So such disdain has been hurled at Paul W.S. Anderson over the years that people seem to forget that early in his kareer he kreated a film that most agreed was pretty fucking awesome.
Ok, that film may have been Event Horizon, but you gotta admit, Mortal Kombat is pretty good too…
Despite being laden with direct-to-video level performances, some shocking (even for the time) CGI and the near impossible task of adapting a one-on-one fighting game into a coherent story, Mortal Kombat succeeds against all odds to be a spirited romp in a genre that still fire out duds with worrying regularity.
First a short history lesson: Mortal Kombat was the video game that was going to bring society to it’s knees. It’s digitized, photo-real graphics and it’s ridiculously silly gore based “fatalities” horrified parents and shocked authorities but behind the gratuitous spine ripping and heart removing, the game boasted a rich mythology that make it more ripe for adaptation than say Street Fighter 2 or Super Mario Brothers. Not bad for a film that doesn’t know how to properly utilize the letter “K”.
And it’s this very thing that makes Mortal Kombat: The Movie stand out from similar attempts to broach the seemingly impassable gulf between video game and movie as all the plot and karacter are already in place.
A disparate group of fighters are chosen to take part in a tournament in another dimension that with determine the fate of the world, y’know, fairly standard stuff for this sort of thing. Liu Kang, a descendant of a great warrior, attends to find his brother’s murderer, Sonya Blade, an officer of the law is chasing down robot-eyed krime boss Kano while smug actor Johnny Cage simply wants to prove himself and all three are taken under the wing of silver-haired lightning God Raiden (a game Christopher Lambert slicing the ham as thick as you please). Squaring up to the evil soul stealing Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa savouring every line like his life depended it) the group has their work kut out for them as he has super powered cronies of his own like the spear hurling hell-demon Scorpion, the ice konjuring Sub-Zero and the bestial, multi-limbed power house Goro.
The plot is a straight line, the karacterization basic and the dialogue is almost as laughable as some of the visual effects, but it’s actually hard for you to deny that for all it’s (very) 90’s hokiness, the movie aggressively does what it says on the tin and does it pretty well. Most of the fights are serviceable in a 90’s American martial arts sort of way – with Johnny vs Scorpion and Liu Kang vs hidden character Reptile (A hidden character? How video game is THAT?) rising to the top of the heap. Plus the sets are badass and the animatronic Goro from the creators of Tremors’ Graboids and Alien Vs Predator’s dueling beasties, is a pretty kool (if a bit stiff) practical effect. In fact pretty kool is the best way to describe the experience. Back in the day seeing all these karacters leap klean out of the konsole and watching all the karnage unfold to the sound of deafening techno was oddly satisfying although for every accurate nod to the game (Raiden’s pointy hat, Kang’s bicycle kick, Johnny Cage’s dick punch) some beloved Mortal Kombat institutions are left annoyingly under-served (both Sub-Zero and Goro go out like punks).
In klosing (that’s GOT to be enough “K” puns now, right?), Mortal Kombat is the movie equivalent of slamming back a pack of Red Bull and playing video games with your mates all night while working your way through a takeout pizza. It ain’t exactly intellectual, but it proves to be fun where it kounts.
So GET OVER HERE and TEST YOUR MIGHT, but don’t be expecting a FLAWLESS VICTORY.