a critiQal film review Mortal Kombat (1995)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: Evil sorcerer Shang Tsung (Tagawa) has led a powerful emperor to victory against his mortal enemies for nine generations. If he is victorious in the tenth tournament, the desolation and evil that have flourished in the Outworld will reign over Earth forever. Now, guided into battle by Rayden (Lambert), a mighty and powerful god, three human warriors - Sonya Blade (Wilson), Johnny Cage (Goddard) and Lui Kang (Shou) - must look deep within their souls to discover the power they need to conquer a host of insurmountable events and superhuman foes.

638 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 11s)

With the recent short film Mortal Kombat: Rebirth making it’s way around the internet (check it out here), it made me not only get excited about a possibly decent future film, but it also got me interested in re-watching the original film, Mortal Kombat, which I remember enjoying back in ’95.

Would the film still be as fun more than a decade later, or should is one better off in my memory than in actuality?

Okay, sure, the acting isn’t top-notch – but in a film adaptation of a Vs. video game, should that really be unexpected? After all, the viewers are clamoring to see the fighting done right, not the slow moments, right? Still, there are a few standouts in the crowd, with Robin Shou (“Liu Kang”) being able to actually get the viewer to laugh at him as he cracks wise. Even Christopher Lambert (of Highlander (1986) fame) is able to play it a little more loosely than viewers are used to seeing from him, and seems to be having the most fun in his role.

With such a large cast of characters now in the video games, there would be no way the film would be able to focus on each of them (at least not well – see Mortal Kombat: Annihilation), so instead the film tries focusing on Liu Kang, Johnny Cage and Sonya Blade. Sure, other names get tossed in, like Sub-Zero, Scorpion and Reptile among them – but those characters aren’t explored in depth, and mostly are around to provide some exciting fight sequences.

The action sequences, which the majority of Mortal Kombat focuses on – as any fighting video game screen adaptation should – are exciting, and vary enough from fight to fight that the viewer never has to worry about the film becoming repetitious. Unfortunately, while the film originally is able to tie the fight sequences together easily, as the film progresses the setup for each fight becomes more and more transparent, until finally the characters are just jumping from one fight to the next without any sort of buildup. Since this is the basis of the game viewers won’t complain much, but some of the fight sequences could easily have been left out (Kitana vs. Liu Kang) or tied in better with the storyline (Liu Kang vs. Reptile) and the film probably would have been better off because of it.

As with most special effects laden pictures seen years later, the biggest drawback to Mortal Kombat these days lies with it’s inadequate effects. While the fight sequences seem to have been meticulously choreographed, some of the magical aspects/fantastical creatures could use some work. Thankfully, many of the special effects sequences are only slightly tarnished by the years, but some effects (most notable as the film is wrapping up) look incredibly unrealistic.

The film’s biggest piece of makeup artistry involved bringing to life a giant, 4-armed fighter name Goro, and the filmmaker’s were able to do this rather better than expected. While it’s not exactly up to today’s standards (see The Incredible Hulk (2008) for a more modern-day version of Goro), Goro seems more like someone in makeup rather than a puppet. Sure he’s still noticeably unreal, but he shows a marked improvement over previous incantations (Rock-biter in The NeverEnding Story (1984) for example), and viewers won’t mind seeing him as much as they might have feared.

But it’s the soundtrack that really helps Mortal Kombat. From the first note of the techno-remixed “Mortal Kombat” theme song, viewers are hyped up to see the action-packed movie they know is coming – and they aren’t disappointed, as Mortal Kombat delivers all the fighting they could ask for.

Sure, it could have been better, but with Christopher Lambert cackling over their shoulders, viewers should still get a big kick out of Mortal Kombat even now.

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