It’s tempting just to post the Cinema Sins youtube video here and call it a day, but I think there are actually some interesting aspects to Paul W. S. Anderson’s first of many video game movies. I grant that the story and dialog are preposterous, the fight choreography generally mediocre, and that it fails to really bring to the cinema screen what really made the games so entertaining: the absolutely senseless and incredibly silly gore and violence.
It was also that profoundly entertaining element that made Mortal Kombat, in both game and movie form, one of the forbidden fruits from my admittedly odd early years. My parents did not allow me to play the games or see the movie. I managed to play them anyway, usually waiting until they were out of sight when at the pizza parlor arcade to play it, an occasion rare enough that I became pretty good at the Fighting Vipers machine next to it in the narrow corridor that held the arcade games. Kids would gather around to see how far I would get on one credit (usually a match or two away from the final boss), while I would be looking over my shoulder to see if my mom or dad was still watching by the door so I could spend a couple of quarters on a game of Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Helicopter parents. They certainly made some mundane childhood shit seem like an adventure.
And this applied then to both the games and the movie and the sequel and the cartoon and the comics and etc. And even now, to the games and to the fan films and licensed media and etc.
|See what I mean?
Art gets killed by Goro, it’s a big deal to everyone except the audience; we’ve seen him once before, briefly.
At least eighty percent of this movie is fight scenes. And I believe it was Seanbaby who first pointed out that in Mortal Kombat, the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line, but a backflip. The cgi effects are dated. Characters randomly appear in deserted orchards or cliff sides to duel. There’s some funny death scenes (all of them, really). And the set design is very much that weird blend I went through some length describing above.
If you like this sort of thing at all, it’s pretty glorious.
Ashby gets to deliver some actually funny lines to: “What if the legends were true!” breathlessly exclaims Robin Shou as Liu Kang. “What legends?” Ashby’s Cage responds.
Christopher Lambert and Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa are on opposite ends of the awful spectrum. Hiroyuki-Tagawa is well into so-bad-it’s-good territory, relishing lines like “flawless victory” and “your soul is mine” with such hammy delight that it’s hard not to smile. Paul W. S. Anderson even mentions in one behind-the-scenes featurette that the crew was constantly imitating him. Christopher Lambert is just awful. But he’s always awful. He’s even worse in the sequel. Brigette Wilson doesn’t seem to be in on the joke, which makes her perfect.
|Some of that great Pat Johnson fight choreography
Pat Johnson’s fight choreography is pretty staid Hollywood stuff, for the most part. You can see some guys from the periphery of martial arts cinema in bit parts. Hakim Alston (of “WMAC Masters” fame, lol) gets a nice fight scene with Robin Shou, for instance. Pat Johnson’s choreography does shine when performed by these guys though, which probably has far more to do with them than it does with him.
So Mortal Kombat is incredibly silly, badly dated, and just utter nonsense, but if it’s your kind of nonsense, then it’s only gotten better -- more fetid really -- with age. And with the new game coming out and its twentieth anniversary a few month away, it’s a perfect time to enjoy it. And dat theme song!