• JFS the Reviewer

Mortal Kombat (1995) 25th Anniversary


Background


The movie Mortal Kombat is a fantasy action movie, which based off the video game series, which began on October 8, 1992 by Ed Boon and John Tobias. The film was the fourth video game movie and would be one of the only one in the 90s that actually receive a better response and was financially successful. Before this movie, the first video game movie was the Super Maris Bros. which came out on May 28, 1993.


Afterwards, it was Double Dragon on November 4, 1994 and then Street Fighter a month later on December 23 the same year. All three films failed with audience, fans, and financially. So, Mortal Kombat was a risky film to make due to the failures of the past film. The film began production in August of 1994 and end in December that same year.


The film was directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, who had directed the British action crime drama film, Shopping. He would also go on to direct such films as Event Horizon (1997), Resident Evil (2002), Alien vs. Predator (2004), Death Race (2008), The Three Musketeers (2011) Pompeii (2014) and his final film being Monster Hunter, which is set to come out on April 23, 2021.


Lawrence Kasanoff was a producer on the film and this being his first film to produced. His past projects had him as an executive producer, with the last film he was on before this film was True Lies in 1994, which had James Cameron as the director and stared Arnold Schwarzenegger.


The story was written by Kevin Droney, who had been involved in the TV series, the Equalizer, Jake and the Fatman, and Highlander. While working on films such as Wing Commander (1999) and Down Came a Blackbird (1995).


The film was produced by Threshold Entertainment and was distributed by New Line Cinema, with it being released on August 18, 1995. The film clocks in at about 108 minutes or one hour and 48 minutes. It had a budget of $18 million dollars and made back over $122 million dollars. While the film didn’t so well with critics, it was seen as the better of the video game movies that came out before it. It also was a financial success, while the other films were failures.


Due to its financial success, the studio wanted to make a direct sequel to it, which sadly didn’t do so well and was a huge disappointment.


25 years later though, how does this film hold up? What is it about this film that kept it from being a failure? Did it age better with time? And will the remake that is being made going to be better or worse than this one?


Well, let’s start off with the story and find out.


Story


The story of the film focuses on a fighting tournament called Mortal Kombat. Where warriors from Earth compete for the fate of their world. If they lose in the tournament then the evil emperor, Shao Kahn can invade and conquer their world. So, the Thunder God, Raiden choses the best warriors of the planet to represent their world to fight in the tournament.

They must overcome their powerful enemies, while also overcoming their own problems in order to save their world from being conquered.


Okay, so that’s basically the story of the film in a nutshell and to be honest, its not a bad idea for the story. They try to keep the plot like from the video game, which is a good move. Mortal Kombat’s story is simple and isn’t like other video game movies where they try cramming in hours of story into one film. It is basically they fight in a tournament, fight against the enemy, and have the deaths be brutal like from the game.


Now, granted the story for the film isn’t well paced and there were times when I lost interest during the film. It was mostly during the attempt at romance between Liu Kang and not Kitana. Oh, that will be explained later on, but yeah, the romance there I didn’t really see it. Now thankfully, there are other parts of the story that did keep my interest and its mostly in the second and third act.


I think another problem, is the fact the story for the film is predictable. You know how it’s all going to go from the beginning, to the middle, and to the end. You also don’t get invested in the film, because you know they’re not going to kill this character or that character. Not if they are the main characters.


The story doesn’t get you invested in the journey of our heroes and wanting them to succeed. You know they will and how they get there is why you are watching. The film’s story needs some more work, but compared to the other stories, it actually is one I remember. It kept to the basic story of the game and they were able to show it on the big screen.


They didn’t try making it like the other three films and they try making it different. They kept it simple, easy, and made it a little easier to sit through. Does it still hold up though 25 years later? Hmm, somewhat.


I think it still does because it’s simple and you know how its all going to go. You can poke some fun in its story too and that can be entertaining. It isn’t an awful story and it isn’t one that makes you hate how its all going. It’s easy and you’ll be able to get through it much better than the stories from a film like Double Dragon.


Okay, so it sounds like the story isn’t an issue, then how about the characters and their actors?


Characters:


Okay, so originally, the people in charge wanted to bring in more well-known actors and actresses into the film. Jean-Claude Van Damme was offered a role in the film, but he turned it down to star in the Street Fighter movie. Brandon Lee and Steve James were offered to be in the film, until both their deaths. Cameron Diaz was originally going to be in the film as Sonya Blade, but suffered a wrist injury and couldn’t perform.


They even wanted Gary Daniels, Tom Cruise, and Johnny Depp to be brought in for the role of Johnny Cage. However, none of this happened and instead those roles were given to other people.


With Christopher Lambert as Raiden (Rayden in the film), Robin Shou was Liu Kang, Linden Ashby as Johnny Cage, Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade Talsia Soto as Kitana, Trevor Goddard as Kano, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung, Chris Casamassa as Scorpion, Francois Petit as Sub-Zero, Keith Cooke as Reptile, and Kevin Michael Richardson as the voice for Goro.


Other than Christopher Lambert, Bridgette Wilson, Trevor Goddard, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, I didn’t know anything about these other actors. They were unknown to me and I had to look up their information to find out what they all did. Even for the actors/actresses I did know. Fun fact: Trevor Goddard was in the horrible, but fun dumb film Deep Rising and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.


Now, how did they all do though in the film? I did feel like some of them did a good job with their performance, including Lambert, Robin, Linden, and Bridgette. Tagawa, I felt went over the top at times with his performance, but it looked like he was having some fun with it. Making his performance a bit goofy, but it was entertaining.


I felt like he had a good time with his role, like Goddard. I enjoyed his performance as Kano and how it appeared, he had a good time playing this role. I just wish they didn’t have him killed off in the film. At least he didn’t appear in the sequel, which was a good move.


As for the rest, they all did a decent job with their role and didn’t look like they were half-assing their rules. I did feel like they legit gave it their best in order to make it look good.


Now, I do have two problems. One is what I mentioned before about not being too invested in the story. I know how its all going to go and how our main heroes will survive. So, I wasn’t worried about them dying. I didn’t shed much of a tear for those that did die since I knew they were there to die or would be there for a bit and never be seen again.


The other problem I had was the choice they made to have Kitana be portrayed by a non-Asian actress. Now, don’t get me wrong. She didn’t do a bad job with her role. But when you think of the character Kitana and see who they got to play the role.


Yeah, you see the problem there. It also didn’t help that the romance between Kitana and Liu Kang wasn’t great. It wasn’t Attack of the Clones bad, but I just didn’t see the chemistry between the two. I didn’t get why the two should get together in the film and didn’t see it working.


In the game series, yes it works, but that’s because they have great chemistry between each other. Here? Not so much. I didn’t buy it and I didn’t care if they got together or not in the movie.


Now, do their performances hold up? For a 90s film? Yeah, but not to the point they should have gotten an Oscar for their roles. They did a decent job and I didn’t mind their roles.

Okay, so I guess we can move on to the music, special effects, setting, and fight scenes to see how they all did.


Setting, Special effects, & Music:


So, the setup for the film was shot in different areas. One in a steel mill for the Outworld exterior scenes. Any scenes with Goro were filmed in Los Angels and shooting locations were in Thailand. However, they were only accessible by boat. This meant the cast, crew and equipment had to be transported on long canoe-style vessels. As for the filming locations they were still done in Thailand in the Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Ratchaburana temples.


The locations looked decent and I did like where they shot at the temples. Without causing any problems or damages to the locations they went to.


The fight scenes were decent and done well, but sadly due to the rating of the film being PG-13, they couldn’t go for the same kind of deaths or violence like from the video game. This ended up making the fans mad because the game was known for its violent deaths.

However, I believe the studio was trying to make sure they can get more people to watch it and felt an R-rating would have hurt them financially. Maybe it was for the best and hopefully for the remake they’ll be able to get away with it.


As for the special effects, there were times when it did work, and it didn’t look so bad. Yes, there were times that it looked fake as hell, but it wasn’t too bad like its sequel. As for the design of the characters such as Scorpion, Sub-Zero, and Reptile, they all looked good. Exactly how we expected for them to look, but I didn’t get why Scorpion had a snake coming from his palm and not a spiked chain.


Now, as for Goro…oh boy. So, Goro is this tall four-armed humanoid figure who is one of the main villains of the movie. The design isn’t too bad when he isn’t moving, and they needed to have him appear before our characters. But when he begins moving and talking, it didn’t look good.


I said before with its sequel, the special effects look like a masterpiece. Plus, it could have looked much worse, especially how the Mario movie went with its design for their characters.

So, okay Goro’s appearance didn’t look perfect and at times looked fake. But, hearing his voice actor speaking is exactly how I expected for Goro to sound like and is perfect.


Now, as for the music. I didn’t really care much for the music and it was all right at times. The one that did get me excited though was the theme song and how you can’t help but get hyped when you hear it. I mean, seriously.


Listen to the Mortal Kombat theme song and tell me you don’t get a little excited when you hear it?


So, with the music, I have no complete problem with it. The same for the special effects, design, and locations where they shot the film. A lot better than how Waterworld was done.


Final Thoughts:


So, my final thoughts is the movie while it has some imperfections, was the better video game movie for the 90s. It has a story that was kept simple, easy to follow, while a lot of times predictable, but tolerable. It has a good decent cast but did suffer from bad romance and some miscast for the characters. Special effects, music, designs, and locations were all right.


The movie isn’t perfect, but it wasn’t as terrible as the films before it and afterwards. It is still an entertaining movie that I think everyone can sit back and enjoy.


It will be years until Resident Evil in 2002 for us to get another decent video game movie. It would then take until we got to 2018’s Tomb Raider, Detective Pikachu (2019), and Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) to get video game movies that we can enjoy. Hopefully the films that will come out next year will do well and will be a lot of fun to watch, including the remake of Mortal Kombat on January 15, 2021.


Only time will tell, but for now. This was a decent film and I do recommend it if you want to watch something fun. Don’t worry though parents. There isn’t the same kind of gore as in the video games in this movie.


Now, as for its remake…we’ll see.

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