Mortal Kombat (1995)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Robin Shou/Liu Chang
Kari Hiroyuki Tagawa/Shang Sung
Linden Ashby/Johnny Cage
Three martial arts artists (Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade & Liu Chang) are invited to a fight-to-the-death tournament by sorcerer and soul-gobbler Shang Sung. Once there, they “fight” for themselves and for the world’s fate. How’s that for high stakes? TEST YOUR MIGHT!
"Fatality!"-- Shang Tsung
I spent many quarters playing "Mortal Kombat" at the arcades when it was all the rage. I skipped school like it was a sport for that damn game! When it came out on Sega, I filled much of my time having tournaments with my boyz, by-passing a social life for the likes of hearing Scorpion say “Get over here” or to see yet another gory “Fatality”. Yes, I was hooked on that stuff!
Based on the 1992 video game of the same name, "Mortal Kombat" The Movie has to be one of the best game-to-film adaptations to this day, in my opinion. It played it smart by staying very close to its source material and by being what it was supposed to be: a balls-to-the-wall action bonanza filled with special effects, imagination and chop-sockey jamborees. That’s what I wanted out of the film and that’s what I got in high doses. YIPPEE!
The plot, if you can call it that, owed a lot to Bruce Lee’s classic “Enter the Dragon” in terms of its set-up and plot turns. Although the narrative was substantial enough to keep me engaged...let’s face it, it was the action and nods to the game that truly put a smile on my numb skull. The fight sequences kicked all kinds of ass with the Johnny Cage/Scorpion and Liu Chang/Reptile set pieces owning hardcore. I was bouncing off my padded room while witnessing those slow-mo, high kick parties! The nods to the game were also a blast, from Sonya’s “special leg hugger move”, to Sub Zero's icy ways, to Johnny Cage’s below-the-belt split punch in the groin…it was all there man!
The humor in the film also rubbed me the right way, with Christopher Lambert’s Rayden putting forth a couple of priceless “tongue in cheek” moments and Johnny Cage and Sonya’s flirtatious banter getting better and better as the clock time moved forward. The most priceless bit of chuckles for me was when Johnny Cage’s autographed picture (another element from the game) popped up at a certain point in the film. FUNNY SHITE! Lastly, the production values totally enraptured me. First off, by echoing the ambiance of the game to a T and secondly by being trippy ass stuff on their own. The woods in which Scorpion and Cage duked it out and the ocean view scenery, for example, were so freakin' fly.
Now, I’d like to take a moment of sobriety to comment on Kari Hiroyuki Tagawa’s finer than fine performance as the main baddie Shang Sung. The man had a blast with the part, relishing in its evil demeanor and I had such fun watching him stealing scenes from every other actor that shared them with him. Hearing him use the classic "Mortal Kombat" lines like “Finish Him”, “Fatality” or “Flawless Victory” was also quite a treat. Awesome delivery, strong presence, charisma up the wazoo, Kari Hiroyuki Tagawa was the victor and he deserved this paragraph of praise. He’s also a real nice guy in person! Keep up the good work, duder!
On the “Game Over” vibe, the flick never came close to matching the level of violence or gore that the game sported. More plasma would’ve been appreciated: LET’S SCARE THE KIDDIES! COME ON! I also thought that Bridgette Wilson’s fighting skills were weak, to say the least, and that Goro, although looking pretty good on a “visual effect” level, got on my nerves with his constant arms-to-the-sky yelling sprees. Just shut the "F" up and fight already! His fight scenes were also underwhelming.
But overall, I loved "Mortal Kombat" and being a fan of the game definitely upped my enjoyment of its cinematic counterpart. It’s not going to win any Oscars for writing, but anybody who expects impeccable dialogue from a movie based on a video game that's basically about people beating the shite out of each other...deserves an uppercut to the head themselves. Now…dare I say…FINISH HIM!
Nothing too nuts, but we do get some slashing, an ice-pick impaling, some squished beastie that gushed goo and slick decomposing bodies.
Christopher Lambert (Rayden) played it light and gave an amusing show. It helped that his Yoda-like dialogue was actually well written. I bought it! Robin Shou (Liu Chang) had the charm, the presence and the physical talent to make his part one of the stronger ones. He also had puffy hair that you just couldn’t miss. Kari Hiroyuki Tagawa (Shang Sung) totally rocked and stood out as the more captivating character of the lot. Linden Ashby (Johnny Cage) and Bridgette Wilson (Sonya Blade) had some magic moments together and were okay individually. Talisa Sotto (Kitana) looked good and underplayed it...it worked. Trevor Goddard (Kano) was efficient as Kano. RIP dude.
T & A
It's ladies night with this one where all kinds of pumped dudes shirtless grace the screen with Robin Shou being one cut mofo. Us dudes get to drool over Bridgette Wilson’s long and luscious legs and plump lips.
Paul Anderson provided this adaptation with the shot in the arm it needed via crazy camera angles, slow motion galore, ambitious cam moves and a tight pace to boot. This man was born to direct video game adaptations because he knows what it takes to make them the shite! Long live PA!
It’s a techno piñata with the Mortal Kombat theme song owning first and all kinds of fine techno invading the boom-boom room. We also get some heavy metal guitar riffs. Awesome!
The Super Mario Bros film adaptation failed in 1993, Double Dragon and Street Fighter bombed in 1994, but Mortal Kombat hit the waves in 1995 and kicked that sweet “game to movie” ass to pinball heaven. They should use this flick as a template for how to adapt a video game to the big screen. You dig video games and you want to trash to some hollow, yet highly entertaining, fluff? Step into the ring and take this beeyatch on! You looking for depth and substance? Rent “Terms of Endearment” and stay off my lawn! Flawless Victory!
Trevor Goddard (Kano) died of an apparent drug overdose June 7th, 2003.