Paul W.S. Anderson loves his video game properties it seems, and in 1995, he delivered the first version that tried to create a narrative around an incredibly popular fighting game, and his first ‘big’ film. Some would argue that this was incredibly stupid idea, and yet, there are people who love this iteration.
While the film boasts some gorgeous Thailand locations, the movie doesn’t have a lot going for it, because the fight scenes seem too slow, a lot of the actors seem inexperienced in martial arts, and were chosen because they fit in with Anderson’s vision of the film, and not neccessarily for their skills.
The only one who seems a little comfortable with his abilities is Robin Shou who plays Liu Kang. The rest of the cast includes Christopher Lambert, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Talisa Soto and Linden Ashby.
The top fighters on Earth, under the protection of Lord Raiden (Lambert) are recruited and head out to a strange realm to compete in a contest that holds the fate of Earth in the balance. A contest called Mortal Kombat.
The script is horrible, the fight sequences too slow, but there is a sense of fun about the film, one that lacks in the most recent adaptation. But its real holdback, and where the new film succeeds is in the violence and the gore. The game is rated M for Mature, sure everyone let their kids play it, but that translates as an R-rated film, to do the film justice they really should have gone for the hard R, kids (theoretically the companies target market) still would have found a way to see it.
It’s silly, and goofy (Lambert seems to be having a grand old time), even with Takagawa oozing menace as Shang Tsung and the animatronic for the creature Goro doesn’t move as realistically and smoothly as it should, especially if it’s supposed to be this big fighter – still, full credit to the production for having a physical effect to interact with. Speaking of effects, the computer generated images for the film, are pretty bad, even for the time, and they are so jarringly bad now as to be laughable.
What the film has, which everyone seemed ot love was a techno soundtrack that was from and influenced by the game itself, and consequently, its soundtrack went Platinum in no time at all.
This is one of those films, where the nostalgia around the film is stronger than the film itself. It’s terrible, but I know people who love it, and count it among their favourite movie-going experiences just because of what it is, its context within their lives, and because some people are just suckers for a bad video game movie.