaide Studios and other locations in South Australia,[37] lasting from September 16 to December 13, 2019.[38] In November 2020, Todd Garner stated that "we have more days to shoot" in a statement regarding the film's release delay.[39] The film was shot on the ARRI ALEXA LF and Mini LF cameras with Panavision Anamorphic lenses.[40]

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Cast articles: 12

Music

The score for Mortal Kombat was composed by Benjamin Wallfisch.[41] In March 2021, director Simon McQuoid revealed that Wallfisch actually began compositions for the film before he was officially hired on the project and that the film will include a new version of the track "Techno Syndrome" by The Immortals[42] produced by Wallfisch.

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Music articles: 3

Release

Theatrical and streaming

Mortal Kombat was theatrically released internationally, beginning on April 8, 2021,[43] and will later be released in the United States on April 23, 2021, in both theaters and on HBO Max.[44] The film was originally going to be released on March 5, 2021 before being moved up to January 15, 2021.[45] In November 2020, producer Todd Garner confirmed that the film would be delayed until theaters are reopened due to the COVID-19 pandemic,[39] before it was finally dated for release on April 16.[46] As part of its plans for all of its 2021 films, Warner Bros. will also stream the film simultaneously on the HBO Max service for a period of one month, after which the film will be removed until the normal home media release schedule period.[47] In late March 2021, the film was delayed one week from April 16 to April 23.[44][48]

The film is scheduled for release in Japan on June 18, 2021, despite not having any Mortal Kombat games released officially in the country due to CERO gaming rules concerning excessive gore.[49]

Marketing

On May 10, 2020, which was when the film was initially set to release prior to being delayed due the COVID-19 pandemic, Entertainment Weekly released a first look of the film, which contained several behind the scenes photos.[50] On February 17, 2021, a series of character posters were released for the film, along with the next announcement that the film's first trailer would be released the following day.[51] On February 18, 2021, the first red band trailer for the film was released online. The trailer received critical acclaim from both fans and critics alike, with particular praise for the gory action sequences and the inclusion of the game's iconic fatalities. A scene featuring Scorpion saying his iconic catchphrase "Get over here!" was also seen as a highlight from the trailer.[52][53] The film's first trailer had become the most-watched red-band trailer until the release of the first trailer of The Suicide Squad a month later.[54][55]

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Release articles: 6

Reception

Box office

In its opening international weekend, the film made $10.7 million from 17 countries, with the largest market being Russia ($6.1 million).[56] In its second weekend the film made $5.7 million from 28 countries.[1]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 55% of 152 reviews are positive, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The site's critics consensus reads, "Largely for fans of the source material but far from fatal(ity) flawed, Mortal Kombat revives the franchise in appropriately violent fashion."[57] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 43 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[58]

Alonso Duralde of the TheWrap wrote: "Viewers interested in martial-arts action are bound to find the combat-with-a-C to be lackluster in that way that hand-to-hand fighting tends to be when it gets drowned out by digital effects. More likely to have fun with this latest Mortal Kombat are Sam Raimi enthusiasts who can appreciate the comedy in over-the-top geysers of fake blood, which the film unleashes with increasing regularity as the fights get more serious."[59] The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore said the film was "not exactly a knockout" and wrote: "A B-movie that would benefit immensely from some wit in the script and charisma in the cast, it's not as aggressively hacky as P.W.S.A.'s oeuvre, but it runs into problems he didn't face in 1995: Namely, the bar has been raised quite a bit for movies in which teams of superpowered young people have fights to save the universe."[60]

James Marsh, of the South China Morning Post, gave a positive review, saying, "Director Simon McQuoid understands and honours the film's video game origins, including memorable lines of dialogue and signature fight moves throughout".[61]

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Reception articles: 9

Future

The film's producer Todd Garner revealed to Collider that there is a possibility of a Johnny Cage-centric standalone film.[62] Taslim revealed that he is signed on for four films of the series if the reboot is a success.[63]

Mortal Kombat (2021 film) Future articles: 2

References

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