Known for its brutal depictions of fighting, just when video games were about to explore mature themes. Mortal Kombat rose to become a beloved icon. Sure, the mutilations you could perform in the original have been superseded. But the original incarnation of the mythical fighting tournament remains an iconic property, to fans and critics alike. In 1995, to capitalise on the rising tide, of both the franchise’s popularity and despite the increasing presence of similar video game tie-ins. The fusion blend that is Mortal Kombat got translated into to film release, worthy of the name Mortal Kombat.
We meet a couple of people from different walks of life, all we know at the start is they are handy in a fight, the eclectic cast including action actor, Johnny Cage; special forces, Sonya Blade; and martial artist, Liu Kang. As each is selected by the personified god of thunder, Raiden. They are all to take part in a Mortal Kombat tournament on Shang Tsung’s island. If they lose, then the evil sorcerer gets free reign to attack Earthrealm (where the protagonists, and we are from). On Shang Tsung’s island, these combatants must put their martial arts knowhow against the unknown, as Shang Tsung’s warriors have formidable powers on their side.
The colourful characters do translate well on the big screen. Liu Kang is brought to life by Robin Shou and Raiden’s raspy delivery by Christopher Lambert makes him a standout figure. The off-the-cuff quips of Johnny Cage, portrayed by Linden Ashby, do a lot to add the charm of the proceedings. It also feels unnecessary to go on about how Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is in the role of Shang Tsung. Bridget Wilson is also a good fit as Sonya, though I would like to have seen more of her be less of a damsel in distress in the latter half. Though seeing the likes of Scorpion and Goro is always a treat. The action is accounted as martial arts matches are plentiful, though the dismembering moments are cut (no pun intended) to warrant a lower age rating, some of the franchise’s trademark moves and fatalities do make an appearance, or at least are alluded to.
Visually, The film itself is stunning; vibrant colours and exotic locals do a lot to help the imagination while recreating vistas the pixelated graphics could only dream of. Being based on a video game, the film also employs then state-of-the-art C.G.I. to help capture some of the more reality-warping moments and characters, Reptile’s chameleon capabilities and Scorpions nightmarish hand hooks are prime examples. Though the number of practical effects and the reliance on real-world locations of Thailand and California recreates the majesty of Shang Tsung island, is impressive, even to this day. Although it would be remised to not also mention the score along with its iconic title track, wrapping everything else into a lovely package.
As a franchise that is inspired by entertaining Kung-Fu action films, it makes sense that the Mortal Kombat film follows in the lineage. Delivering a thoroughly entertaining video game adaptation, that takes its enjoyably excessive source material seriously enough to do it justice. While not as blood-soaked as the games that inspired it, still it captures the martial arts action, and the intricate mythology fabulously. Becoming a cultural touchstone that is still enjoyable to this day. While video game adaptations are a dime a dozen, Mortal Kombat remains a flawless victory.
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