Mortal Kombat (1995)
Mortal Kombat (1995) movie review
Based on the video game series that began in 1992, Mortal Kombat follows three martial arts experts who are recruited to compete in a fighting tournament to save the Earth from impending doom. While this was not the first live action video game adaptation (and I’m talking US release here), it was easily the film to put video game movies on the map as viable film properties. Not that- not that quality comes into consideration there. While the film stands with rather mixed reviews from critics and audiences. the box office haul of $122 million worldwide on a fairly modest $18 million has helped it stake a claim as an iconic film nonetheless.
Now to be totally honest about a few things, I’ve never played a Mortal Kombat game. I played a fighting game once, and I was so bad at it that I swore revenge on the foe who brought this shame upon me. I’m kidding Kevin, we’re all good. But seriously, my other confession is that, while I’ve seen this film three times now, I don’t have a clue what to say about it. “Oh these things are good; these things are not good.” Everything to say about this film has been said before except my opinion, which isn’t entertainingly one way or the other.
Come to think of it though, there is a reason that I (and probably a majority of people) don’t totally hate this film… Something to do with another movie or- ooohhh I see what’s happening here. I guess the only way to talk about Mortal Kombat is to look at the good and the bad, and pit it in a battle to the death against the film that somehow manages to change the viewing experience of the original: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Surprise, this is a 2-in-1 review! Now before we begin, here’s a little bit of info on the second Mortal Kombat, AKA The World’s Greatest Sequel. I’m kidding.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) movie review
Currently sitting at #77 on IMDb’s lowest rated films of all time, Mortal Kombat 2: Electric Animality was rushed into production after the success of the first film. Paul W.S. Anderson did not return to direct, neither did what feels like half the cast. Make that most of the cast. Anyway immediately after the first film ends, a big evil Power Rangers villain shows up to threaten the Earth, and now they have to stop him by traveling around the globe in giant hamster wheels and performing more kicks than you can shake a Jackie Chan film at. While the first film was a large success at the box office, Annihilation barely made back it’s $30 million budget at the US box office, and failed to double that number internationally. Now in the words of Shang Tsung, “Let them Fight…” Wait no that’s- that’s a differnet thing.
Mortal Kombat (1995) vs Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) 2-in-1 review
Well I already did the intros… Soooooo I guess what’s next is for these two films to test their might in…
MORTAL KOMBAAAT!! DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNDUN DUN DUN DUN DUN DuNDuN DUN DUN DUN DUN DUNDUN DUN DUN DuN DADADADA-
Round One… FIGHT (Story and Characters)
BAHAHAHAHA- Oh sorry, I guess that should actually be a category. Now I would LOVE to talk Story AND Adaptation, but I know very little about the game outside the information most people know. I do know that, despite the sequels attempt to appease fans by lazily throwing in nameless characters from the games and having them participate in one of the cheesiest movie fights in history, the original is much better. Gee, can’t imagine why. However I think one thing that actually helps the first film claim victory here is that, well, there’s an actual story! And by that I mean, it’s not a series of fights and random events thrown together where the only thing resembling a character arc is one guy learning new abilities. Hey maybe Annihilation IS a good video game sequel adaptation! I’m just sayin’.
But seriously, the story in the first film following Liu Kang’s journey as a character from an unbeliever to essentially the chosen one of the film is- well it’s not great, but it’s better than him learning to turn into a big CGI abomination! (More on that to come.) That said, as not amazing as the first film is, they don’t make the mistake of splitting their characters up for most of the film. Why not? Well Christopher Lambert, Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras have a ton of chemistry! Sure they are playing fairly shallow characters who’s purpose in the film is to fight somehow shallower characters, but multiply that exponentially and you get the sequel… Mortal Kombat Wins.
Round Two… FIGHT (Choreography and Editing)
Now when it comes to making a Mortal Kombat movie, you need some solid fight scenes! I mean you also need an R rating, and both films lose points for being to PG-13 that it hurts. Mortal Kombat’s action sequences are- well they aren’t great. But they aren’t the worst! Some of the fights are decent, and some of the actors pull of the choreography very well! Not every single time, but often. And while these films are no John Wick (2014), the first one isn’t full of quick cuts like it could be. That said, gosh some of the ‘fatalities’ on display are just- ugh so cheesy. Until you compare it to the sequel…
Want to see Raiden perform like six spin kicks in a row without landing a kick? Or want to see a Mortal Kombat movie that stoops to having two girls wrestle in the mud instead of, oh I don’t know, ACTUALLY FIGHTING!? Are you sick of action that looks like the actors are making contact with their punches? Well look no more, Annihilation is here! But my favorite thing in this film’s fight scenes (and I mean that as sarcastically as possible) is how seemingly every fight begins with random cuts to closeups without context, then both characters in their own shots front-flip off screen, THEN we cut to a two shot where both actors simply look like they landed. Gosh you know what, these fights make like, Catwoman (2004) look competently thrown together. Brutality. Mortal Kombat Wins.
Final Round… FIGHT (Everything Else)
First off, performances are no contest. Obviously I’m referring to hands down the best line delivery in the history of cinema from Annihilation. Allow me to recreate this as best as I know how…
EXT. TEMPLE – DAY (DAY FOR NIGHT)
Liu Kang and Kitana stand, arms at the ready at angles only LEGO characters would use. They look around, despite the villains being clearly ahead of them.
Sonya Blade stares ahead. Behind her, Johnny Cage dramatically walks forward, slowly removing his sunglasses to gaze upon the grave threat. (And because there is no sunlight.)
Liu Kang turns his head.
A flash of white light as large feet enter the frame. We pan up to a man who could only be described as “Half centaur, half corporate investor.” Beside him, a red-clad ninja practicing his best live action Earthbending. And another one, but in blue. At the furthest end of the line, some woman in red leather with two real arms, and two arms digitally composited under the first two.
A fireball reigns down from the composited sky as Shao Kahn emerges.
iTunes visualizer filler.
Shao Kahn breathes in heavily.
Raiden enters frame, dramatically looking forward as his foe.
Shao Kahn. Emperor of Outworld.
Liu Kang and Kitana stare.
Shao Kahn stand atop a large, stone structure. Behind him, that same stupid sky replacement.
Was created in six days!
Shao Kahn stands atop the stone structure, this time with a shot that cuts in about 20% closer.
SHAO KAHN (CONT.)
So to. Shall it be destroyed!
Shai Kahn extends his LEGO arms for emphasis.
Many ninjas flip and jump closer to our heroes.
SHAO KAHN (CONT.)
And on the seventh day…
Ninja backflips. Because reasons.
SHAO KAHN (CONT.)
Mankind will rest-
Ninja is now front-flipping towards Raiden. Same reasons.
SHAO KAHN (CONT.)
Shao Kahn raises his fist.
Our heroes stare, awaiting the director’s instructions.
Their foes stand, idling in slow movement like NPCs.
Johnny Cage shakes his head.
This is not good.
Somehow he’s opened gateways to your world.
Raiden turns his head as Liu Kang speaks.
I thought our victory in Mortal Kombat closed those portals!
(with that badly composited sky keying against his white hair)
What closes can also open again.
What is that supposed to mean?
The shriek of a krayt dragon. Raiden slowly turns his head. Liu Kang also turns his head. (The wrong direction.)
Atop the evil stone structure, Sindel, clearly a member of the X-Men from her costume, steps forward.
Sindel places her hands on her hips.
To bad YOU-
Sindel aggressively points.
Soooo yeah. I feel good wrapping this one on up. Mortal Kombat may be hands down one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely memorable, but not for the right reasons; and it is absolutely enjoyable, but only ironically. Should you watch it if you haven’t seen it? Absofreakinglutely. 1/10. Fatality.
The 1995 Mortal Kombat, it’s honestly a bit tougher to review. It’s not hands down terrible, and the film genuinely tries to be decent. The performances are quite decent all around, and several members of the cast, like Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, are so committed to the film that lines like “Your Soul is Mine!” are no synonymous with this game franchise. Plus next to Annihilations, this movie is a freaking Oscar contender. That said, it’s pretty dated already, and that absolutely is a flaw, as there are a handful of 90s action movies that have help up VERY well. It’s just really silly and not that interesting when it gets going. I want to like it, I really do! (Partly because it doesn’t do thinks like transform humans to giant video game creatures that 1997 effects CLEARLY weren’t ready for.) But rewatching it again, I just felt so disinterested. So should you watch it to say you’ve seen it? Or to get some context if you haven’t played the game? Or to get tot he second one? Absolutely. Is it good? Nah. 5/10.
But still, Mortal Kombat wins…
Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat Annihilation? What do you think of those two? Are there notable elements that I missed that you think are worth mentioning? Or was I simply too harsh on these 90s movies? Be sure to leave a like or a comment below and let us know! And hey, if there’s some other game-based movies we should review, leave a comment and tell us what we should write next!
-review by Ryan Prince