The gory Mortal Kombat 11 video game, with 8 million copies sold worldwide, has been banned for its over-the-top brutality in China, Japan, Indonesia and Ukraine. That hasn’t stopped Mortal Kombat (2021)—the R-rated movie—from dismembering the competition at the box office. MK21 grossed $22.5 million domestically, earning it the top spot last weekend. Deadline reports MK21 had the biggest R-rated opening during the Covid-19 pandemic.
That ought to make you sick.
The film is the latest offering based upon the Mortal Kombat video game franchise, which dates back to 1992 and is currently valued at $12 billion. While the bean counters at Warner Bros. rejoice at their smash hit, here’s a smattering of the splattering identified by Focus on the Family’s PluggedIN. Brace yourself:
“Humans and monstrous characters alike are pummeled and pounded in the face and upper body. Heads get slammed into stones; trees and arms and necks get snapped. Blades of all shapes and sizes slash at foes and are stabbed into necks, torsos, abdomens and backs (sometimes with the bloody blade being withdrawn and licked). Martial arts battles showcase men being hacked, broken and impaled from multiple angles. In all of these instances, blood splashes about, while slashed-and-bloody wounds or skinned flesh are left behind.”
But wait, there’s more gore to gorge on along with your popcorn. The reviewer adds:
We see someone blasted through the abdomen, tearing away the flesh and organs and leaving an exposed spine showing through the open hole. A large foe is stabbed in the eye and then gutted, causing his entrails to spill out on the ground. A character has his face battered to pulp and his head crushed to mush. A female character is forcibly pushed down on a razor-sharp spinning blade and gruesomely sawn open from the crown of her head down to her crotch.
Here’s the most frightening part: society celebrates this bloodthirsty barbarism. Take, for example, the CNET reviewers who described MK21 as having “delightfully gory fatalities” where “each fight is a joy to watch.” With glee, they added, “The film builds to a glorious final confrontation, with choreography and camerawork coming together beautifully—you'll want to scream ‘Finish him!’ as it draws to a close.”
Candidly, I’m surprised God hasn’t sent another flood.
Do you know why He sent the first flood?
Moses writes in Genesis, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence ... so God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them” (6:11, 13 NIV). Are we, with our endless addiction to violent video games, movies, and TV shows, any less worthy of His judgment? If God didn’t wink at violence then, what makes us so sure He’s okay with our violence-filled entertainment choices today?
What are we teaching the next generation about the value of human life when we let them consume images of wall-to-wall death? I believe there’s a correlation worth exploring here between what’s playing on the silver screen and what’s happening on our streets. Consider this headline: “Onlookers laugh and jeer as Nanaimo teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home.” Here, a 16-year-old kicked and punched in the head a 15-year-old while a “number of youths who could be heard laughing and jeering at the victim” watched and videoed the assault.
Consider this headline: “New York student fatally stabbed while onlookers took video.” Here, a 16-year-old student was attacked and stabbed by an 18-year-old while between 50 and 70 onlookers did nothing to stop the assault. Rather than call for help, some videoed the violent action and posted it on social media. Nassau County Police Department Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick said, “They videoed his death instead of helping him.”
This jadedness of the soul is a global concern. China was rocked when videos of callous bystanders jeered and chanted “Jump Quickly” when a young woman, standing on the ledge of the eighth floor of a department store, was about to jump to her death.
What’s especially disturbing are the millions upon millions of viewers who flock and feast on watching real life brutality—such was the case of a 15-year-old Chicago girl with disabilities who was beaten by several teens. The 42-second viral video clip has more than 5 million views.
To be clear, I am not suggesting there’s a specific connection between the aforementioned situations and Mortal Kombat. I’m reminded of the time a reporter from The Los Angeles Times called me to take issue with my position on violent video games. I had just aired a radio commentary on the excessively violent nature of many martial arts-type video games, including Mortal Kombat, where players have the ability to “finish” their opponents with sheer brutality—decapitation, electrocution, incineration or ripping out the other warrior’s heart.
I had warned that these games are not just child’s play. They have the ability to numb the senses toward real pain and suffering. And, in some cases, may contribute to real life acts of mayhem. So, with a sarcastic tone suggesting journalistic superiority, the Times reporter asked, “Can you point to even one case where a kid played a violent video game and acted the violence?”
My response? I answered him with a question of my own: “Can you point to even one case where a person ate one doughnut and got fat?” Of course not. So, on the surface, eating donuts must be harmless, right? Wrong-o. How do we gain weight? A series of individual poor food choices over time will ultimately have a deleterious effect on our bodies. The same is true with pop culture. Occasional contact with inappropriate entertainment most likely won’t push our kids into becoming another juvenile delinquent statistic. But, repeated immersion into the graphic and sexualized violence side of today’s entertainment biz can leave a harmful impression on young minds.
Syndicated columnist John Leo put it this way, “If you keep putting out movies showing violence as a logical and inevitable solution to conflict, you can’t be surprised if the level of real-life violence goes up. Sustained messages in popular culture are eventually heard and incorporated into the psychic makeup of the people.”
Garbage in still breeds garbage out.
 “No-fault rule out for movie violence,” Universal Press Syndicate, 27 June 1995.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: Erik Witsoe/Unsplash
Bob DeMoss is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books including collaborations with Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty, Jim Daly/Focus on the Family, Andy Stanley, and Tim LaHaye/Left Behind. His latest short story is "Hazel: The Outlaw Mummy". Visit BobDeMoss.com.