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Monday, 15 February 2010

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Moooortall Kombaaaaattttt!!!! *cue pounding techno theme tune* Aaaah, this is more like it. The first Mortal Kombat movie came out when I had just turned 17, and seeing characters I had been obsessed with on my Sega Megadrive in the years before that blew my teenaged mind. The film is arguably the best video game adaptation ever made (with the exception of the Resident Evil films and possibly the first Tomb Raider, but that's not really saying much, is it?), and is quite simply a great piece of brainless entertainment.

I mean, come on, like the line goes, "A bunch of people on a leaky boat are going to save the world." And they do, by travelling to the weird realm of Outworld and kick the crap out of each other and a bunch of otherworldly fighters in a martial arts tournament called Mortal Kombat. Right, that's the plot. Do we need subplots? There are a few, which are essentially mini action movies in their own right (Sonya Blade's vendetta against Kano, for example), but the main focus is endless fight scenes, the very 1990s special effects and a badass techno/extreme metal soundtrack (a personal favourite- Fear Factory during the awesome fight scene between Johnny Cage and Scorpion).

It's a film that people either love or hate, and is a glorious example of a b-movie being upped to a full theatrical release. The whole film is, just like the game itself, a series of martial arts battles between humans and hugely powerful supernatural beings, and as a big, daft, popcorn-and-fizzy-drink spectacular, it's a thing of beauty. Then again, as a film it's also a big chunk of z-grade rubbish, but that's it's charm. It straddles a fine line between ludicrous and joyous that I've never been able to get enough of.

Mortal Kombat doesn't take itself seriously despite the concept, which is where most video game movies fall down stone dead. The cast is a b-movie fan's wet dream; Robin Shou, Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa head up a cast that also features Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto and Linden Ashby. The casting for the main characters is pretty strong, with the main trio of Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Liu kang being just about perfect. The only cast member I didn't really gel with in the movie is Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade- she puts in a strong performance, but something isn't quite right. Bizarrely, this role was originally going to be played by Cameron Diaz, who had to pull out of the project during training for it as she broke her hand.

The script by Kevin Droney was a bold attempt at giving the video game plot some actual weight- characters have reasons for being there, and the simple beat 'em up style of the game is given a fantasy back-story that's a ton of fun and fits the subject matter perfectly. The characters look great, even with the few small changes to costumes and so on.

This first Mortal Kombat movie was a pretty huge hit when it first came out, and spawned two TV series, a live tour and a sequel movie (which I may subject myself to again in the future for this site, despite how utterly atrocious that damn film, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, was), along with action figures, comics and more. It remains huge fun to watch, and while revisiting it for you now brought back waves of nostalgia, it also reminded just how well put-together the film was, even though it's a daft video game movie.

New Line Cinema released the flick, which was directed by the much maligned Paul W.S. Anderson, and while it was never gonna win any awards for being a great film, Mortal Kombat was everything that a film of the video game needed to be, and it's an adaptation that no other video game film of its ilk has been able to match. While far from being a flawless victory, it is certainly no Fatality.

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