The new Mortal Kombat movie is out this Friday on HBO Max and in theaters, so to prime potential viewers, the MK Movie Twitter account shared the first seven minutes for anyone to watch. And hoo boy, if the whole movie keeps up the momentum of its opening minutes, this one's gonna be a rad, sad, hyperviolent affair.
The wait for Mortal Kombat is almost over – to #PrepareForMortalKombat, watch the first seven minutes of #MortalKombatMovie and tag your movie krew. Experience Mortal Kombat in theaters and streaming on HBO Max* this Friday. pic.twitter.com/N9zTw0t1tcApril 20, 2021
The broader appeal of MK isn't the deep lore, but in the intense, slightly surreal fights buffeted with just enough characterization to establish stakes. The stories of the last few games are perfect examples of Mortal Kombat at its best, balancing full, semi-serious character arcs with ludicrous action, violence, and twists.
And this first slice of the movie—a quick introduction to the series' most iconic rivalry between Scorpion and Sub Zero—strikes a similar balance. We open on Scorpion before his transformation when he was just a normal, cool Japanese guy with a cute little family. They're doing chores in the woods, a whimsical flute plays to let us know everything is OK, and his toddler says some cute stuff—so yeah, you know it's all about to get ripped away from him. Tragic backstory incoming.
Before long, the whimsical flute fades out and Scorpion leaves to fill a bucket with water or something while his family heads inside to gather around yet another billboard of innocence, a baby. Just before the 2-minute mark: GORE! A sword cuts through a guard and through the thin membrane of Scorpion's family home and the family quickly hides the baby beneath the floorboards.
A suitless Sub-Zero walks in looking mean. Scorpion's still off doing bucket and water activities. His beef goes way back with these folks, it seems, and so he does some intimidating ice tricks before the scene cuts away.
At this point I'm thinking, OK, they're giving into the dead wife and toddler trope, but at least they're not showing us the bodies. Welp. Scorpion finishes his bucket and water thing, heads home, and the camera reveals, good lord, Scorpion's frozen, dead wife hunched over their frozen, dead toddler. She's also run through with an ice spear. Phoo, Mortal Kombat is really going for it in the opening scene. I appreciate it, though I'm thinking this definitely won't be one for the squeamish.
Because they must, a few dudes show up for Scorpion to exact vengeance upon, and he does so deftly, stabbing and slicing and punching before quickly improvising a primitive version of his weird arm snake, swinging it around wildly to slice throats and, most impressively, to blow out the back of a guy's head. The action's easy to follow and smoothly choreographed, without any garish visual effects mucking up the athleticism and framing. It's rad.
If Mortal Kombat maintains this momentum, I'm game. We're served up an extremely cliched backstory, for sure, but there's an appreciable efficiency here, with two minutes of pathos bubbling over quickly into some cool combat scenes and ridiculous, violent payoff. If the remaining hour-plus is just as effective, we'll get a fun and splashy (blood) reintroduction to MK on the big screen.
I'm not expecting the screenplay to be an all-timer, but I don't think anyone wants that out of MK anyway. I expect to cheer and laugh throughout, with the occasional willful suspension of disbelief to slow down and soak in some tragedy for pacing and character development purposes. Then, swiftly, back to whooping and hollering. Don't let me down, Mortal Kombat. Don't come at me with seven minutes like this and trip the rest of the way.