MORTAL KOMBAT! Our heroes, Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage hold the key to Earthrealm’s victory over Outworld in the ultimate tournament of champions. Can they beat Outworld and prevent the conquering of Earth (and maybe get a girl), before it’s too late? Find out in… Mortal Kombat.
How?! Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, and Johnny Cage all have reasons to fight. These reasons are exploited to get them embroiled in a fighting tournament that will decide the fate of Earth. That’s because Shang Tsung and his Outworld warriors have assembled in an attempt to beat Earthrealm for the 10th time in a row. If they succeed then Earth will be taken over by Outworld and let me tell you… it won’t be pretty. At the tournament Raiden, the God of Thunder and protector of Earth, tries to teach our crew the necessary lessons that will help them succeed. Unfortunately Sonya is too hell bent on revenge, Johnny too obsessed with proving himself, and Liu Kang too focused on fighting Shang Tsung himself that it all seems lost. It’s only when they realize the true reason to fight (the fate of Earth and that’s some pretty serious stuff) that they can live up to their destiny. Johnny challenges Goro, a monster fighter with all kinds of muscles and arms and shit, and is able to beat him, but Shang Tsung seizes on the agreement on the fight to challenge Sonya and take her to Outworld as his captive. Hoping to have her forfeit the fight and thus lose the tournament he is sorely disappointed when our boy Liu shows up and is like “I challenge you, man” and they karate chop each other a whole bunch until Shang is thrown onto some spikes. Our best friends return to Earth victors and are like “nothing bad will happen now.” But then the sky opens up and a terrible voice is heard declaring the premise for a sequel, which is that the entire movie you watched didn’t matter at all. THE END.
Why?! Very clear motivations all around here. Shang Tsung wants to take over Earth because it’s got all this vibrant life and he wants to squeeze it dry. Raiden just wants to help Earth defend itself. Liu Kang wants revenge for his brother, Sonya Blade wants revenge for her dead partner, and Johnny Cage wants to prove to everyone that he ain’t no showbiz fake but a true martial arts master.
Who?! Surprisingly boring in this regard. Not a whole bunch of the typical tropes we look for in this category are found in this film. The best we got was a cameo by video game creator Ed Boon who got a credit as the voice of Scorpion in the film (as he is also credited in the video games). Technically speaking he is the longest running voice artist in video game history having voiced Scorpion in every iteration of the game.
What?! All kinds of gobbledegook in this film from Earthrealm to Outworld to the Shokan prince Goro. Unfortunately they are aren’t fighting for the Staff of Taijin or something, just the fate of the world. Boring. It is more or less a product in and of itself, since it’s an adaptation of a video game (and one of the most successful product placement films of all time).
Where?! We get a few scenes in Hong Kong and in China (presumably, given that Liu Kang is from a Shaolin Monastery). The film is primarily set in Shang Tsung’s island, though. Found between Earthrealm and Outworld, the island falls staunchly in the “other” category of settings. While specific, I have to give it a N/A as it is fake.
When?! This was a hard one, but very important for the sake of the series. The second film picks up right where the first left off so if we could nail this down here then we are gold for that one too. It’s hard, though, since the series exists outside of space and time for the most part. The best clue we have is a “Johnny Cage A Fake” issue of the Examiner which seems to have been released in the first week of August, 1994. The person reading it implies that this is probably somewhat recent so it’s not bad guess. Hard to read though and a little shaky. C+.
I actually was surprised at how much I didn’t mind large parts of this film. One of those silly tournament films that basically write themselves, but it also has some humor and a gigantic animatronic Goro monster that is impressive and interesting to look at. However, the computer graphics are a complete mess and why I can’t really say this is not that bad. It took some balls to do, but they are objectively terrible and the scenes where they are used (and there are a lot of them) are actually hard to watch.
‘Ello everyone! Da-da da-da da-da da-da-da-da, da-da da-da da-da da-da-da-da, da-da da-da da-da da-da-da-da, da da da da da! MORTAL KOMBAT! Video game films are universally terrible … welp, there it is. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – So I don’t think I saw this in theaters, but I certainly saw it when I was a young boy. I did not remember that Christopher Lambert was in it, and it is pretty crazy this was a very early Paul W. S. Anderson film. Other than that this was really about watching what was (kind of sadly) the best reviewed video game film until Angry Birds in 2016 …
The Good – The matte paintings, Goro’s animatronics, some of the fighting action all are exactly what you want from the film. It somehow is, as the critics said, appropriately cheesy in that regard. Our three main actors’ banter and companionship were believable and fun. Lambert is somewhat amusing as well. The tournament structure lends itself to a pretty interesting mystery story that is extremely easy to follow.
The Bad – The CGI. Woof. This is actually pretty close to A Sound of Thunder (except, you know … a decade earlier). Reptile and Scorpion’s hook/chain things look just awful. So awful in fact that it probably makes Goro look better in comparison. The ending is pretty rough as well, they should have let the story breathe with the happy ending instead of immediately jumping into Mortal Kombat II.
The BMT – No, this isn’t BMT. This should have, in reality, gotten maybe like a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, maybe a bit higher. I don’t think it is quite into “it’s not that bad” territory because of the CGI, but if they had skipped that I would have thought maybe. You kind of have to be a no-fun-having misanthrope to not at least understand why people think this film is genuinely good.
Roast-radamus – A new game! Here I’ll try and place the film we just saw into one of the Smaddies Baddies categories for end of the year awards. A truly self-fulfilling prophecy for Roast-radamus. For Mortal Kombat I think there are two options. First you could consider it for the Worst Twist (How?) Razzie for daring to make the end of the film just be the Emperor of Outworld deciding to invade Earth. More realistically this sneaks into The Good category for being a movie that wasn’t that bad. Hopefully we have better options than Mortal Kombat though.
StreetCreditReport.com – There isn’t much here as far as street credit, you’d probably be able to more easily find lists where this film is considered one of the best video game films, or an underrated action film. I did find this crazy thing. I agree kind of with their assessment, but Goro was also easily better than the terrible CGI, so they are wrong there. Since I won’t be using it in the sequel recap I’ll also point out that they are far far too kind to Annihilation (spoiler alert).
You Just Got Schooled – This week I watched the pilot episode for the 1998 live action Mortal Kombat television series, Mortal Kombat: Conquest. It premiered on October 3, 1998. The opening sequence in particular follows the game format so closely that is was, dare I say, interesting? After that though is kind of meaders about and the actions of and towards the female characters are problematic on multiple levels. The pilot is extremely long, the series looks like genuine shit, and the acting is an abomination, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, it is crap … but not a bad adaptation for brief moments. It was produced directly to syndication and eventually picked up by TNT to run after WCW Monday Nitro. It apparently was popular, but cost too much and only lasted a season. As an adaption I’ll give it a surprising B- mostly downgraded for lack of quality and Kombat, as a show maybe a D+, it was pretty brutal to get through but better than something like Highlander (narrowly).
One down, one terrible sequel to go. Cheerios,