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Mortal Kombat review roundup: what the critics are saying about the reboot

Warner Bros/Mortal Kombat
(Image credit: HBO Max)

The Mortal Kombat movie has arrived, and critics are broadly in agreement that, while the film isn't a masterpiece, it delivers on all the gory action you expect from the fighting franchise. 

Directed by Simon McQuoid, is a reboot of the 1995 movie of the same name, the Mortal Kombat movie features an ensemble cast of video game characters brought to life. Protagonist Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds himself dragged into a high-stakes, fight-to-the-death situation when he uncovers that there's more to his dragon-shaped birthmark than meets the eye. The first seven minutes of Mortal Kombat are available to view now for free, whether you have a HBO Max account or not. The footage shows Joe Taslim's villainous Sub-Zero in grisly action. 

We've rounded up what the critics are saying about Mortal Kombat to give you an idea of what to expect diving into the film. Don't worry, everything below is totally spoiler-free, so you can read whether you've seen the movie or not. 

GamesRadar+ – 2/5

Mortal Kombat wants to assemble its own Avengers, but does not have the space to make them likable individuals... Luckily, though, when the fighting does the talking, Mortal Kombat delivers a few swift uppercuts. Each battle is beautifully shot and choreographed, with some excellent fatalities that will be best enjoyed amid a roaring cinema crowd. Meanwhile, the actors brings technical know-how to their roles, especially Tan and Taslim, which enhances these scenes, as does each character having their own visually different fighting style. Plus, their abilities make for some visually exciting moments that will be enjoyed most by devoted game players. So, if you can make it through the predictable story and dire dialogue, then the brutal fights are certainly exhilarating spectacles. A movie to turn off and plug in to.

IGN – Mitchell Saltzman – 7/10

"In a spectacular display of blood, guts, and effects-heavy martial arts battles, this new take on the over-the-top story of the Mortal Kombat fighting games perhaps bites off a little more than it can chew by attempting what is essentially an origin story and an Avengers-esque superhero team-up all in one. As a result, the first half stalls out a bit as it backs up a dump truck of exposition, and even then some characters that really deserve more time in the spotlight end up being shallow and forgettable. Still, it finds its footing in the second half and delivers a gleefully cheesy and entertaining take on one of gaming's most historic franchises and a solid starting point for future films."

The Hollywood Reporter – John DeFore

"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 [Paul W.S. Anderson]'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. 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."

Entertainment Weekly –  Christian Holub – C

"There is one area in which the new Mortal Kombat definitely delivers, though, and that is in fatalities. This movie has plenty of brutal, bloody kills. If you're vaccinated and watching this movie in a theater, there will be plenty of opportunities for hooting and hollering."

Collider – Matt Goldberg – D- 

"The movie shifts between the vaguest sketch of a plot and dull fight scenes that take some of cinema's greatest martial artists and cut around them like they're movie stars faking it as best they can. The new adaptation tries to skate by on gruesome fatalities, but as anyone who has played the game can tell you, executing a fatality is a reward for victory. Mortal Kombat never earns the bloody payoff."

Variety – Peter Debruge

"Granted, it's a lot more fun when you're actually controlling one of the characters, although Mortal Kombat has always been unique among games in that it could be just as fun to stand over the players' shoulders and watch (plus, it cost a lot fewer quarters). That makes the property rather well suited to the big-screen experience, especially in a world where people tune in in droves to watch others duke it out on Twitch. And even if the gamers reject this latest incarnation – which they won't, since they can stream it on the same screens they use to play it – there's no killing this franchise."

The Guardian – Benjamin Lee – 2/5

"While it doesn't have anywhere near the same crowd-pleasing verve of Godzilla vs Kong, there's just about enough low-rent entertainment here to pass the time, especially if that time is late and it arrives after a night of medium-to-heavy drinking. It's all as goofy and as badly acted as one would expect yet there's a certain schlock appeal in how it’s presented, McQuoid mercifully avoiding a grittier, more grounded take on the junky material and keeping things sprightly and mostly lacking in self-seriousness."

Den of Geek – Bernard Boo – 4.5/5

"Yet 2021's Mortal Kombat is both a loving homage to the blood-soaked arcade classics that started it all 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 and should in all likelihood attract an audience of people who have never even played the games. McQuoid takes the complex canon and iconic characters from the games and presents them in a way that respects the original designs to the highest degree but makes clear that this is a new take on the story that has its own voice."

Mortal Kombat is now in theaters and streaming on HBO Max in the US, and you can check out our who's who of the movie characters to get up to speed before you dive in.

Molly Edwards
Molly Edwards

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for our Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after getting my BA in English.