Mortal Kombat (1995)
Release Date: August 18th, 1995 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson Actors: Christopher Lambert, Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, Trevor Goddard
t’s not hard to believe that a film was made from the incredibly popular “Mortal Kombat” video game franchise. What is difficult to swallow is the lack of seriousness used to approach the already goofy character designs, acting, costumes, and fight sequences. Paul W.S. Anderson (director of “Alien vs. Predator” and the “Resident Evil” movies) is barely able to work with the material – accidentally pleasing many fans while haphazardly assembling a barely cohesive plot that mixes in plenty of duels, actual martial artists, location changes, most of the original personas, and even fatalities and sound bites straight from the game. Unfortunately, while it’s considered one of the better video game-to-movie adaptations (which isn’t saying much), it’s still entirely too silly in tone and appearance.
Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby) is a spoiled action film actor who reluctantly joins forces with tough girl cop Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson) in her attempt to hunt down the murderer Kano (Trevor Goddard). Similarly, Chinese warrior Liu Kang (Robin Shou) seeks vengeance against evil sorcerer Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) for the death of his brother. They’re all abducted by the God of Lightning and protector of the Earth Realm, Rayden (Christopher Lambert), a white-haired, long-robed deity who explains that they’ve been chosen to fight in an epic martial arts tournament for the fate of the world. Meanwhile, Tsung builds a roster of his own warriors, an assortment of extreme criminals and knaves, to engage Rayden’s elite selections.
“Mortal Kombat” makes a lot of assumptions with its audience – namely, that they’re familiar with the video game and therefore need little explanation for the various legends and prophecies that fuel the reasoning behind the tournament. No one is truly fazed by the appearance of supernatural entities, or concerned with being forcefully recruited into a series of deadly duels in a gladiatorial arena (a concept better utilized in 2010’s “Predators”). Likewise, none of them are disconcerted by the lethal magic employed by most of the fighters; combatant Sub-Zero turns his enemies into ice, while Scorpion (Chris Casamassa) thrusts a toothy, retractable, wormlike projectile, and Reptile dons invisibility. For the diehard fans, the film also includes Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto), Jax (Gregory McKinney), and the general of the armies of Outworld and reigning champion Prince Goro, a four-armed, towering mutant.
The special effects are incredibly poor, even by 1995’s standards. Many scenes use the abrasive mixing of traditional animation with live-action, while the 3D elements are just as pitiful. At least Goro’s monstrous puppet technique is more visually amusing. Much of the fight choreography is sorrily staged to mimic the source material, as is the soundtrack, which features hilariously cheesy, simplistic, synthesized, sound-effects-laden music ripped straight from primitive video games of the time. Matching that is the lamentable dialogue, which is embarrassingly idiotic and served with the dopiest of deliveries; Christopher Lambert takes the cake as the most foolishly contemptible aspect in the production, boasting the worst of the scripting. Every time he appears onscreen, it’s impossible to stifle a laugh as he smirks through his lines and fails to wipe the nutty expression that is his face… from his face.
– Mike Massie