Mortal Kombat was one of many video games my brothers and I grew up on. Oh, THE FEELS! Sega Game Gear and odorous arcades with rinky-dink prizes are among my most treasured commodities of my adolescence. How we got away with playing the graphic game is anyone’s guess. It was the first arcade game to feature oodles of blood and gore, complete with decapitations, ripping hearts out of chests, and flinging opponents into a dungeon of spikes. Unlike Street Fighter and Tekken, Mortal Kombat displayed realistic, digitized sprites with a variety of hidden surprises, hidden characters, and thrilling fatalities which kept it fresh. Naturally, we were eager to see the film. I hadn’t seen it since the 90s so I went into this film fully expecting nostalgia to let me down. To my surprise, it still stands on its own as one of the best video game to movie adaptations of all time.
The film stayed true to the game with the same characters and back ground stories. Liu Kang (Robin Shou) is our lead fighter who wants to avenge his brother’s death. Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson – Girl boner!) is an agent after the man who killed her partner. Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) is an actor who wants to be taken seriously. Rayden (Christopher Lambert) is some sort of thunder God that’s made out of electricity and he has a sense of humor. Kano (Trevor Goddard) is the misogynist douche that killed Sonya’s partner. Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto) is the Emperor’s daughter that’s 10, 000 years old. She’s also Liu Kang’s love interest. 10, 000 years is a really long time, just saying. In the video game she can levitate with steel fans as her weapon of choice but neither of these abilities are present in the film. Unsatisfactory.
Our batch of baddies consist of; Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) who is considered the most powerful adversary with the catch phrase, “Your soul is mine!” He’s a sorcerer and a shape-shifter with the ability to collect his victim’s souls and he has the ability to enter other dimensions. The collection of souls helps to increase his lifespan. Scorpion (Chris Casamassa) is a resurrected ninja who is immune to fire. In the game, he spews fire from his skull. He is known to shout, “Get over here!” when he unleashes a spike from his arms. Sub-Zero is his enemy though in the film, this is never mentioned. Sub Zero (Francois Petit) has the ability to control ice. His character resembles Scorpion only he is garbed in blue and Scorpion is garbed in yellow. Reptile (Keith Cooke) is my favorite villain for many reasons. In the game, he’s a hidden boss with clothing much like Scorpion and Sub-Zero, only green. In the film, he begins as a lizard summoned to spy on Kitana. Liu Kang throws him into a statue, giving him the ability to posses the object and transform into a ninja. Goro (Tom Woodruff Jr) in an unplayable boss you have to defeat before Shang Tsung. He’s a large creature with four arms that is nearly unbeatable unless you’re aiming at his nut sack. There’s also Shao Kahn, the conqueror of worlds but he doesn’t make an appearance until the final scene. What a corn ball.
The acting was exceptionally good given the script. Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, and Cameron Diaz were all offered roles in the film. Imagine how that would have turned out. Van Damme turned down the role of Cage to star in Street Fighter and Brandon Lee was considered for a role before he was killed while making The Crow.
The fight choreography is stunning but many of the fans were disappointed that the fatalities were not as graphic as the game. The choreographers paid close attention to detail and I think their decision to focus more on the choreography than the graphic finish was a good decision. Liu Kang’s bicycle kick is among my favorites. The CGI effects with Scorpion and Reptile are disappointing but overall the special effects were pretty decent for its time. Other noteworthy effects are the animatronics for Goro and the Outworld realm. Outworld realm production design is spectacular and convincing though it’s a very dark film. I wouldn’t recommend watching this on VHS but it’s well framed and it avoids the clichés most gamer films cannot seem to neglect and its an aqueous, gratifying composition. As for the soundtrack, the theme is still popular in clubs to date and many of my friends recall getting pumped in the theater as soon as Techno Syndrome and the title logo blasted on the screen. The album peaked at #16 on the Billboard charts. I would actually hear it often while I bartended at the strip clubs.
Some comedy in the film including Johnny Cage breaking into a split followed by a harsh punch in Goro’s nut sack, Cage telling Sonya to go ahead and find out what that noise was, then Rayden’s swing and a miss with, “The fate of billions will depend on you. Hahahaha. Sorry.” Rayden uses pantomime bits instead of talky, war speeches. Thank goodness Paul Anderson wasn’t in charge of the script. Anderson happens to be a piss poor screen writer but he’s married to Milla Jovovich so things are going well for him. This and Event Horizon are the only Paul Anderson directed films that I care for. He ruined Resident Evil and don’t even get me started on Death Race.
As for “flawless victory,” I’m going to disagree. Only the core audience who adored the game can understand the love for this action flick. The action is non-stop and the dark lighting creates the same ambiance the game offered. The main objective helps to bring strength to our lead characters as they are forced to face their enemy, their-selves, and their worst fears. The sequels are hellishly busy. Avoid them at all costs.