In 1995’s Mortal Kombat, Liu Kang declares his own “Flawless Victory” after defeating Shang Tsung, an error that would take 26 years to rectify.
Simon McQuoid’s Mortal Kombat, just like its predecessors, is loaded with callbacks to the games, including one that makes up for a glaring mistake made by Liu Kang in the original 1995 adaptation. Both films see characters proclaim their own “Flawless Victory,” a reference to the kudos a player would receive upon winning a round without suffering so much as a single blow. Paired with a gory fatality, it’s historically the most decisive way to declare one’s superiority in Mortal Kombat.
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Twenty-six years later, in 2021’s Mortal Kombat, Kung Lao handily recreates his classic “buzzsaw” Fatality, splitting Nitara down the middle and accurately declaring a “Flawless Victory.” Unlike Liu Kang’s more balanced fight with Shang Tsung, Kung Lao did not suffer a single strike from his opponent en route to her death, making his the true “Flawless Victory” in the game’s parlance. McQuoid’s adaptation of the classic game works for various reasons, not the least of which being its clear admiration for the source material. From references to “Flawless Victory” to self-deprecating shots at Mortal Kombat’s spelling, this version feels much more like it was created by fellow fans of the franchise, pairing a level of sincerity with the grotesqueries on display.
It’s the original film’s disconnection with the lore of Mortal Kombat, both meta and otherwise, that’s one of its most notable drawbacks. From the whitewashing of Christopher Lambert’s Raiden to the all-too-brief appearance of Major Jax Briggs early on in the film, Anderson’s version of the fighter hacks away at long-standing conventions that might have pleased fans of the game. And while fan service can often feel obvious and shoehorned, there’s a level of camp self-awareness in Mortal Kombat that has always seemed to lend itself to subtle applications of well-known references.
Beyond just the correct usage of “Flawless Victory,” 2021’s Mortal Kombat features myriad deep cuts for the appreciation of hardcore fans, from Liu Kang’s spamming of leg sweeps while training Kano to the unmistakable power of Cole Young’s uppercut bookending his arc. In addition to working on its own apart from its source material, the film is a clear love letter to fans of the series, and if the teased sequel is confirmed, there’s no telling what references and easter eggs it might contain.
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