At a runtime of one hour and forty-one minutes, 1995’s Mortal Kombat is a fun martial arts romp that’s more interested in providing fan service than delivering a competent film. However, it won’t cost you as much as it would have to play the arcade game for the same length of time.
The “plot” follows Mortal Kombat’s most recognisable characters Liu Kang (Robin Shou), Johnny Cage (Linden Ashby), Sonya Blade (Bridgette Wilson), and the thunder god Raiden (Christopher Lambert) as they are tasked with defending the Earth realm against the Outworld, led by Shang Tsung (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), as they attempt to win their tenth straight Mortal Kombat tournament and invade Earth-realm. Earth’s fighters breeze through their first few matches aided by Princess Kitana (Talisa Soto) and Scorpion and Sub Zero are introduced and cast aside just as quickly before a new fighter arrives… Outworld’s fearsome Prince Goro. After Johnny challenges Goro to a fight and prevails despite the odds, Shang Tsung ends up taking Sonya hostage and transports her to Outworld, with Liu, Johnny, and Kitana following him.
After fighting off Reptile (another fan favourite character who is tossed in the trash), Liu challenges Shang Tsung to a Final Fight in order to prove he has the Killer Instinct. During the battle, Shang uses all the captured souls he claimed in past tournaments. Finding his inner resolve, Liu defeats Shang, seemingly preventing an Outworld invasion. The celebrations are cut short as the warlord Shao Kahn appears claiming that he will enslave Earth-realm with the movie closing on the Earth’s fighters preparing to do battle once again.
Looking at the cast list, it’s safe to say this movie didn’t end up launching any of these actors into the prime time. Christopher Lambert fits the bill as Raiden even though his accent is a little off-putting (though not as much as in 1986’s Highlander). He doesn’t get a lot to do in this movie except offer nonsense advice and get thrown through walls. Bridgette Wilson is in kind of the same boat, who after being part of the main group for the first half of the film is then relegated to the damsel in distress role. On a side note, going from Billy Maddison to this in one year meant 1995 would have been a real flat line for Wilson’s career.
Shou, Ashby, and Tagawa are more known as martial artists than actors and this movie should have let them show off their prowess. Unfortunately, the editors and choreographers of the film had other plans. They spoiled the fight scenes, leaving them toothless and choppy which is in stark contrast to the game this film is based on. If you’ve watched a Paul W.S Anderson film before, all of this won’t come as a surprise to you. The writing for the film is set at quite a low bar, with dialogue bouncing between expositional statements and awkward fan service references that fit into the film as smoothly as a six-car pileup.
As mentioned above, this movie’s action is woeful. The start of the film gives you hope as the action is easy-ish to follow with not too many cuts, but as the plot devolves into the mess we end up with, the cinematography seems to go with it. There’s a slight blip on the excitement meter during the fight between Johnny and Scorpion but that is snuffed out with bad computer graphics (even for 1995) and synthesisers.
The soundtrack is easily the best part of this movie just based on the theme song alone, although the bar is so low it’s dragging along the floor. The theme song was written by Belgian tech duo The Immortals and their discography consists of six tracks with five of them incorporating Mortal Kombat in the title. Suffice to say, they were firmly hitched to Mortal Kombat’s rising star. Unfortunately, the star’s bright twinkle turned out to be the explosion of a tactical nuclear strike with roughly the same effect as one on most of the actor’s careers.
Overall, Mortal Kombat is fun if you’re drunk looking for a movie with bright lights to keep awake or if you’re with your mates looking for something to laugh about. However, sitting down to watch this film in the serious manner in which it was intended is going to be a struggle and you’re not going to get that time back. Probably best to just go dig out some quarters and practice those fatalities.
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