I don’t like to sugar-coated my reviews of action films, and I never have. I wrote action movie reviews back in 1998, and later on some people involved in those films saw the reviews and complained. As a stuntman, this probably lost me some jobs, but I’ve earned some jobs too, since smart directors and animators want the best, and posting a “hell yeah” for every new Marvel series fight scene doesn’t draw in smart directors.
So in the service of truth, I’ll tear these fight scenes apart for you and expose their raw meaty bits for all to see.
Opening shot: cliche opener. Camera dollies back to reveal triangle choreo. We know exactly what will happen because this is such a typical shot. For a fight with so much blood, there’s no real shock value to the opener.
Sanada’s sword comes across as weak, something traditional sword choreographers would have laughed at. The throat and stomach cuts don’t phase these guys, even though it bleeds them. Yet an empty-handed neck-grab is effective. The crossed swords is a good shape but these ninjas are too tame. You need threatening enemies to make a formidable hero. When the enemies flail about, the hero can do cool stuff all day, but it won’t mean anything.
Ninja throws a high kick, a dumb move against a sword. He has a sword sheath. Is it empty? Did he lose his sword in some choreo that got edited out? Also, final stab through head comes down at weird angle. They could’ve used a closeup on his bleeding eyes, too. This is also very tame.
This segment is a failure on all levels. Sanada’s the best Japanese kicker in film history and they made him shove a 185-pound stunt guy with a kick. You can’t make a good looking kick with this. Bad choreo, shooting, and editing. He deserves better.
Stunt guys stand around box stepping until they get hit. You could fix this with shooting and editing, but the choreo is still stale.
The spear through the head deserves a closeup. That’s a fatality. But instead they continue to a stunt fall that lacks shock since the stuntman antics the fall too early. Sends the wrong message. The spear should do the killing, not the fall. Bad payoff. Also very tame.
The random cutouts to wide shots keep us from seeing what’s going on. Also, Sanada has to repeat-kill everyone, like guy on left getting stabbed then tripped (cool kick). Sanada would have been powerful if they let him do more one-hit kills.
These running ninjas have no plan. They just run up and get hit. Camera hides the second one, but the first runner is so eggy it hurts. Cool move by Sanada at the beginning, though. He looks far better and economical than anyone else.
Ninja does the box step until he gets killed. Nice deadman at the end. A deadman is when they move a performer and then use a wire to stop them in an opposing direction. Good impact, but this is the wrong finisher for the fight. Should’ve been a spear through the brain. Again, very tame.
Final thoughts: Sanada looks good as always, but he needs a better team. This choreo lacks danger and shock, which contrasts with the violence. There’s no respect for the blade, no real payoffs based on MK lore. Missed opportunities everywhere.
The violence is so tame and is just your typical, cheap, visual effects-based blood. Anyone can do this level of blood now. Was this a budgetary issue? If so, this just means the priorities were out of whack. Blood should be everywhere in MK, and gore. Did they pull back to appease international censors? There’s probably a blood-less version out there too.
The choreo doesn’t live in the location. Sanada should’ve speared a guy through the head into a tree to show power. But there’s no interaction with any of the environment. This happens when the team pre-vizzes in a gym, but they can’t (or don’t) add anything on location.
The enemies are weak and dumb. That’s fine, but you have to kill them with one hit then, or the hero looks weak and dumb too. They also require multiple kill shots, so they’re also strong, yet they’re agile. So there’s no theme to the enemies. Too much time wasted on them.
The spear isn’t paid off properly. Rope dart choreo is cool but technically very difficult. If this is the intro for Scorpion’s spear, they missed a huge opportunity.
If the rest of the film’s action is like this, then MK is another failed attempt to capture the fun and shock value of the series. They need to be careful who they hire to make these things. Remember Tekken from 2009? No? Exactly.