In this, the 4th installment of You Got Some Video Games in my Movies, I take a look at one of the biggest disappointments of my adult life, Mortal Kombat. As you’ll see with this review, I was a big fan of the games growing up. Then, Paul W.S. Anderson decided to find what was most sacred to me and carpet-bomb it with enough stupidity to keep me far, far away from whatever enjoyment he thought he was giving me. The previous movie in this series, Street Fighter, actually has some entertainment value (albeit also stupid) to it. Mortal Kombat, on the other hand, plummets like Goro off of a cliff after getting kicked in the (presumably) four-testicled nutsack. Thanks, Anderson. Thanks for that one.
DVD case accolades:
“A rock’em, sock’em, action flick!”
September 13th, 1993. I remember it well. It was Mortal Monday, and I was ten–years-old. The original Mortal Kombat had released that day on the Sega Genesis, and it was delivered right to my doorstep. I have a clear memory of rushing through the back door and making a bee-line for the front porch. I opened the door, and sure enough, the package was sitting on the ground, waiting to be opened. I’m pretty sure I let out some ten-year-old male version of “SQUEEEE!!!” *swoon* as I feverishly ripped the box open to reveal the greatest thing since things began existing. This was Mortal Kombat, mother fucker. IN MY HOUSE. It was time to bicycle kick people in the chest with Liu Kang and perhaps even dabble in some Kano heart-eating. Yes, he totally eats his opponent’s heart after he rips it out. Go YouTube it.
Just in case you haven’t got the plot yet, I loved that shit more than my own mother (Mother, in case you’re reading this, go ahead and chalk that up to hyperbole.). At the time, either Midway, Acclaim, or Sega was running a contest that had something to do with beating the game. I can’t remember exactly what it was about, but it entailed beating the game and then taking a picture of the end-game screen. Yes, that was before the internet. I had to take a picture, get it developed, and snail mail it in a truck and everything. The point is, I did it. I beat that game. Over 200 times. I could go on and on about this, but I just want you to understand how much of an MK fan I was back in the day. When the movie came out, I was hyping it up like I had stock in New Line. I loved the movie. I mean, holy shit, Sub-Zero was in it, and he was my favorite character. I even dressed up like him for Halloween one year, and that costume is still sitting in my closet back home.
So, how does the movie hold up now that I’m a grown man? Not so well. It kind of sucks, actually. Time to break out the notes. Let’s see…what was bad…what was bad…ah, yes. Everything.
Okay, not literally everything. The one cool thing about Mortal Kombat is the Goro puppet. I don’t know exactly what the hell is going on with that thing, but there are about 4 or 5 puppeteers listed in the credits. The lower half is an actual dude walking around, and the upper half is some kind of movable monster torso. The eyes move around and bulge out, and the mouth makes decent attempts at lip-syncing to the dialogue.
Aside from Goro, nothing else really works. The number one reason to watch a Mortal Kombat movie would be for the fights, right? Right. Too bad, then, because they’re all lame. First of all, seemingly half of them take place for no reason whatsoever. The tournament would be happening in one location, but…just because…the main characters would wander off and get into these battles of attrition to see who could suck up the most screen time with punches and kicks I could have blocked as a grade-schooler back in ’93. The only reason they exist is so that Sub-Zero could fight Liu Kang (Umm, fail. Sub-Zero should fight Scorpion, you assholes.), and also so the movie’s runtime could reach a respectable length. Otherwise, the thing would have been like 20 minutes. But no, Paul Anderson really, really wants you to watch Johnny Cage and Scorpion fight in a bamboo forest out in the middle of nowhere, for no reason.
That reminds me, the rules of Mortal Kombat make no sense. The humans win in the end, but Shao Khan still storms the place, crushes a building, and calls everyone dicks while yelling about taking over the joint. Where are the Mortal Kombat police when you need them? I’d even take Stryker if he was available at the time, or at least something like the vegan police from Scott Pilgrim. Coincidentally, if you’re going to just make him a white dude, Thomas Jane would have made a better Raiden. More on that in a minute.
Anyways, the fights aren’t lame only because the setups are nonsensical. On the whole, the choreography is also pretty asstastic. At least once per fight, one guy will do his defensive block like a full second before the other dude even attempts the strike. The one on defense will then just hold it there like a tool and wait for the striker to place his arm neatly inside his raised arms. Either that, or the punches would just look staged and shitty. It’s almost as if some of the stunt guys couldn’t get the routine down at full-speed, so they just said fuck it and filmed it at three-quarters.
One of the most obviously poor choices is – you guessed it – Christopher Lambert as Raiden. Bizarro casting aside, though, Raiden is the most unhelpful douche ever. His entire M.O. is to drone on and on about no one being “ready,” but he won’t ever teach anyone anything. Seriously, all the guy does is mosey on over whenever Shang Tsung attempts something obviously too dickish to let slide and say stuff like, “Heyyyy you guyssss…that’s against the rulesssss.”
There are also no training montages. In fact, there is no training at all. I mean, it’s not like a video game or something where you can just keep trying over and over until you beat the son of a bitch. That would be ridiculous.
I’ve written just about all I can about Mortal Kombat, save for one last thing that kind of irks me. Throughout the whole movie, Sonya Blade is portrayed as a strong-willed, independent woman who could take care of herself and kick anyone’s ass. It’s misguided from the start, because I really don’t believe a strong female character needs to be able to scissor-kick anyone. Plus she’s a bitch. That’s not being strong, that’s just being a bitch. But if you’re going to go that route, you have to go the whole way. At the end of the movie, she’s relegated to a damsel in distress, replete with messy, “sexy” hair and a pseudo dress. Look, don’t give me your shit about this being Mortal Kombat and that I should calm down. I get it. I’m just saying that if this movie had any higher aspirations, I would be offended. But it didn’t, so whatever. She looked hot in her stupid dress.
Alright, I’m done with this one; on to the next. Coincidentally, the next video game movie happens to be Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. Oh, joy. Sindel is just soooooo good in that.