Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the first of two installments of my special review series, “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews!” In this review series we will be discussing the two live-action “Mortal Kombat” films directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, a major player in adapting video games into film. With that being said, it is time to go back to 1995 and review “Mortal Kombat!”
“Mortal Kombat” is directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, or Paul Anderson as he was credited back in the day. The film stars Linden Ashby, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Robin Shou, Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto, and Christopher Lambert. This film is based on the video game franchise of the same name. It has been well-known as one of the more popular fighting games in the arcade and even today at home. The film centers around three people who are summoned to an island to participate in a fighting tournament where the outcome will decide the fate of the world.
If you know me personally, you’d be aware that I passionately collect Blu-rays. “Mortal Kombat,” and “Mortal Kombat: Annhilation” for that matter, just so happen to be two that I own. I bought the Blu-ray for “Mortal Kombat” back in 2015 after finding a used copy at Newbury Comics, a staple for pop culture items in New England. One of the habits I have developed over the years is waiting forever to watch certain movies after buying them. I bought “Spy” back during the 2016 holiday season and I have still yet to put it into the player. Not long after that period ended, I bought a copy of “Napoleon Dynamite,” and to this day I have not watched the movie. Then after that, I bought my first 4K Blu-ray ever, “The Lone Survivor.” Originally I wanted to wait out on watching it until I had a proper 4K Blu-ray player and not just one that upscales 1080p footage to look like it is in 4K. Despite owning a 4K Blu-ray player for a few years, I still have not watched the movie. But for “Mortal Kombat,” I waited over six years to finally watch this film. I bought this film prior to starting Scene Before! Although with the new movie coming out, the timing to not only watch, but talk about it, could not be better.
Now, let’s talk about video game movies in general. If you are versed in certain areas of film, you’d know that movies and video games typically do not mix. My least favorite film of all time is based on a video game, “Super Mario Bros.” from 1993. I love the “Super Mario” franchise as a gamer, but the magic of those games disappeared when translated to the big screen. There’s a scene where Mario refuses to jump! That’s literally his only purpose! Other than eating mushrooms, stomping on Goombas, and overshadowing his brother. Paul W.S. Anderson is one of the more famous directors when it comes to movies that are inspired by games, but that fame does not automatically equate to quality. While I have not seen the “Resident Evil” movies, those films have usually not been well received. “Monster Hunter” was… Alright. Visually it is not bad. But it does not feel like a movie that belongs in 2020. The music feels like it is from a 90s movie that is trying really hard to be an 80s movie. In some ways, “Mortal Kombat” and “Monster Hunter” come close in style, but unlike “Monster Hunter,” it feels advantageous for “Mortal Kombat” as it is a product of the 1990s.
Once again, keep in mind that I have not seen “Resident Evil,” but for all I know, Paul W.S. Anderson makes each of his movies in the same way as he has done since making “Mortal Kombat,” which I will say, was rather enjoyable to watch. There’s all this epic music that shimmies around a border to where I can AND cannot take it seriously. In fact, I do not work out much, I do not take much time to go to the gym, but if I were to start working out and take it seriously, the opening song of this movie is one that I would definitely consider adding to my playlist. The set design and effects all have this fantasy feel to it, and the entire time I felt like I was in another world. I will say that this is “Mortal Kombat’s” greatest strength. It does a really good job at transporting me as a viewer from the real world to the film world.
I’m just gonna say this though. If you told me that Michael Bay had a phase where he got totally into practical effects and directed this movie, I would believe you. I say so because this movie is excellent when it comes to style. As for substance, eh, not really. It has been a few weeks since I have seen this film, and I have only played traces of the games, although what I have played has been fun. I barely remember the characters. Yes, I know their names: Johnny Cage, Raiden, Sub-Zero, Scorpion just to list some. But I should know more than just their names. I will say that the best thing about a good number of these characters is the fights they were in, but that appreciation once again goes to show that “Mortal Kombat” is a film with mostly style but not as much substance.
But having said that, I often call myself a ten year old kid in an adult’s body. If I were watching this film at the age of ten, there is a good chance that I would have been wowed and considering it perfect because it checked various marks that a younger me would want to see. Grand action, extravagant environments, and some cool music. This film, even though it really leaves much to be desired as a story, would make for an excellent tech demo. I would not be surprised if they come out with a 4K Blu-ray for it in the near future because there is an argument to make that this would look rather polished if enough effort is put into it.
One of the minor disappointments about this “Mortal Kombat” film is that even though there are some ties to the video games that fit right in, there is a big one that is missing. For the record, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the earlier games that embraces graphic violence, much of which was done through “fatalities.” And yes, there are finishers in this movie to a degree, but this film is PG-13 and I feel like it would have been fun to see the crew take this movie in a more R-rated direction if possible. Although I must say I am glad we are getting the new “Mortal Kombat” film coming out this month because that is R-rated and it may right what I consider to be the wrongs of this film. It just goes to show, not all remakes are bad ideas. John Carpenter’s “The Thing” was a remake and that film is celebrated today!
In the end, “Mortal Kombat” is one of the better video game movies, but then again, that does not say much given how there really are not too many great ones. I found this film delightfully entertaining but mainly as something to glance upon. Maybe it would be cool to watch in the theater one time, but I do not have all the time in the world so I may end up not doing that. If anything, it is a good effort, and surprisingly works despite having a few characters who do not necessarily belong in the world this movie represents, but it is not something I’d watch five to ten times in a matter of months. I would watch it on a Friday night, but only as a feast for the eyes and ears. I’m going to give “Mortal Kombat” a 6/10.
Thanks for reading the first of two reviews in this “Mortal Kombat: Finish the Reviews” review series! I will have my review up for “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” on April 12th! Stay tuned and follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Mortal Kombat?” What did you think about it? Or, have you played the “Mortal Kombat” games? Tell me about your experiences! Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!