In 1995 Midway had just released Mortal Kombat 3 in the arcades and given the enormous success and huge popularity of the series, a feature film on the big screen was inevitable. On August 18th, 1995 Mortal Kombat hit theaters and was met with mixed reviews. Despite the reviews Mortal Kombat still ended up making over a hundred millions dollars and proved to be the most successful video game adaptation of it’s time. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times to the point where the old VHS copy I had was worn out and stopped working. I picked up the first DVD release in those awful and ugly snap cases and still have it to this day. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing Flixster on my phone and was gifted an Ultraviolet copy of the film. I took that as a sign I should finally review this somewhat forgotten gem.
The film follows the original Mortal Kombat game pretty closely except that the PG-13 rating meant there could not by any bloody and over the top fatalities. Even without the blood and gore Mortal Kombat proved to be a good adaptation. Once the main characters get on Shang Tsung’s boat the atmosphere of the film becomes very dark. Mortal Kombat has some good fight scenes despite not have many martial artists in the film. The casting for Mortal Kombat was in a word, superb. Chris Casamassa, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, and Christopher Lambert were all perfect for their respective roles. Trevor Goddard did such an awesome job as Kano; NetherRealm Studios changed Kano from half Chinese to Australian. Unfortunately Goddard has passed away which makes it impossible for a future cameo in either Mortal Kombat Legacy or the film reboot.
The tournament fight scenes are pretty good. The first one with Liu Kang sets the tone but Shang Tsung steals the scene with a fatality. The next with Kano and Sonya was pretty short and despite little martial arts experience between the actors, their portrayal really makes the scene. Scorpion and Johnny Cage is the highlight of the movie. Brutal, fast, and intense are ways to describe it. It ends with a very cool botched fatality and a friendship. Sub-Zero and Liu Kang is very short and Sub-Zero fights very cowardly, which in retrospect works because the older Sub-Zero doesn’t have honor. Johnny Cage vs Goro was pretty good too. Cage drops all the classic lines from the movie. Liu Kang vs Reptile started strong but towards the end Reptile became a punching bag much like in the game series. The final battle between Liu Kang and Shang Tsung is pretty awesome. My only complaint is Tsung doesn’t morph into Art Lean. The ending sets up a sequel but that’s for another time. Raiden/Christopher Lambert is the glue that holds the movie together.
Whenever I’m flicking through my vast movie collection, I always pause when I get to Mortal Kombat. Yes it’s silly pop-corn fun but you know what – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like pop-corn. It’s a great blend of action, laughs, magic and muscle that is still totally watchable in 2014. About the only part of the movie that dates badly is the rubberized Goro, but you can attribute that to a limited budget. It stands up as a solid movie even for people who have never heard the name Mortal Kombat, but still finds time to drop more than a few winks and nods for the knowledgeable fan-base. It even went on to define future parts of the franchise through Trevor Goddard’s fantastic Australian-take on Kano. Most never saw this movie coming, but few will ever forget it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch it right now.
– Holy Grail
Overall this movie is solid and Hollywood needs to take a look at it to see how a proper videogame adaptation is made. Sure it had to make certain sacrifices but the soul is still there.
Next time we’ll be jumping straight into the Netherrealm and take a look at Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. If watching the first film makes any expectations for the second, do yourself a favor and destroy them just like the box art says.
5 out of 5