By Drake Vittitow
Staff reporter

For the first time since February of 2020, I watched a movie in a theater.

It was a riveting experience, filled with popcorn, laughs, and blood-soaked fatalities.

The time had come for MORTAL KOMBAT!

“Mortal Kombat” is based on the hit video game series of the same name and has featured several big-screen titles, both occurring in the 90s. While those movies were largely pandered by critics and audiences, I consider them guilty pleasures from time to time.

The 2021 big-screen incarnation of the fighting game is better than the two from decades ago, and I am happy to say it delivers on everything I wanted it to. Regular moviegoers largely ignore video game movies, but it has witnessed a rebirth in the past couple of years, headlined by the “Sonic: The Hedgehog” movie.

MK 2021 capitalizes on the craze, catapulting into the most-watched new movie spot on HBO Max, as well as earning a respectable 22.5 million on opening weekend. That is enough to put it in the top spot for any week during the pandemic.

The movie is filled with what defines “Mortal Kombat,” blood, guts, and violence. And boy, does this movie deliver the violence. One aspect of the video games that made them so popular was the “fatality,” which was a finishing move that players could perform after beating their opponent. These fatalities were gruesome and fantastical. The movies pay homage to these moves by showcasing them in all their bloody glory for the audience.

Without revealing spoilers, I will say that Kung Lao and Jax find handy uses for their weapons of choice.

Another aspect of MK that was awesome to see was the number of characters they brought into the mix. The lore of “Mortal Kombat” is vast, and there are currently 97 players in the history of the fighting game. In the movie, we see all the characters from the original game, sans Johnny Cage (more on that later) and some characters from the lesser-known games, such as Nitara, who only featured in two games.

While having so many characters were cool, most of them were just throwaway characters that we see killed off. I wish we could’ve seen some backstory on some of the main characters. With so many characters featured, it was hard to get attached to any of them because of the little we knew about them. I know about them because I played the games, but the casual moviegoer would not be attached to any of these fighters.

But, even though many characters die, it is only because it’s a tournament to the death, right?

Wrong.

Yes, MK’s main storyline in the first game revolves around a tournament to ensure the safety of Earth, but the movie takes place right before the tournament, acting as a prequel to the timeline of the first game. Because of this, the movie’s main storyline is about getting the defenders of Earth together so they can begin training. In the original movie back in the 90s, Johnny Cage (one of the original fighters from the game) was one of the defenders for Earth. In the 2021 version, we are introduced to an MMA fighter named Cole Young.

Why we needed to make an entirely new character in a universe already filled with complex characters is beyond me, but Cole did not make a lot of sense. I don’t know why the creators couldn’t just replace Cole with Johnny Cage, but Cage wasn’t absent from the film entirely.

In one of the final scenes, Raiden (the god of thunder who sides with Earthrealm) tells his combatants that they must recruit more if they are to be ready for the tournament. As Cole walks out of his MMA training facility, we see a close-up of a new movie, with the lead role being played by Johnny Cage.

Was this movie a flawless victory?

No, far from it, but it definitely delivered on what “Mortal Kombat” is all about: gory violence and all-out action. It left me wanting more, and with the next movie centered around the actual Mortal Kombat Tournament itself, I think we will be in for another spine-shattering thrill ride.

I’ll bring the brains.